MSP releases footage of unmarked SUV fatally striking Grand Rapids man, report sent to AG

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Warning: A link in this story to video footage posted by the Michigan State Police to social media shows images that some may consider disturbing.

GRAND RAPIDS — The Michigan State Police has completed an investigation into the fatal crash where a member of its Sixth District Fugitive Team, driving an unmarked SUV, struck 25-year-old Samuel Sterling as he fled from officers on foot during the morning of April 17 in Kentwood, a suburb of Grand Rapids.

The completed investigative report has been referred to Attorney General Dana Nessel's Office, the agency announced Friday afternoon. MSP also released about 15 minutes of footage of the fatal crash Friday, which was shown to Sterling's family before being made publicly available.

According to news releases issued by the MSP, Sterling was putting air in a vehicle's tires at a local gas station when officers approached him. Sterling then fled on foot, running away before he was eventually struck. Police say Sterling was "wanted on multiple warrants," although they have not indicated what those warrants were for.

The footage, compiled from body-worn and in-car cameras, shows Sterling running from officers, eventually running into the parking lot of a nearby Burger King restaurant. As an officer continues to chase Sterling on foot, a Hyundai Palisade SUV strikes Sterling, knocking him to the ground. Sterling immediately yells in apparent pain, and remains on the ground. Sterling, lying on the ground, tells officers his back hurts.

The officer wearing the body-camera is heard calling for medical attention. According to state police, the MSP member who struck Sterling was not wearing a body-worn camera, nor was his vehicle equipped with any camera, so footage from that vantage point is not available.

Footage taken from another body-worn camera shows officers holding Sterling up as they search him. Sterling continues to yell in apparent pain. The final portion of footage, also taken from a body-worn camera, shows officers placing handcuffs on Sterling as they continue to search him.

An officer asks Sterling: "Where do you hurt at, man?"

Sterling replies: "My whole body." He remains on the ground and tells an officer he can't move, as the officer tells him to continue to breathe.

State police say Sterling then was transported to a local hospital, where he died hours later.

The MSP member who struck Sterling has been suspended pending the Attorney General's Office review, per the agency. According to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's Office, the suspension is unpaid. In a statement released Friday, Whitmer said Sterling's death was unacceptable, and that she expects the MSP member's employment to be terminated if criminal charges are issued.

"The death of Samuel Sterling was unacceptable. My heart is with his family and the Grand Rapids community," Whitmer said. "The state trooper involved is on unpaid suspension. The MSP investigation has been completed and Attorney General Dana Nessel is reviewing to make a final determination on any charges. I have full faith that her office will work quickly to arrive at a fair and just decision as to whether criminal charges are appropriate.

"In light of video footage showing a departure from MSP protocols and the high standards of the department, my expectation is the State of Michigan will take steps to terminate the trooper’s employment if criminal charges are issued.”

MSP Director Col. James Grady II has met with Sterling's family, according to the agency. In a statement, Grady said: "We will continue to be transparent in this investigation and will fully cooperate with the Michigan Department of Attorney General as they begin their review."

Sterling's family has retained civil rights attorney Ben Crump's law firm, according to local media reports. Crump held a news conference in Grand Rapids on April 26 where he called for the release of the footage of Sterling being struck, as well as the name of the MSP member who struck him.

Contact Arpan Lobo: alobo@freepress.com. Follow him on X (Twitter) @arpanlobo.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: MSP releases footage of unmarked SUV fatally striking Samuel Sterling