Blue lightning strikes same place twice as LPD makes another too-hasty arrest of Devon Wakelin

When ran properly, police agencies can be the superglue that prevents our civilization from falling apart.  When we no longer expect accountability, transparency, and lawful behavior from our police agencies, they help reduce that same civilization to ashes.   Perhaps renowned science fiction author, Jack Vance had it right when he said:

“As soon as the police slip out from under the firm thumb of a suspicious local tribune, they become arbitrary, merciless, a law unto themselves. They think no more of justice, but only of establishing themselves as a privileged and envied elite. They mistake the attitude of natural caution and uncertainty of the civilian populace as admiration and respect, and presently start to swagger back and forth, jingling their weapons in megalomaniacal euphoria.”

It is equally irrational to argue to defund the police after an unquestionable abuse of police powers, as it is to defend the police involved in such abuses.  The better path to follow is to define the police, give them the power to judiciously enforce laws, but restrain them with the duty to do their job transparently, accountably, and in complete deference to the rights guaranteed to everybody, including police officers.

The Ludington Police Department (LPD) has embraced better transparency among their officers by having a responsible body camera policy that has their officers record encounters with the public that occur so that citizens can be better assured that the police, and the people they interact with, act appropriately-- since they generally know they are on film.  When a department acts responsibly, these recordings are very helpful in allaying public fears of police misconduct and avoiding such lawsuits, because they show the conduct of the officer was appropriate and lawful. 

But Ludington cops are people too, and they make mistakes; some of these can be costly.  In the past, they have covered up these mistakes by fudging police reports and/or piling charges on the victims of their errors in judgment and policing.  With the advent of body cameras, they sometimes have to be more creative to avoid accountability. 

Earlier this summer, we noted the case of Devon Wakelin in the article Resisting and Opposing Injustice.  Sumarized, Wakelin was suspected of firing a BB gun at a car, a charge that was never investigated, nor did it have much of a basis, being reported by some suspicious characters.  Officer Gilmurray and Captain Haveman went to Wakelin's house, both had their bodycams activated.  They would roughly arrest Wakelin and charge him (only) with two counts of felony resisting and opposing.  The bodycam footage was totally exonerating of the assault victim, Devon Wakelin, who was rushed and wrestled to the ground by officers not bothering to tell Wakelin why they were doing just that.

The video shows no resistance being offered by Wakelin to the brutal aggression performed on him.  The coverage also confirms that Captain Haveman lied on the stand when he said that he was detaining Wakelin before the assault.  He repeated that lie at the preliminary hearing of Wakelin's girlfriend, who was also charged with a felony of R&O for the act of retrieving Wakelin's phone on the ground.  Ridiculously, she will be tried for not obeying a command to 'stay back' in the way that Captain Haveman intended, Wakelin's two felonies were dismissed since the recording inarguably shows he was never detained, just wrangled. 

In Ludington, retrieving a piece of property while two LPD thugs unlawfully brutalize your boyfriend is worthy of a felony nowadays.  If you're a police captain of LPD you can contradict a clear video showing your own malfeasance by very substantively lying about what happened in two courtrooms, and that's okay.  If you blindly defend the police you might think that's okay, but it's definitely not.

In the middle of the night on July 25, 2021, Devon Wakelin would be assaulted by two, then three LPD officers once again on his property.  A call was made to 911 that night by Wakelin's girlfriend Lindsey, reporting that Wakelin had either hit or pushed her 13 year old daughter from a prior relationship.  

Three LPD officers responded, School Resource Officer Chad Skiba arrived shortly after Officers Jared Versluis and Mike Gilmurray, who had been invited into the house by the two women.  Skiba had the women step outside to talk with him, while the other two talked with Wakelin.  

The women told a story with a minor conflict, Lindsey said Devon pushed the daughter, while the daughter said she was hit.  This occurred after the couple argued in their bedroom as they would relate to Skiba:

Lindsey:  "I yelled, I said 'Get the f away from me' and she came into the room and he pushed her."
Daughter:  "He didn't push me, he punched me right in the chest."

