GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The city of Grand Rapids has released five recorded police phone calls between Grand Rapids police officers about a former prosecutor’s wrong-way car crash.
The calls were made after a November 2016 wrong-way crash involving then-Kent County assistant prosecutor Josh Kuiper. The recordings were released Wednesday after a Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in favor of MLive Media Group, ordering the city to release the recordings.
>>PDF: Kuiper crash police call transcripts (NOTE: 24 Hour News 8 has redacted portions of the transcripts to protect personal information and inappropriate language.)
On Nov. 19, 2016, Kuiper drove the wrong way down Union Avenue SE, hitting a parked car and injuring its driver.
The responding officer, Adam Ickes, called Grand Rapids Police Department headquarters and told then-Lt. Matthew Janiskee, who was the watch commander that night, that Kuiper was “hammered.”
Janiskee ordered Ickes to switch to line 3407. That line was marked “not recorded,” but was actually being taped — inadvertently, the city says.
FIRST CALL: THE SITUATION
In the first call to the 3407 line, Ickes recounts the situation: “Josh Kuiper from the prosecutor’s office, wrong way, visibly intox. Says he’s intox as I approached, driving the wrong way and smacked a parked car. There was a guy getting into the car at the time who got knocked to the ground. Not sure on injuries at this point.”
Janiskee asks how much of the incident is “on ICV” and captured on body camera. Ickes responds, saying “plenty of it.”
When asked about how Kuiper would perform on sobriety tests, Janiskee answers, “probably not amazing.”
Janiskee asks Ickes to perform a sobriety test.
“Let’s, let’s pass him if we can, if we can’t we can’t, Adam. We’re not going to get f*****,” Janiskee says, according to the recording transcription.
“I’d like to pass him on sobrieties, if we could,” Janiskee later repeats.
“Alright, I’ll do what I can,” Ickes responds.
SECOND CALL: ‘HOW MUCH HAS EVERYBODY SEEN THERE?’
Ickes later calls the 3407 line a second time and says the situation is “not amazing.”
“Is there any way we can get around not doing it? If he’s drunk, is it a PI (personal injury crash)?” Janiskee asks.
Ickes explains how Daniel Empson was getting into his car when Kuiper crashed into his vehicle.
“So he is complaining of neck, back, head pain, that kind of thing,” said Ickes.
Janiskee tells Ickes to administer a preliminary breath test “and hopefully he’ll blow.”
After some discussion, Ickes says, “He (Kuiper) got through the alphabet, hand dexterities were OK, he said he couldn’t do the one-foot stand because his knees were not great, so I skipped that one. Then we did the walk and turn, which wasn’t awesome at all. I’ve got two that were passable, one that wasn’t good.”
“OK. How much has everybody seen there?” Janiskee asks.
“They’re, they’re way down attending to the other guy,” answers Ickes.
“Talk to… did, do the people say anything about, ‘Yeah, he’s drunk, f****** hammered,’ or anything like that?” Janiskee asks.
“I haven’t, I haven’t got a chance to talk to them. Once I recognized who he was, I kind of pulled him off to the side and have been going through this stuff, so I’ll go down there and kind of test those waters a little bit too,” Ickes says.
Ickes adds that then-Sgt. Thomas Warwick just arrived at the scene and he would talk to him “and we’ll go from there.”
THIRD CALL: ‘HE’S F***** UP’
Warwick is the one who calls Janiskee at 3407 next. The first part of the conversation isn’t recognizable in the recording.
“No, that’s the bad part, sir. Um wow. The uh (inaudible)… we’ve got him (inaudible) he’s f****** up. (Inaudible) He’s, he’s f***** up, but Adam did a good job. Um.. we uh, he blasted his f****** car, God d*** it,” Warwick says.
Warwick then has a conversation that cannot be heard with someone who is not identifiable.
After that, Warwick comes back onto the line with Janiskee, saying “So yeah he, he’s going to get a ticket for driving the wrong way on a one way.”
Janiskee asks if Kuiper “had been drinking on the UD-10 (crash report).”
“Yeah, we can’t lie about that. Um…” Janiskee trails off.
“No,” Warwick agrees.
Janiskee asks if a preliminary breath test was administered, Warwick says they didn’t offer it because Ickes said Kuiper “Did OK on his sobrieties.”
“I guess, um, I wasn’t there for that. But when I was with him, I really didn’t smell a lot of alcohol,” Warwick continued.
“OK,” Janiskee answers.
“So, I told Adam, um, ya know, whatever, and he was like, ‘Yeah, I don’t smell it either, he did pretty good, but he didn’t do the, um, he did I think he, well I don’t know, all of that was on the body cam. So um, and then I actually dropped him off at the house over on College (Avenue SE). He was in my backseat with my thing down and I didn’t smell it, so um, but…” Warwick trails off.
