GR to pay $95K to teen who claimed police brutality

Excessive force suit against Grand Rapids Police Department settled before trial


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — After more than three years of wrangling in federal court, a teen who says he was brutalized by Grand Rapids police will receive a $95,000 payout.

The settlement means the city doesn’t have to admit wrongdoing and the teen’s attorneys don’t have to prove their case — but the $95,000 check speaks for itself.

The case started on June 13, 2014 with a 911 call in which a caller claimed “a little boy has a gun in his waistband, I don’t know, but some people walking up the street saying he has a gun.” Police got to the intersection of Dolbee Avenue and Dunham Street SE, an area U.S. District Court Judge Paul Maloney described in court documents as “the worst of the worst in terms of violent crime.” There, they saw then-15-year-old Donovann Austin Braswell.

Police claimed that Braswell took off and had his hands in and around his waistband. The chase ended in the 900 block of Logan Street as Braswell tried to climb the fence. Police say Braswell tossed something and a gun was later found at the scene. Braswell’s attorney said the gun was likely planted.

The lawsuit he filed against the city, the Grand Rapids Police Department and three officers accuses Officer Sean McCamman of throwing Braswell 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,” attorney Keeley Heath said in 2015.

Police say Braswell did not show his hands and McCamman could not be sure he was unarmed.

The judge ruled while the police had cause to stop and even hit Braswell, a jury would have to decide if the repeated blows constituted excessive force. But the settlement in which the city agreed to pay the teen and his mother means no jury will ever see the case.

Braswell, now 18, who has a juvenile record that includes home invasion and marijuana arrests, was cleared of wrong-doing in the case linked to his excessive force claims.

Donovann Braswell
A mug shot of Donovann Braswell from the Kent County Correctional Facility.

However, he is now in the Kent County jail after initially he was charged with attempted murder, later pleaded guilty to assault less than murder and was sentenced last month to 300 days behind bars. Authorities say he tried to strangle someone in September 2016.

Braswell’s older brother, Jalen, was killed — allegedly over a dice game — on May 28, 2015, also on the Southeast side.

On Tuesday, 24 Hour News 8 contacted Braswell’s attorney, Josh Blanchard, who said he could only speak about the police brutality case if the Grand Rapids city attorney did. The city attorney confirmed the amount of the settlement, but did not return requests for comment.

Braswell’s mom also did not want to comment.

The officers involved remain on the force and the department has not indicated that any disciplinary action was taken.