Skiba:  (on radio to others) "There's enough." (at which point the others attacked Wakelin concurrently with telling him that he was under arrest)

The LPD's 'investigation' into domestic violence or assault this time amounted to this brief exchange, which was more than they did previously but still insufficient to effectuate an arrest on either charge at that point.  Assault and DV are intent crimes, meaning that the contact that happened was intended to create a state of apprehension or awareness in the victim, an accidental act will not give rise to assault charges; it must be intentional.  The victim must reasonably believe that they would be harmed or offended by the would-be-assailant’s conduct.  

This isn't legal hair-splitting, Skiba only knew at this point that a contact was made after the daughter imposed herself into a verbal altercation between the two adults that was taking place in their bedroom.  She entered her parent's bedroom, was he just trying to keep her out or move her away from a verbal fight the daughter was apparently ready to engage in without apprehension?  How did Skiba know what was going through her head and Wakelin's head without investigating further?  

The dynamic duo inside had just begun their own questioning of Wakelin.  Wakelin has noticeable damage to his face, he explains that he was jumped at Tiki by three men about 30 minutes ago. "I came home upset, she, her daughter thought that I was mad at her, she came at me and I got away, I didn't do anything, I promise." 

This would normally be the time they would ask follow-up questions to find out why the other two involved were claiming contact occurred and enough to call the police, but that never happened.  Skiba's "There's enough." came through and they immediately went into goon mode.  

Michigan law has limits upon arrests without warrants or without the crime being personally witnessed by the officer.  MCL 764.15 states that probable cause that a misdemeanor has occurred must be present before arrest can be considered.  In this case, the two inside cops are acting upon Skiba's assessment of probable cause, which is arguably insufficient in this case without further investigation.  

Once that is established, MCL 764.19 says rather clearly:  "When arresting a person, without a warrant, the officer making the arrest shall inform the person arrested of his authority and the cause of the arrest..."  Two uniformed officers aggressively rushing a person each grabbing an arm before the phrase "you're under arrest" is completed is not lawful or proper procedure. 

Yet, this incident quickly devolves from this error, Officer Mike Gilmurray obviously not learning anything from his prior 'arrest' of Wakelin.  Wakelin gets three resisting & opposing charges for what happened next, it is very unclear that his resistance is no more than being surprised by the unlawful rush that occurred.  Rather than go through the continuum of the use of force, verbally trying to get compliance with the arrest, the two officers take Wakelin by each arm and drag him to the floor. 

SRO Skiba enters the action then, and ironically, Devon Wakelin gets unlawfully jumped by three men for the second time in a span of an hour.  We hear Wakelin plea with them to "Let me breathe", in Versluis body cam video and then inside the tumult of everything going on there is complete silence for ten seconds.  This would be due to the FOIA coordinator supposedly editing out information that would invade Wakelin's privacy.  Reasonable people would believe otherwise, that it was to edit out how they restricted Wakelin's airflow so that he almost immediately passes out once the sound goes off.

The only other body cam offered up is SRO Skiba's (the Devon2.0.pdf police report does not indicate why Gilmurray's body cam is not on).  Rather than ten seconds of silence, we get 13 seconds as they have wiped out the "Let me breathe." quote by Wakelin, claiming it as private data.  

Perhaps the more damning aspect of this video is that we see Skiba hovering above the head and neck area of Wakelin, his body camera trained on the couch during this period.  SRO Skiba reports in the incident report:  

"R/O held Devon down as they were trying to handcuff him... once Devon was secured in handcuffs R/O proceeded to the kitchen."

Skiba only comments on Wakelin losing consciousness after he left the room, then indicates it was he who initiated EMS response, when it was already done by Versluis, while Skiba was still in the living room.  The misrepresentation of facts by Skiba seems to indicate that he is trying to cover up his own involvement in causing Wakelin to pass out during this unlawful and brutal arrest procedure.