The officers then discuss how to write up the police report.
“Yeah, why don’t you and be, be honest and say you were in here, um Adam called you out to the scene, you don’t obviously say why, it’ll be obvious, and that you were sent out there to assist with the accident, if you want, and mean…” Janiskee says before the conversation becomes inaudible.
“I mean, cut more paper a good idea, or no? You tell me, you’re the…” says Warwick.
“I don’t know, I’m thinking. I mean, you were there and you…” Janiskee answers.
“I transported him,” Warwick finishes.
“Yeah, just write that,” Janiskee says.
Warwick and Janiskee then talk through how the report should read.
“Just put on your log, ‘Assisted Adam,’” Janiskee concludes.
Janiskee adds he will tell someone whose name is inaudible in the morning about it.
“And that way I can say from um, memory, I can be like, “No, I, I, no, s*** no, the guy didn’t smell like alcohol, I brought him home,” Warwick said.
“OK,” Janiskee answers.
“Versus cutting paper on it,” Warwick adds.
“Which we don’t normally do…” Janiskee continued.
“No. Not just going to… yeah,” Warwick says.
“See, it’s a good thing you were here,” Janiskee adds.
“Yeah,” says Warwick.
“Talking me out of s***. What do you think would happen if our old lieutenant was here?” Janiskee asks.
“Holy s***,” says Warwick.
“Yeah,” Janiskee says.
“Yeah,” Warwick says.
“OK, Um, all the people there are cool? They don’t suspect anything?” Janiskee asks.
“Yeah, apparently no one really had any interaction with Josh. Um, the witnesses, there was like a ton of witnesses here taking pictures and s***, they um, they all came out after the fact. This guy was standing near his parked, he’s parked on the wrong side of the road, he’s parked in the no parking zone…” explains Warwick.
“You didn’t cut him a ticket, did you?” Janiskee eventually asks.
“No, no, no, but that, Adam will be able to write that. Like he, yeah, Josh was going the wrong way, but there were no cars on that side of the road. So he, when he moved over, this car was parked and shouldn’t have been there,” explains Warwick.
FOURTH CALL: CASE HITS HOME
In a fourth call to line 3407, Warwick relays to Janiskee that Empson was taken to the hospital.
“Um, so, I, I, it didn’t dawn on me that maybe Adam didn’t relay that to you, but I thought that would make a difference, but…” Warwick said.
“I assumed that’s where he went,” Janiskee answered. “Um, what I did was I sent a text to the ol’ lady because I won’t see her tomorrow,” Janiskee adds, presumably about his wife, Monica Janiskee, who was an assistant prosecutor for Kent County at the time.
The two officers then go through how the report will read in the morning.
“She’ll ask me about it and I’ll just give her a look like, ‘Uh-huh,” Janiskee says, again presumably about his wife.
Both officers then start talking about Christmas plans.
“We should probably get Ubers home, just in light of the recent events,” Warwick says.
“Yeah, no s***,” Janiskee says.
FIFTH CALL: GETTING THE STORY STRAIGHT
In the final call on line 3407 related to the crash, Warwick shares his concerns with Janiskee about how the subsequent investigation will unfold. Ickes is in the room at the time.
“Well, if Monica starts doing digging, they are going to want to, they’re going to pull footage, aren’t they?” asks Warwick.
“No,” says Janiskee.
“Well, why not?” Warwick asks.
“Because I’ll f****** tell her not to,” Janiskee says.
“Um…” Warwick trails off.
“She won’t want to know,” Janiskee answers.
Warwick then explains how Monica would have to ask someone in the traffic division for the report information, which “might turn some heads right there.”
“I’ll take care of that part. She will be smart enough not to dig into it,” Janiskee says.
Janiskee later adds, “If she does dig, I’ll end up getting a f****** day or two off and then I’ll be really f**** pissed.”
Both men then discuss “the tape.”
“Um, yeah, you’ve got two experienced f****** police officers,” Janiskee says.
“I, yeah, I’m just going to say, ‘F***, I, I don’t even really know Josh. And I didn’t f****** smell alcohol on him.’ If they’re like, ‘How did you not?’ I’ll be like, ‘I don’t f****** know,” said Warwick.
“And you know the smell (of) alcohol,” Janiskee adds.
“I do know the smell (of) alcohol,” Warwick answers.
“So do I,” says Janiskee laughing.
The two officers then start discussing personal matters involving Janiskee’s wife before the conversation turns back to the case.
