In over six years, Sergeant James Anderson had never told this story publicly until last Monday at the Ypsilanti “Police-Community Relations/Black Lives Matter Task Force” meeting at Ypsilanti High School. A tall, slim, elderly man with glasses wearing a yellow-and-white short-sleeved shirt, he explained that he could not speak too loudly because he can’t help crying every time he talks about the incident.
On the afternoon of December 7, 2009, Jim visited Wayne State to discuss his latest invention, a special kind of motor (patent pending). In the evening he dropped his wife off at home and then picked up his buddy who had some questions about the motor. Driving and talking, they turned south onto Harris Road off Vreeland Road in Superior Township.
“I travelled about 500 to 1,000 feet. At that point, I noticed a police officer approaching me from the rear in what he later called a blackout mode. He ignited his emergency flashers and I pulled to the right of the road and stopped. He exited his vehicle and approached mine.
“His opening statement to me was that he had received a report that someone was out there hunting and at the same time he was using his flashlight to search the back of my van while still questioning me about hunting. At some point he asked us for our ID, which we gave him. We later learned he was Conservation Officer Jason Smith of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. Officer Smith walked back to his car.
“We sat there for about 20 or 30 minutes when we noticed a Washtenaw County Sheriff’s car approaching us from the front with emergency flashers on. This car was driven by Deputy Holly Farmer and she parked behind Officer Smith’s car. She approached Officer Smith’s car and Officer Smith exited. They talked for a minute and then both officers approached my van. Officer Smith was on the driver’s side and Deputy Farmer on the passenger side.
“Now Officer Smith’s story completely changed; instead of talking about hunting, he said something like ‘when you stopped back down the road there, why did you stop?’ He kind of caught me off guard because I did not remember stopping. I told him that I didn’t remember stopping, but if I did stop, it was to handle nature’s business. He said to me again, ‘Yes, you stopped and I saw you get out of the car, walk across the road in front of the car, and throw something in the ditch.’ At that point, I worried he was trying to frame me for some terrible crime, so I decided to exercise my Miranda rights and stopped talking.
“Then he asked me if he could search my car. I said no, and he said, “I smell marijuana; step out of the car.” I had no marijuana in the car. I exited and he ushered me to the front of my car where he proceeded to pat me down and search me with no success. Deputy Farmer then asked my passenger to step out of the car and began to search him. She found a bag in his coat pocket and indicated to Officer Smith that she had found something. In fact, it was an empty bag with some cookie crumbs that had been in that pocket for months. She put my friend under arrest, placed him in the back of her car, and came back to assist Officer Smith.
“At that time, Officer Smith placed me under arrest and led me from the front of my car to the back of his car, which put me in front of Deputy Farmer’s car where the dash camera was rolling. Officer Smith began to pull my clothes off. He disconnected my belt, unbuttoned my trousers, and pulled them down to my ankles. He then caught hold of my thermals and pulled them down to my knees. He then pulled my underpants down to about mid-thigh and began to pat and search.
“When he couldn’t find what he was looking for, he haphazardly pulled my underclothes up part-way, leaving my skin exposed, and at that time my trousers were still down by my ankles. He reached down by my left foot, caught hold of my trousers on the left side, pulled violently and then dropped the trouser leg again. He walked around to my right side and did the same thing, only this time with more violence.
“At that time he pulled my right leg off the ground and my left leg gave way. I have a weak left side from military injuries. I began to fall backwards to the left with both hands handcuffed behind my back and no ability to catch myself. Officer Smith’s tailgate was down and I was afraid that I would strike it as I fell, but instead I fell to the ground into the roadside ditch, injuring my left arm and shoulder. I lay upside down with my body at an angle down the slope of the ditch and my head downward. My hands remained handcuffed beneath me. It wasn’t snowing at the time, but it was cold.”
Weather records indicate a low of 23°F that day.
Harris Road, where Jim Anderson spent nearly an hour lying half-naked, hands cuffed underneath him, upside down in the ditch on December 7, 2009.
“Officer Smith then straddled me. He began to squeeze and massage around my throat and jaw area. I think he thought I might have swallowed something and was trying to push it up.
“According to police records, I laid in the ditch like that with my trousers down for close to 50 minutes. At least five more police cars rolled up during that time and I listened to the officers congratulate Officer Smith, saying that if he hadn’t stopped me I probably would’ve hurt someone, assuming I was intoxicated. One of the officers pulled off my shoes and socks while I lay on the ground, still searching for something I didn’t have. Later he put them back on.
