Rouge Park revisited

By |2018-01-16T12:17:21-05:00November 25th, 2004|Uncategorized|

DETROIT – Joseph Thompson doesn’t like to drive anywhere near Rouge Park, and who can blame him? Three years ago, Thompson drove through it on his way to a wedding and made the mistake of waving at a guy in a green truck. That guy turned out to be an undercover police officer, and no sooner had Thompson finished flicking his wrist than he was forced over to the side of the road by eight police cars.
Disregarding the suit he was wearing and the wedding invitation on the passenger seat, the officers pulled Thompson from his car, handcuffed him and let loose a barrage of verbal assaults. Taken to Detroit’s 6th Precinct, Thompson was held for over five hours, handcuffed to a folding chair and refused permission to use the restroom.
“They said, ‘We’re gonna get all you fags,'” Thompson remembered. “I asked one of the officers to loosen the handcuffs because they were digging into my wrists. The officer came up to me and tightened them even more.”
Finally, Thompson was given an “annoying person” citation and released. He fought the charge in court and won, but it cost him $6,000 in fees by the time his car, which had been impounded, was returned to him.
That still wasn’t the end of it, though. A week later, Thompson was on his way home from work and near the park when one of the unmarked police vehicles began following him. Days later, Thompson passed out at work.
“I couldn’t breathe and was placed on oxygen,” he said. “The doctors said it was due to stress and the trauma of the incident.”
Thompson knew he had been wronged, but finding someone to help him make it right proved to be a challenge.
“Nobody wanted to take my case,” he said, recalling his search for an attorney that only ended this past summer when he was taken on by the Rasor Law Firm in Royal Oak. “I was looking the whole time. I almost gave up.”
Luckily for Thompson, he had the resolve to keep going. Just months after finding representation, the City of Detroit opted to settle for an undisclosed amount rather than fight the case in court.
“I think the City of Detroit knew that they had liability for it,” said James Rasor, Thompson’s co-counsel. “They had a couple of bad officers running a poorly thought out operation that was mean spirited and was vile and the city knew they had liability for it and they paid for it, and I’m very happy with the result for the client.”
Thompson’s feelings are mixed. He’s happy with the settlement but three years after his arrest still suffers from anxiety attacks as a result of the episode.
“I’m an American citizen and I felt that all my rights as an American, that I didn’t have any,” he said. “I was arrested for no reason. I’ll never forget that. It was by the grace of God that I survived without having a nervous breakdown.”
Thompson said he is unsure what he will do with his settlement money. For now, he’s simply trying to rebuild his life.
“The money is wonderful and I’m glad they settled for what they did, but will the memory ever go away? I don’t know. I hope it will heal like a cut and at least not hurt as bad. I don’t know if there’s enough money in the world to make me feel better about what happened. If I had to do it all over again, I never would have drove through the park.”

About the Author:

Jason A. Michael
Jason A. Michael earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Wayne State University before joining Between The Lines as a contributing writer in 1999. Jason has received both the Spirit of Detroit Award (presented by the Detroit City Council) and the Media Award from the Community Pride Banquet & Awards Ceremony for his writing and activism. Jason is also an Essence magazine bestselling author having written the authorized biography "Strength Of A Woman: The Phyllis Hyman Story," which he released on his own JAM Books imprint.