Troopers charged following use of force incident in Owosso

Troopers charged following use of force incident in Owosso
Troopers charged following use of force incident in Owosso(MSP)
Published: Mar. 17, 2023 at 1:43 PM EDT
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WARNING: Details in this article may be considered graphic.

SHIAWASSEE CO., Mich. (WNEM) - Three Michigan State Police Troopers have been arraigned on criminal charges in relation to an on-duty incident where they used force against a person who was riding a bike, MSP said.

Troopers Ryan Fitzko, Cody Lukas and Justin Simpson, of the MSP Flint Post, were arraigned in the 66th District Court on criminal charges related to an incident on Aug. 24, 2022 in Owosso.

While on patrol in Shiawassee County, Fitzko and Lukas observed the victim travelling via bicycle westbound on Clyde Street, near Chipman Street, in the city of Owosso.

Troopers observed no bicycle lights were equipped or operable, and the victim was traveling in the middle of the roadway, the incident report said, adding a traffic stop was conducted and the victim attempted to flee on the bicycle and resisted arrest.

After several physical strikes, taser deployment, and OC spray deployment, the victim was placed into custody, the report said.

A search was conducted on the victim’s backpack he was wearing during the incident, the report said, stating Fitzko found .5 grams of suspected fentanyl/heroin in a clear container.

The victim was transported to Owosso Memorial Hospital where it was determined he suffered injuries and was released to the hospital, the report concluded.

In the interest of transparency, MSP has made the investigative report and in-car camera footage of this incident available to the public. Redactions have been made to protect the privacy of the victim, witnesses and the integrity of the investigation, MSP said.

“The use of excessive force by a Michigan State Police trooper against anyone is unacceptable and inexcusable,” MSP Director Col. Joe Gasper said. “In this department, we have zero tolerance for police officers who engage in criminal misconduct. Policing is a privilege bestowed upon those who swear an oath to uphold the Constitution and protect the public’s safety, and it is incumbent on every officer, and those who lead police officers, to hold themselves and those around them accountable for their conduct.”

As a result, Lukas was suspended effective Aug. 30, 2022, MSP said, adding Fitzko and Simpson were reassigned from road patrol duties while the investigation was underway.

With the issuance of criminal charges, all three are now on suspension and will remain suspended pending adjudication of the criminal case and any resulting administrative investigation, according to MSP.

Shiawassee County Prosecutor Scott Koerner authorized the charges following an investigation conducted by MSP.

Fitzko and Simpson were each charged with one count of assault and battery, a misdemeanor. Lukas was charged with one count of misconduct in office, which is a felony, and one count of assault and battery.

These charges follow criminal charges issued in two other cases involving members of the MSP Third District. Information on these cases can be found here and here.

“Each of these matters is a breach of public trust that tarnishes the reputation of our department,” Gasper said. “Whether or not a criminal charge is issued, or a criminal conviction is obtained, our members will be held administratively accountable when they act outside of policy and training.

“While each of these situations represents an individual incident, we are taking a wholistic review to look beyond the surface to identify if there are improvements we can make to prevent similar situations in the future. Actions we are taking include ensuring there is accountability by supervisors, including the reassignments of supervisors to ensure we have the right personnel in the right places; evaluating our use of force training, specifically training around strikes to the head and face; and building upon our de-escalation training program, among other initiatives.

“The residents of Michigan deserve a police agency that treats all people with dignity and respect, and I am committed to ensuring the Michigan State Police lives up to this standard.”

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