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Mid-Michigan police officer fired, claims retaliation for pending lawsuit

Published: Jul. 9, 2020 at 6:27 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 9, 2020 at 6:34 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - A mid-Michigan police officer is off the job tonight, apparently over the way he handled a recent traffic stop.

The officer was fired after finding a driver asleep behind the wheel of a pick-up truck in St. Charles.

It turns out, the officer had a pending lawsuit against the village for discrimination.

He’s suing again over this termination.

“Was he already out in the road,” asks Ben Jaime as he begins to investigate why a man is asleep at the wheel of a pick-up truck at a stop sign in St. Charles.

“Yeah he was like that, I think he is slumped over with his foot on the brake,” says an unidentified woman.

This exchange can be heard on the body cam recording from Jaime.

The date of the incident is March 13th, the Friday before schools would be closed for the year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Jaime runs a license plate check from his vehicle and then approaches the pick-up truck and opens the door.

“Why are you stopped in the middle of the roadway,” Jaime asks the man.

Jaime asked the man if had been drinking. He said no and Jaime saw and smelled no evidence that he was intoxicated.

“You feeling ok,” the officer asks.

“Yeah, I’m just tired,” says the man.

The man, who we are not identifying, was arrested for having outstanding warrants and was taken to jail. He was given a COVID-19 test and days later, Jaime and the police department learned the man tested positive for coronavirus. Ten days after this arrest, Jaime claims he was called into a meeting with his superiors.

“Part of their claim was that he didn’t render aid to him quick enough. Ben’s testimony to them, he drove by the vehicle, its the first thing they do, looked in, looked like he was sleeping,” says Jaime’s attorney, Victor Mastromarco, Jr.

There would be more meetings discussing the arrest, and Jaime, who had been with the department since 2008, was fired on May 7th. Mastromarco, says Jaime was unjustly terminated.

“There is no question he followed protocol,” says Mastromarco.

Jaime filed a discrimination lawsuit in 2018 against the village after being passed over for the chief’s position. Mastrocmarco says after Jaime was fired in May, the village offered Jaime $30,000 to drop the initial lawsuit. Mastromarco believes he knows why his client was fired.

“I believe its clearly retaliatory,” says Mastromarco.

The lawsuit is asking for damages in excess of $25,000.

St. Charles village manager, Hartmann Aue, says he has not seen the lawsuit and did not want to comment.

Copyright 2020 WJRT. All rights reserved.

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