“None of them helped me out of the ditch. I didn’t ask for help because I figured there wasn’t any point. It reminded me of a bunch of hunters in the woods standing around discussing their kill. I was in survival mode, thinking, just keep quiet and let them do what they do.
“When the EMS unit arrived a paramedic asked if I was under arrest, and one of the officers said no. The paramedic said, ‘Well, then take off his handcuffs.’ He did, and the first thing I asked was, ‘Can I put my clothes back on?’ The paramedics stood me up and when they checked my vitals they found that my blood pressure was 211 over 150. By that time I just wanted to go home….”
This is the point where Jim’s chin trembles as the memory of the trauma floods over him and he cannot hold back the tears. Shaking his head, he continues:
“I just wanted to go home, but the paramedics said I had to go to the hospital. While the paramedics were working to bring my blood pressure down, Officer Smith came into the EMS unit and said, “Sorry for the inconvenience” while putting a ticket on the bed for failing to use my turn signal at the stop sign at Vreeland and Harris Road. I know I used my turn signal. This was a completely different story from supposedly hunting or supposedly stopping down the road.
“My friend told me later that when I was in the ambulance, he overheard Officer Smith ask the deputies if their drug-sniffing dog found anything. They said no, and Smith started walking towards the ambulance, stopped, then said, ‘I’m going to give him a ticket anyway.’ They turned my friend loose with no ticket and let him drive my van home.”
The stop sign at Vreeland and Harris, two narrow dirt roads with very little traffic.
“I spent the next three hours or so at St. Joseph Mercy Hospital. To this day I’m under treatment at the VA for long-term problems with a pinched nerve in my left shoulder with pain that has since transferred to my right shoulder. I still get physical therapy. I had scars on my wrists from the handcuffs for three months. I’m also still under treatment for severe Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. For a while I was on prescription medication for anxiety attacks that I had for years after the incident. I’ve never been raped before, but after that night I felt like it must be something like that. I don’t know how else to describe it.”
Jim’s ordeal did not end there. He contacted the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office on December 10, three days after the incident, demanding that they preserve the dash cam video evidence. He was told there was no video available. Three months later somebody told him his video was ready.
He received two videos, eleven and thirteen minutes in length. The citation says the alleged violation occurred at approximately 8:05pm and the ambulance departed at 9:08pm. Radio dispatch from WCSO records Deputy Farmer requesting backup at 8:03pm, stating, “I have one in my back seat, and I have an issue with the second subject here.” Neither video documents the beginning of Deputy Farmer’s arrival at the scene, even though she was involved in the arrests. His friend later told Jim that while Jim was suffering mistreatment at the hands of Officer Smith, Deputy Farmer ran to her car and shifted the dash camera so it was no longer videotaping what was happening to Jim. He also saw that the red recording light was still on. It appears that the part of the dash cam video most relevant to the Deputy’s complicity with Officer Smith’s brutal treatment of Jim is missing.
Malice and Racism
The first video does not show any people; it only captures audio of nearby officers and Jim. By this time, Jim is already handcuffed and on the ground. Officers can be heard speaking and, frequently, laughing in the background. The real time is not visible on the video—it appears to be just at the edge of the screen.
Below are excerpts from the transcript of the video.
[Time marker 136]
“You gotta at least tell us what to tell the ambulance, man. Did you swallow something?”
In response to a dispatcher’s request for an update: “Right now he’s just layin’ on the ground floppin’ around a little bit.”
“You gotta tell us what’s going on. We gotta tell them something. You got a heart problem? You got a stroke? You ingested narcotics? We can’t help you if you don’t talk, okay. Just because you’re acting like you’re sick, you’re still…you know, whatever they’ve got on you, you’re still gonna pay for that. You know, right now we’re just trying to deal with the medical thing…. I mean, what’s going on? I know you can talk. What’s your deal, man?”
Watching the video, Jim explained, “At that point I didn’t want to talk to them anymore.”
“You understand that you’re going to have to pay for this? All the ambulance and everything?” [inaudible banter]
“He say anything yet?”
“He said, can I talk to a doctor….”
“It’s a good thing you saw him, he might’ve done this while he was driving.”
“Yeah, you would’ve really hurt yourself if nobody had come talk to you about your driving. Wouldn’t want that.”
