Man claims police used Taser on him while he was handcuffed

By: Brandon Lewis Email
By: Brandon Lewis Email

In the early morning hours of July 4th, Colin Aiken, 22, went to the May Street Market after a night at the club.

Around 2:45 a.m. police officers were dispatched to the market after someone said shots had been fired. According to a police report, officers estimated 50 or more cars were in the parking lot and began to ask people to disperse.

"It was real packed. We had to wait our turn to get out, so the police walk up they walk passed all the other cars come straight to our car," said Aiken, who was spending his summer break from college at home.

Officers report the car Aiken was in was not blocked in by any other vehicle and there was a "No Loitering" sign posted in front of them.

"He said 'get out the car', I said 'get out the car for what?' He said 'get out the car you're under arrest' I said 'under arrest for what?' He said 'for loitering'," said Aiken. "I reached to undo the seat belt and that's when the officer rushed the door, pulled me out and began to fight me and the other officer ran around and joined in."

According to the police report, officers said "Aiken began to fight with officers and would not follow verbal commands to "Stop Resisting." At one point Aiken attempted to tackle Officer Blaskie and ran Officer Blaskie into the wooden privacy fence located."

Aiken said he never tried to tackle a police officer.

"I never resisted, but I'm down and all I heard him say was 'Tase him' and a split second later I felt the Taser in me, handcuffed and everything, on the ground and he decided to Tase me I don't know what for," said Aiken.

The officer's dashboard video cameras were not pointed in the direction of Aiken's arrest; however the microphones they wear recorded the incident.

Public Safety Director Roger Lange confirmed Aiken filed a complaint against the officers, but was unable to comment on the arrest because of department policy barring him from discussing cases currently awaiting trial.

Lange provided NewsCenter 16 with the Use of Force Report from Aiken's arrest, which states a Taser was necessary for arrest. Officers also confirm they struck Aiken in the knee, chest and side as part of the "muscling technique", "takedown" and "other" technique.

Department policy places using a Taser as the second highest use of force an officer can deploy; the highest being deadly force.

"The Taser is used to subdue a subject to control that person that is combative or not complying with officers orders,” explained Officer Jared Graves, who has been training public safety officers in Benton Harbor how and when to use a Taser for nearly a year.

Graves said many times just the threat of a Taser or the red laser beam that is emitted onto a suspect before a Taser is deployed is often enough to make a suspect stop resisting.

“If a person is handcuffed at that point we consider that person is not a threat anymore,” said Graves. "We don't Tase anyone that is handcuffed."

Shortly after Aiken’s arrest a cell phone video surfaced on YouTube and was later provided to NewsCenter 16. Director Lange reviewed the video, but did not believe it contained anything conclusive. It contained very dark video and is not close enough to determine whether Aiken is handcuffed.

Lange said if an investigation of the incident confirms Aiken’s claims, he will take action.

He is already working to take action on a separate concern when another officer at the May Street Market, but not involved in Aiken’s arrest, used inappropriate language to describe an individual.

Aiken believes the car he was riding in was stopped because he matched the description of a drug dealer.

"I guess he sold drugs because while I’m in the back of the police car, Officer Blaskie came up to me and asked ‘Where the drugs at?’” said Aiken.

Aiken said he is looking for a lawyer to defend him against his charges of Loitering, Resisting an Officer and Assaulting an Officer. He is also considering a suit against the Department of Public Safety.

His next court date is in October, but he is not allowed to return to New York to continue school.

"[I’m a] 4.0 student, I’ve missed probably one day of school. This is the most I’ve missed,” said Aiken.

He has also spoken to the Benton Harbor City Commissioners who expressed concern over Aiken's allegations.

"One of the biggest problems in the last few years has been our police department who has cost us more money than the commission, mayor, anybody else. Our police department has been a major problem in the city. Now we just want to get it right," said Commissioner Duane Seats. "I think Chief Lange has done an admirable job, but the downfall of the last Chief of Police was the officers. We need to hold them accountable for behaviors against citizens such as this."

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