Protest Planned for Outside ELPD Next Sunday

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Saturday, February 15, 2020, 6:36 pm
By: 
Alice Dreger

Above: Exterior of the East Lansing Police Dept. and the 7-Eleven where the incident occurred (photos by Gary Caldwell)

Plans are now underway for community responses to the incident on February 8 that left 19-year-old Uwimana Gasito with injuries to his head and eye as he was being arrested by East Lansing Police officers at the 7-Eleven store in downtown East Lansing.

Gasito’s Facebook post late Thursday about his experience has resulted in many people paying attention on social media and through the news media.

ELPD announced late Friday an investigation into an allegation of use of “excessive force” by officers.

Community response plans include a peaceful protest outside the ELPD offices next Sunday, Feb. 23, from 1:30 to 4:00 p.m. organized by “Justice For Uwimana Gasito – Tito.”

Organizers write that they “are calling on the East Lansing Police Department to be transparent and immediately release any footage from body-worn cameras. Moreover, we are calling on the ELPD to bring in unbiased investigators to examine this case. In order to ensure a fair outcome for everyone and an unbiased investigation, we should allow a team of outside law-enforcement agency to complete the investigation."

Talyce Murray, Chair of East Lansing’s Human Relations Commission (HRC), has told ELi that that government-appointed citizen board “will be holding a special meeting of the HRC focused on this issue and how we can start the process of racial and ethnic justice and healing in our community.”

Murray informed ELi on Sunday that the meeting will be on Tuesday, Feb. 18, starting at 6:30 p.m. and that the topic will be "Addressing the racial and ethnic incidents in the Greater East Lansing Community." The meeting will be in City Hall's conference room A, which is on the second floor of City Hall near the City Manager's office.

Above: HRC Chair Talyce Murray at this week's meeting (photo by Gary Caldwell)

A press release from the City yesterday also indicates that once the ELPD internal investigation is complete, “a special meeting of the East Lansing City Council will be held to provide a public review of all of the body cam and in-car footage from the incident and the video footage will be released at that time.”

ELi is aware of at least two City Council members already having seen video taken by the police. Requests to ELPD by ELi for more information about the incident and the investigation have so far gone unanswered.

Our questions include why this event was not discussed at the HRC meeting that occurred on Wednesday evening, four days after the incident, where the group discussed with the ELPD chiefs issues of trust-building, perceptions of racial bias, police policies, and more.

ELi has reached out to Gasito but we have not yet heard back from him.

Above: Image from Gasito's Facebook post that brought the incident to public attention

Gasito described his experience in detail to the Lansing State Journal, which reported that “a man in the store accused Gasito and his brother, Anthony Zarwea, of touching his girlfriend’s buttocks.” The man making that accusation was Chandler Lee.

The altercation spilled out of the store where officers moved to arrest Zarwea. Gasito says he took out his phone to record the arrest, which he saw as unjustified, and was subsequently handcuffed and shoved to the ground.

Court records show the involvement of ELPD Officers Chad Stemen and Jeff Horn.

Gasito is being charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest and did not have to post a bond for release. Zarwea is being charged with disorderly conduct and assault and had to post a $200 bond.

Lee is charged with disorderly conduct and had to post a $200 bond.

Arraignments are set to happen on Feb. 19 in East Lansing’s 54B District Court with Gasito and Zarwea appearing before Judge Richard Ball and Lee appearing before Judge Andrea Larkin.

The cases will be prosecuted by the office of City Attorney Tom Yeadon.

 

Note: This article was updated on Sunday, Feb. 17, to include the info about the HRC meeting on Tuesday.

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