GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The man at the center of a police cover up involving three members of GRPD and a former Kent County assistant prosecutor is speaking to FOX 17 outside of a courtroom for the first time.
Daniel Empson was injured on Nov. 19, 2016 when that former assistant prosecutor, Josh Kuiper, drove the wrong way down a one-way street and hit Empson’s car. He suffered injuries to his hip, back, shoulder and head, and the incident sparked a year-long legal battle and the disciplining of the GRPD trio.
“It certainly hasn’t been life as usual,” said Empson. “Moving around, just living life, there’s things that I don’t do now that I did before.”
With the help of recently released phone calls that were made on a police line marked “unrecorded,” three officers have been disciplined for letting Kuiper off the hook that night with no breathalyzer test and no arrest. In those calls, one officer on the scene described Kuiper as “hammered” and “visibly intoxicated.”
The only officer of the three not to set foot on the scene, Former Lieutenant Matthew Janiskee, was fired from the department and has since launched a legal battle of his own over a court’s decision to release the calls from the unrecorded line. Sergeant Thomas Warwick was demoted and suspended for 160 days, and Officer Adam Ickes was also suspended for 160 days.
“These cops were trying to, it looks like, protect a friend of theirs, or at least someone they knew in giving him different treatment because of that,” said Empson. “That should have been something that should have never entered their mind of, ‘oh I need to protect this person because I’m friends with them.’ There’s a law that needs to be followed.”
Kuiper is currently awaiting trial on a five year felony charge. Empson and his lawyer, Ven Johnson, say they’re considering further legal action, possibly against the city.
“Our public officials are literally, form the outset, conspiring, concealing, trying to cover up the drunkenness of a prosecutor simply because they work with the guy,” said Johnson. “Is it deeper than the three officers? Obviously it is.”
“The bad guy here was Kuiper, not Empson.”
“This is a situation that shouldn’t happen to anybody,” said Empson. “I don’t care what you look like, where you come from, who you are, how well you get along with anybody in law enforcement or anything, this shouldn’t happen to anyone.”
“I am concerned going forward about any other time a situation like this comes up,” he continued. “That’s always going to be in the back of my mind and I think it’s going to be in the back of the minds of a lot of people who read through this.”