Over two weeks later, Wakelin, himself unlawfully assaulted by three LPD officers, has been charged with three felony counts of resisting arrest by those three officers and a lesser charge of domestic violence which upon further investigation seems specious.  The daughter had no bruising, Lindsey had some redness on her right arm where (according to Lindsey) Wakelin held it defensively after Lindsey contacted him first.  

The lack of protocols used and followed by the LPD that night is disturbing.  There are more in the full extent of the video like when they use a PBT to determine his blood alcohol level later on while he was still unable to consent.  

That it happened to a person that had already been unlawfully assaulted by the LPD mere months before, that multiple officers put in their report that Wakelin talked of how he had that case dismissed in court, makes one think of acts of retaliation, especially when one of those officers was present and did the same error again. 

That a school resource officer who plies his normal trade with high school kids, jumped the gun on probable cause and then tried to cover up his own part in making Wakelin pass out in what was an unlawful arrest, should have one question whether he would make such mistakes and omissions when around vulnerable kids.  

That LPD and the prosecutor's office would still be going after these specious felony R&O charges following inarguably unlawful arrests should make one suspicious of similar situations and wonder whether the local justice system and the local police are out for justice, or the reverse.  

Do not remain unconscious; expect and demand from your local officials accountability, transparency, and respect for the rights guaranteed to every American.  Gilmurray's body cam video and the missing ten seconds of audio is being sought by the Ludington Torch on appeal, we will continue to hold our officials accountable when the record shows they have made gross errors and, rather than correct them, shamefully charge other innocent people with felonies.  

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It would appear that the police did  indeed over react which caused the confrontation to turn physical. Those officers, obviously never received any training in how to properly manage confrontational situations. The whole thing went off like a bottle rocket. I also think the officers felt as if they were playing rolls in a cop show. Ludington is a tiny town compared to most large cities in Michigan but the police seem to like violent confrontations instead of de-escalating the situation. If I were a cop. I would do everything in my power to keep the situation from getting out of hand but these cops just did the opposite. They really need some serious training. I wonder how they were taught to handle these kinds of situations. Either they skipped class that day or they failed that part of the test. Either way, according to what I heard on the recordings, they failed to do their jobs and did their best to assure the citizens that their police force is not following the training procedures.

Another problem is with people who call the police when there may be no reason to. They get angry and haphazardly push their problem on to the police instead of being civil to each other and trying  to resolve the situation themselves.

The police should not have to baby sit these self centered people. Domestic disputes is a major problem for the police.

There is plenty of blame to go around regarding this situation.

Good job presenting the facts X.

Thanks, Willy.  Both of us have the wisdom (and hindsight) to understand that adding police to a domestic situation, especially  one involving incidental aggression and/or physical conduct from all parties, will not simplify the conclusion.  The daughter seems to have been out of line by going into her parents bedroom to enter into what was then a verbal argument.  The record indicates Wakelin didn't approach her, but that she encroached into the bedroom and into Wakelin's personal space.  Contact happened, from the accounts it appeared to be incidental rather than anything intentional.  

The person who reacted to that contact by making her own intentional physical contact with Wakelin was the one who unwisely called the same police who are trying to charge her with a felony for the May incident where she picked Wakelin's phone off the ground and is deemed not to have obeyed Captain Haveman's order to "stay back."

There seems to be no history in this 'family unit' of violence or illegal activity (the May incident notwithstanding) and no damage to the daughter from the contact.  If you recall, I involved the LPD in a similar case when I was assaulted by a dog owner after I fended off his dogs attacking me on his neighbor's sidewalk.  I had a bruise on my chest from where he sucker-pushed me, I went to the LPD and filed a complaint.  They interviewed him the next day after giving him plenty of time to create a story, and he did.  According to ape-man, I had ran onto his property to go after his docile dogs, kicking one, and when he went up to me and asked me what I was doing, it was I poking him in the chest. 

Wow, what a jerk, I am; why didn't he report me?  Rather than explore all the holes in the man's story, the LPD did nothing.  I didn't have Officer Skiba saying "There's enough." 


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