A white sheriff’s deputy in Michigan was reprimanded after body camera footage showed him tell a Black woman who had just been struck in the face during an altercation that he was “blacker” than she was because he’s from Detroit.
The woman, Tracy Douglas, 59, of Temperance, Michigan, filed a civil rights complaint with the FBI, according to her attorney.
The altercation occurred Aug. 20 in a liquor store parking lot in Lambertville, about 60 miles (95 kilometers) southwest of Detroit.
Store surveillance video shows Douglas apparently dinging the side of a pickup truck as she opened the passenger door to the car she was in. A woman in the pickup then argues with Douglas. The two later fight before a man the sheriff’s office identified as the boyfriend of the woman in the pickup punches Douglas at least once in the face.
A Monroe County sheriff’s deputy arrives, and footage from his body camera shows him talking to Douglas and complaining that she slapped him.
“Listen, you slap me again, you’re going on the ground,” the deputy says to Douglas.
“Am I? Am I, really? Cause I’m Black?” she responds.
The video shows the deputy later asks Douglas where she lives. After she tells him, he says, “OK, I’m from Detroit. So, I’m probably more Black than you. So, you want to play the race card?”
Douglas then says: “You ain’t Blacker than me.”
About 80% of Detroit’s population is Black.
Douglas, who was taken to a hospital for treatment, later posted videos on social media complaining about the encounter. Those videos led to an internal investigation, the sheriff’s office said.
“The deputy’s comments were made in the heat of the moment and in response to being questioned by Ms. Douglas as to if he was treating her differently because of her race,” the sheriff’s office said. “In that brief moment, the deputy used an unprofessional comment. However, after the initial exchange, the deputy was highly effective at deescalating and diffusing a volatile situation while also arranging medical care for Ms. Douglas.”
The deputy’s name was not released. The sheriff’s office said his supervisors have since counseled and trained him, and that all deputies will receive training in implicit bias and cultural diversity.
Douglas’ attorney, Darnell T. Barton, said Thursday that the woman in the pickup was the instigator and that she called Douglas a racial slur while demanding insurance information. Douglas says the woman’s boyfriend broke two bones in Douglas’ face when he struck her while she was on the ground, Barton said.
Bodycam video shows that when a deputy asks who hit Douglas, the man raised his hand and said, “Me, I drilled her. Drilled her like a champ, dude. She was beating on my girlfriend on the ground.”
Another bodycam video shows a deputy forcing Douglas to the ground after he accuses her of pushing him. Douglas tells the deputy she was only trying to point out the man who punched her.
“I wasn’t pushing you,” Douglas says. “Look at him laughing,” she adds, using a slur for white people, before going on to say, “That’s what white folks do.”
Douglas is charged with assault and battery, which Barton called “malicious and retaliatory prosecution.”
Barton said the prosecutor’s office said the man who struck her faces aggravated assault charges, and that the woman from the pickup was not charged. Their names have not been released.
The Associated Press left a voicemail Thursday seeking comment from the Monroe County prosecutor’s office.
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