Trial set in excessive force suit against GRPD officer

Federal lawsuit claims officer struck 15-year-old repeatedly in the head


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A jury will decide if a Grand Rapids police officer used excessive force when he struck a 15-year-old who ran away from him.

The teen’s attorney says he suffered brain damage, but police say they feared he may have a gun, making the use of force necessary.

The situation started with an anonymous call to 911 on June 13, 2014 about teens possibly carrying guns on the city’s southeast side. What is not in dispute is that Donovann Austin Braswell, then 15, ran from police and that officers stopped him. What happened next is where the case gets messy.

A judge examining the case described the Franklin Street and Eastern Avenue area, where the chase happened, as “the worst of the worst in terms of violent crime.”

Police say that Braswell tossed something away and a gun was later found at the scene. His attorney said the gun was likely planted.

Donovan Austin Braswell
An undated mug shot of Donovan Austin Braswell.

In a federal lawsuit, Braswell accuses Officer Sean McCamman of throwing him face down and striking him repeatedly with his fist and flashlight, even though the teen was not resisting.

“There was nothing in this case that justified D.B. being beaten nearly to death by this officer,” Braswell’s attorney, Keeley Heath, said in 2015.

The suit also claims that police had no valid reason to stop Braswell. A district court judge agreed, but in a decision released Tuesday, Federal Court Judge Paul Maloney tossed the claim that cops violated his rights by simply stopping him. He said the plaintiff’s attorney engaged in exaggeration and outright falsehood in the description of events in the claim of 4th Amendment violation.

“This is not even a close call, the officers clearly had reasonable suspicion to stop and pursue Braswell,” Maloney wrote.

But the judge said the complaint that the officer delivered at least three blows to the teen’s head with a Maglite flashlight, even after the teen put his hands on the back of his head, does warrant consideration by a jury.

Photos taken by police and the teen’s family show the damage done to the teen’s head, including lacerations, bumps and bruises.

“A jury could conclude that Officer McCamman’s additional strikes to (Braswell’s) head — after he no longer posed a threat — were borne out of frustration and malice,” the judge wrote.

The teen, who has a juvenile record that includes home invasion and marijuana arrests, was cleared of wrongdoing in the case.

The case against police is slated to go to trial in federal court in Kalamazoo starting Aug. 14.

The teen’s attorney claims that he suffered from loss of speech, stuttering, frequent falls and severe headaches as a result of the beating.

However, he was well enough to be charged in an unrelated attempted murder and concealed weapons case in October. He pleaded to the gun crime and a lesser assault charge for which he will be sentenced in Kent County Circuit Court on the same day the federal trial is supposed to begin.