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Public calls for job of GRPD officer who contacted ICE about veteran

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The Grand Rapids City Commission meeting was adjourned early Tuesday night after dozens of people came to demand the firing of a Grand Rapids police officer.

Several people voiced frustration towards Capt. Curt VanderKooi, who sent an email containing racially-charged language in connection to the arrest of a man who allegedly set fire to a helipad at Spectrum Health Butterworth Hospital.

Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, 27, was taken into custody Nov. 21 after the alleged incident at the hospital. After being released from police custody, he was detained for several days by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement in Battle Creek.

A January statement said Ramos-Gomez was being because he claimed to be a foreign national illegally present in America during an interview with ICE agents.

At the meeting Tuesday night, Interim Police Chief David Kiddle said he didn’t know how ICE concluded Ramos-Gomez wasn’t an American citizen. According to police reports of the Nov. 21 incident, Ramos-Gomez had a passport, license and military dog tags in his possession when he was arrested.

A GPRD internal review says VanderKooi contacted ICE because his alleged actions at the hospital  - trying to access the helipad - fit the description for a potential act of terrorism.

Police records show VanderKooi didn’t work the day Ramos-Gomez was arrested, and claim he wasn’t aware two officers concluded the incident didn’t constitute an act of terrorism in separate interviews. GRPD’s review says he didn’t receive an email containing a full report until the following day.

Text messages obtained by the ACLU of Michigan show another GRPD officer had texted an FBY contact, alerting the field office that Ramos-Gomez was a vet with PTSD.

Public commenters said it was the suspect’s physical description that led to him being detained, accusing officers of racial profiling.

“I’m here because my conscience dictates that I stand here as an ally with the individuals and families at the risk of racial profiling at the hands of our criminal justice system,” one resident said.

Days after asking ICE to “check his status,” VanderKooi emailed an ICE official a copy of the incident report from Nov. 21, which contained information on Ramos-Gomez’s documentation with the subject line “Spectrum Helicopter Pad Loco.”

Police said VanderKooi had been disciplined for the comment, and repeated his apology to Ramos-Gomez.

“It was not my intent to disrespect Mr. Ramos Gomez or to offend anyone in any way, my decision to use unprofessional language is something I regret,” VanderKooi said.

Public commenters called for more than an apology, saying VanderKooi should be “held accountable for his actions.”

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5 comments

  • C

    Maybe it’s time for the commission to have spectators view the proceedings on television from a remote location. They can voice their opinions via phone at the appropriate time. In that way, the meeting is still open to the public and there is opportunity for dialogue. What it changes is the chance that a disruptive group of people who have no sense of decorum will disrupt the meeting and prevent the commissioners from doing their jobs.

  • BP

    I think we should know EVERY off color remark and EVERY mistake the protesters have EVER made. Hasn’t anyone ever heard of Grace? Mercy? He made a mistake. He apologized. If he was black or was a liberal would the outcry be the same??

  • Michael

    What did he say that was racially charged? “Loco” means crazy. This dude is clearly crazy. In addition the guy was claiming to be an illegal immigrant. Isn’t it reasonable to ask ICE to check his status if he’s claiming to be illegal?

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