“I was just telling him we were in the middle of a conversation… about how we could get out of it and this one was harder than Miller,” said Janiskee, possibly referencing GRPD Officer Marc Miller, who had been arrested the day prior for driving under the influence in Caledonia; he eventually pleaded guilty and was ordered to serve probation.
“This one was f****** hard. Anybody else, there’s probably only another one or two cops out here, other than Adam, that would have been able to discreetly do that. But, but the first part of his phone conversation to you might f*** us,” said Warwick.
“Yeah, it might,” Janiskee concedes, then Warwick laughs.
“But I told him to call ’07. It’s on me,” adds Janiskee.
The conversation then segues to Kuiper.
“I mean, it’s a, I mean it’s just a f******, and who knows who Josh is going to f****** tell. Jesus. God,” says Warwick.
“I told that dumb son of a b**** that there’s four people in the world that know and no one else needs to. He is well aware of that,” says Ickes.
“Right. I mean I know he understands. I just don’t want him to be like, ‘Oh my God, blah blah blah, I have to thank those guys, they did me a solid.’ We didn’t f****** do him anything,” says Warwick.
“I told him that those words never come out of his mouth ever, he never needs to thank anyone including myself ever again,” Ickes adds.
“Yeah,” Warwick answers.
“Unless you get arrested and he’s prosecutor,” Janiskee says.
“Yeah,” Ickes answers with laughter.
“Exactly,” Warwick says, laughing.
Janiskee then says something that’s inaudible in the recording.
“I made sure he was well aware of that, whether he remembers that or not, I don’t know,” Ickes says.
The officers then recap how they’ll handle the case.
“As long as no one that matters digs, then no one here is going to look at a UD-10 (crash report),” Ickes says.
Warwick and Janiskee agree.
Warwick then asks Ickes if he’s going to put “drinking” in the crash report and whether it will automatically flag the report for someone.
“No. The insurance company, but no one else,” says Ickes.
“Yeah, he’s f***** for the insurance company,” adds Janiskee.
“Right. And you ran him through the sobrieties, so it’s not like you just f****** swept him up and we got him out of there,” says Warwick.
“Right,” adds Janiskee.
“And I talked to the other guy at the hospital, let him know that he was below the limit and when we went through things, and he’s like, ‘Oh, OK. That’s fine,’ you know. So,” said Ickes.
Warwick asks Ickes if he ticketed Empson for parking on the wrong side of the road.
“I did not do that. I didn’t want to add insult to injury,” Ickes answers to laughter.
“No need to poke the bear,” Ickes adds.
The GRPD chief said 24 Hour News 8’s digging sparked an internal review into how Ickes, Warwick and Janiskee handled the crash.
The GRPD announced all three officers had been suspended without pay in January.
In February, GRPD Chief David Rahinsky and Grand Rapids City Manager Greg Sundstrom agreed to termination hearings for all three officers. However, the city reached agreements with the police union for a lighter punishment for two of them. Officer Adam Ickes was suspended for 30 days without pay; Warwick was suspended for 160 hours, demoted from sergeant to officer, and placed on a two-year probation.
Andrew Rodenhouse, an attorney for Janiskee, told 24 Hour News 8 Wednesday the conversation was taken out of context and the officers weren’t doing anything wrong.
“If this is their only frame of reference, the optics are bad — we cannot dispute that. But when you know more about the story and you know what happened, it all makes sense,” he continued.
The Kalamazoo County prosecutor, who handled the investigation into the officers to avoid a conflict of interest, decided in early February that no charges would be filed against Ickes, Warwick and Janiskee.
On Wednesday, Chief Rahinsky told 24 Hour News 8 that his department knew the situation was a “punch to the gut to our credibility.” He condemned the officers’ actions and said he hopes the public won’t charge GRPD as a whole by their actions.
Kent County Prosecutor Chris Becker said while Janiskee’s wife works in his office, she played no role in what happened the night of the crash.
Wednesday, Becker stated to 24 Hour News 8 that Monica Janiskee “did what she was supposed to do, and it was out of her hands after that.” Becker said Monica Janiskee got information from her husband and went up the chain of command at that time, informing Becker and then-Kent County Chief Prosecutor Bill Forsyth.
The prosecutor’s office did charge Kuiper with reckless driving causing serious injury and a moving violation causing serious injury. A judge has ordered his case to trial.
The firm representing Empson, Johnson Law, provided 24 Hour News 8 with a statement about the recordings Wednesday that says in part, “Our entire community should be outraged and disgusted by the content of the Grand Rapids Police Department telephone calls.”
The firm said it would be reviewing the recordings over the next few days to see how they could factor into Empson’s lawsuit.