Man files excessive force lawsuit against South Haven PD

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SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. -- Michael Kinney of Van Buren County claims that his rights were violated during a 2013 arrest.

A South Haven officer attempted to stop Kinney after witnessing his truck swerve from lane to lane, nearly striking other vehicles.

Kinney didn’t stop, and ended up traveling almost four miles at about 30 mph, before crashing into a ditch. A crash that Kinney claims was caused by police.

Kinney, 60, was charged with leading police on a slow speed chase, but prosecutors agreed that the man was suffering from a bad diabetic reaction.

Kinney claims his injuries from the arrest still haven’t healed, and now he wants the city held responsible.

South Haven Police Chief Tom Martin is defending his officers in response to the lawsuit.

"The fact of the matter is sometimes people will file lawsuits and just see where they go," said Martin. "The city is prepared to deal with this in an appropriate manor and will see where the system goes on this."

Charges were dropped against Kinney due to medical reasons.

"He lost control on his own of the vehicle," said Martin. "Our officers were a distance behind him when he lost control and went into the culvert."

Kinney claims in the lawsuit that officers unlawfully pulled him from his vehicle, putting him in a choke hold, and pressing his face into the gravel.

Chief Martin denies his officers used a choke hold on Kinney.

"Having spoken to all the officers, they assure me that they did not. I feel confident that they did not," said Martin.

It was determined Kinney’s blood sugar was severely low and officers were alerted to his diabetic condition by a warning label on a necklace he wears. Kinney says in his lawsuit that he was denied a ride to the hospital in an ambulance. Chief Martin denies that.

"He refused to go on the ambulance, and the officers talked him into letting them transport him to the hospital," said Martin.

Originally believing Kinney was intoxicated, officers subjected him to a breathalyzer test, but he blew a .00.

The Van Buren County prosecutors later dropped the charge of eluding police, saying his behavior was due to a medical condition.

Because charges were not filed, Kinney and his attorney are seeking compensation for pain and suffering following the arrest, claiming police used excessive force.

But Chief Martin said officers "handled it in a highly appropriate professional manner. They had no way of knowing what was causing Kinney to drive all over the road endangering on coming traffic and traffic that was going his way."

The City of South Haven, the police chief, two officers, and a sergeant are listed in Kinney’s lawsuit.

"I feel confident that when all the facts are made public, it will be very clear that the officers acted in an prudent and lawful manner," said Martin.

According to the police report, Kinney claims to have blacked-out and doesn’t remember the actual chase.

A person can appear to be intoxicated when they have a blood sugar level as low as police said that Kinney’s was at the time of the arrest, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Kinney and his attorney declined to speak with us for this story.

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4 comments

  • Pff

    odd…the only time i was hurt by the police I had it coming.
    I learned not to give police a hard time and do as im told.
    guess that doesn’t apply to …special interest groups

  • Matt Farage

    I was once pulled over by Rockford police. They like to profile there past 10:30 pm it seems. It was when two kids were robbing convenience stores in Sand Lake area. Officer Mike Miller said my friend fit the description because he had a hooded sweat shirt on. They had me walk backwards towards them while carbines were drawn, then they grabbed my arms and tore my rotator cuff. It was all a case of mistaken identity according to them. I had never been in trouble before, outside of the govt labeling me the troublemaker for exposing liars. There was no reason, even stupidity to do what they did. It was them just knowing they could physically damage me for life and get away with it. My wife’s uncle who was a County Commissioner said ” I wouldn’t let them get away with that. Well I searched and searched and found an attorney out of Grand Rapids that specialized in excessive force cases. As soon as I said where it was, he told me he couldn’t take the case because he had done a couple divorce cases for Rockford police and he said he didn’t want to make problems. The moral of the story is? The govt will do whatever they have to, to create a way out, not matter if they did wrong to you or not.