Negligent LPD Officer Used Excessive Force on Detainment, Failed to Use Body Cam

Ludington Police Department's Jared Versluis joined the force as a part-time officer back in 2017, he would eventually become a full-timer.  He was formally introduced to the public at the October 10, 2022 city council meeting.  

If you have sought help from LPD and dealt with Officer Versluis, you might get the impression that he is a by-the-book, polite, personable, and efficient officer.  The problem is that those appearances may be deceiving, as he seems to make a lot of recurring mistakes as regards LPD policy, and it often works to the detriment of the basic civil rights of those he makes contact with.  

A review of our past articles show that he was involved in a couple of incidents where the local police were caught misbehaving.  Versluis was one of two officers that used what many would believe to be excessive force on Devon Wakelin inside his home in 2021, almost killing him.  He and Officer Gilmurray would jump Wakelin without a warrant, without a misdemeanor, and without an announced cause.  

Later that year, Versluis and two other officers would intervene between a couple arguing over what to do, a playful slap by the woman had the officers pressing for a DV charge against her-- but not before a host of policy violations were made by the officers, indicating that this just may be their standard procedure.  Versluis would allow and conduct custodial interviews without issuing Miranda warnings, coopt the man's wallet to look through it without his consent (an illegal seizure and search), and intentionally turn off his body cam audio for an extended period during the incident, all violating written policies of the LPD. 

Also in 2021, and not reported in this venue, Versluis would arrest a developmentally disabled minor with an arrest warrant out for the 'larceny' of a small boat.  Versluis would fail to activate his body cam until contact was in progress and only activate the audio ten seconds later.  The recording never has him telling the boy what he is being arrested for, and even though the minor asks to phone his mom four times, his mom never finds out about the arrest until the next day, as Versluis fails to follow up on his promises.

Versluis was the dry officer almost a year ago when a mentally distraught man threw his urine sample on LPD Officer Austin Morris.  One can argue whether the ensuing police violence on this man was excessive, but one can't argue that leading this man through the hospital and outdoors on a chilly early May day in his underwear was inappropriate.  We noted in that article, the officers made a warrantless arrest using a lot of force without ever telling the obviously disoriented man what they were doing.  One might excuse Officer Morris who had a face drenched with urine, but Officer Versluis would just offer recriminations after they took the man down and injured him.  Still unexplained is the second felony assault charge leveled against the confused man.

With this background in hand, let's look at a recent bench warrant arrest made by LPD Officer Jared Versluis and how it was not only improper, but also highlights several bad practices in his past.  

Just a little before 8 PM on March 28, 2023, Officer Versluis saw a familiar face when he was patrolling in the Fourth Ward, let's have him tell us what he was doing in his own words from his police report: 

Versluis failure to turn on his body cam to initiate contact and make a potential arrest of Winston on bench warrants seems to me to be an anomaly for an officer using such equipment for years and understanding the LPD policy that it should be on during contact with the public, and especially in an action like this.  Was this intentional?  Well, we know that he intentionally turned off his body cam audio in the downtown dispute.

Versluis mentions he has the belief that there are outstanding (bench) warrants on Winston, but he doesn't indicate why he believes that Winston hasn't dealt with those warrants since he last chekced on them.  The LPD manual states that an officer needs to confirm such warrants before conducting an arrest, as seen in section 15:  

How do we know that Versluis didn't confirm the warrant status before he detained Winston (by grabbing his wrists)?  For one thing, he doesn't mention such action in his report, and more conclusively, a home security camera with audio and video fails to pick that up.  Fortunately for Winston, an eye in the sky had his back since Versluis decided to not record the encounter.  

That eye would also notice another thing that would be important in this encounter and is not in the report:  Versluis never made a lawful arrest, failing to formally state a charge against Winston or provide the warrant that allowed him to grapple with Winston without being guilty of an assault charge himself.  Without the warrant or the confirmation of an active warrant, the arrest is unlawful under section 15 (e) of the code of criminal procedure:

The unlawful detainment and assault of Winston continues, while Officer Versluis writes:

The home security videos back the report-- in that both never have Officer Versluis instruct Winston that he is being detained or arrested or even ordered to be put into handcuffs.   During this time, Winston is trying to talk with him about the warrants, but Versluis doesn't since he doesn't seem to know what they are and can't know if any are still active as Winston argues they aren't.  

Fortunately for Winston, home security captures the action that Versluis writes about and shows that Winston was more than 'brought to the ground'.  Versluis threw Winston to the ground right after he had raised his hands and was trying to get to the ground himself.  An excerpt from the video in relevant part shows this:

And the ground that Versluis throws Winston is not soft, it's made of gravel.  So with the officer holding his left hand, the officer grinds the poor man into the gravel:

Versluis didn't come out unscathed, scraping his knuckle on the gravel on his takedown, as noted in Sergeant Fort's part of the report:  

He notes the bear hug and token resistance to the aggressive action, and like Versluis he says Winston 'went to his stomach and on the ground' without mentioning the help from the bear-hugging officer whipping him down, while at the end he notes the scrape on the hand happening during the 'altercation with Winston'.  That is, in the intentional action by Versluis of throwing Winston down forcibly.  

The sick aftermath of this excessive use of force and violation of multiple LPD policies by Officer Versluis is that the one he assaulted and battered is being charged with a very real felony for resisting/obstructing/assaulting an officer supposedly acting under the color of law.  

The rest of the arrest report can be found here, additional video will be withheld for now and revealed as needed in order to get DeAndre Winston justice for this encounter.  It is not apparently safe to walk your dog in the Fourth Ward if you're a black man, because the LPD will find a way to humiliate and arrest you.

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It's hard to tell what went on before the officer tackled the man. If there was some questionable behavior on either side of this confrontation, this short video makes it difficult  for anyone to come to any type of conclusion as to what happened. If the officer misbehaved and he is not disciplined for it then the problem is with the Chief, Mayor and City Council. Will be interesting to see the entire situation when the video is released.

You know my desire for more transparency and I hope to release more video once this starts going through the court process and Versluis' testimony contradicts the video I have put aside.  The report notes that the only resistance noted was Winston's pull towards the house when he asked Versluis to be able to get to the house, that's caught in this portion of video and every thing that happened afterwards.  A judge could subjectively characterize that as passive resistance, except for the fact that the videos and Versluis' report never has the officer announcing a detainment/arrest.  Tacking on this felony is ludicrous, unnecessary and only goes to elevate the perception that the LPD and our prosecutors suffer from institutional racism.

DeAndre Winston does have a laundry list of past infractions (a lot like former LFD firefighter Austin Billings, who is white) so even though I can think of him as a victim in this instance, I would hope that he receives just punishment for his warrants and for any other crime he has actually committed.  Just in case we have city officials looking in, my FOIA request on Billings personnel file is due at the end of today after you extended it for two weeks without a reason. 

Last week, Winston was acquitted of CSC by a jury trial, and it really doesn't seem like the prosecutor had much of a case against him there either.  Here are a couple of COLDNews treatments of that court battle, I would be surprised if the prosecutor continues to prosecute Winston for the R&O felony charge since they are 90+% likely to fail in that endeavor and be seen as a persecutor:


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