[Time marker 224]
Smith: “I was sittin’ in this [inaudible] back behind all them trees back there, and I could see him rollin’ down, he was creepin’. And then he stopped, and I could see him out in front of the car in front of the headlights [inaudible] and I was sneakin’ up on him, and he comes down, he’s slow rollin’ and comes down Vreeland here.…[inaudible] So I stop, and I walk up and I get up there, and he’s all nice! From the get go. You know, I go back [inaudible] I don’t know if I can smell some dope in there….[inaudible] So I get him out here, alright, and I got him handcuffed, and he’s not sayin’ a word, he’s just lookin’ at me, and uh, I shake his belt, you know, and I go down to lift his pantleg and he, uh, throws his shoulder right into me and drops, and that’s when he yells and he starts freakin’ out, freakin’ out [inaudible]. Buddy, I don’t have a clue what’s goin’ on. [inaudible banter and laughter] Yeah, I got their ID. They’re clear. Then he’s freakin’ out, then all of a sudden he’s like, I wanna talk to a doctor…. Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, he plowed right into me. [inaudible banter and laughter] Yeah, then he went down. He got one last …”
[Time marker 257]
Jim, sounding agonized: “Ow! Ow! These handcuffs are cutting into my arms.”
Smith: “Yep, they do that!”
Jim: “Ohh. Oh. I can’t … I can’t breathe.”
Officer: “Funny how he can only talk when, when he’s hurtin’.”
Smith: “[inaudible] if you’re cool. Are you gonna be cool and not try to … hey, listen, are you gonna be cool? Well, I’m not gonna take ’em off unless you answer me.”
Jim: “Oh, my Lord!”
Smith: “You gonna be cool? You gonna be cool? Huh?”
In the background, Jim moans loudly and repeatedly in agony, while officers continue to banter and laugh [“look, he’s floppin’ around”] until the car door closes and outside audio ends.
Jim explains that Officer Smith was on his right side when Jim fell over backwards to his left without pushing or striking Officer Smith. “After he threw me in the ditch, he had a decision to make: how to cover up his misdoing. As he told his story to the deputies, he revised himself several times.”
The second video has real time visible. It begins with a few seconds of a police parking lot at 5:19pm earlier that day. Then it scrambles and contains just a few screen shots from 8:37pm of Deputy Farmer standing over something or someone, mostly obscured by the hood of the deputy’s car. Officer Smith’s truck is visible ahead and Jim’s van is in front of that. Then the video scrambles again, followed by more of the daytime scene from earlier in the day, scrambles again, and jumps to 8:56pm. By this time, Jim’s friend is released from the car and the ambulance has arrived. In fact, as early as 8:37, dispatch from WCSO records a male deputy stating, “The driver is TOT to HVA and the other one I kicked loose.”
Below is a partial transcript, including dialogue between Jim’s friend and the officers.
Friend: “Sorry about this…. Scared as hell, you know. I mean, I didn’t think this was gonna happen, you know.”
Farmer: “Well, he’s gettin’ himself all riled up for nothin’. You know, you got somethin’ on you, you got somethin’ on you, ya know? Whatever. You have to pay the price for it, if you get caught. Then you try to hide it and then it makes it worse. We’re gonna find it. For the most part….”
Watching the video, Jim chuckles and comments, “She’s lecturing about hiding things, and she’s the one hiding the whole video.”
Farmer: “Why were you guys out here rollin’ around?”
Friend: “Just ridin’ and talkin’, you know.”
Jim later remarks, “I was 63 years old. I can drive where I want to.”
Dogs can be seen departing and a while later a male officer says, “You’d think there was somethin’. That’s a whole lotta work for nothin’….”
Smith: “… but guess what, marijuana [inaudible] in the head, so don’t ever do it again.”
Friend: “I appreciate it.”
Smith: “Alright. Um … nothin’ in the vehicle, or … ?”
Farmer: “Nope. Guess not, they came out sayin’ they….”
Smith: “Okay, I don’t know what they want us to do, so uh, just sit tight and I guess, uh, you might be drivin’ the [vehicle] home. Alright?”
Male officer: “His blood pressure’s through the roof, but it’s probably from him gettin’ all worked up.”
Farmer: “So, did he say he had heart issues to them?”
Officer: “He did, you could see the line goin’ right down where he had….”
Farmer: “Oh, okay. So he had surgery.” [Jim has never had heart surgery. He had a scar on his abdomen from an ulcer surgery in the 1970s.]
Officer: “But it’s just kinda weird how he was, like, ‘I wanna see a doctor. Uff!’ I think he got worked up over nothin’ and it kinda triggered somethin’.”
Farmer: “Right. Could’ve.”
Friend: “We straight?”
Officer: “Yeah, we’re straight, man.”
Friend: “Appreciate it.”
Officer: “Yeah, alright, make sure you check on him ’cause his blood pressure’s through the roof, alright?”
Friend: “Yeah, I’ll check on him.”
Officer: “Alright, take it easy.”
Farmer: “[inaudible], he called it, sorry about it, and I was scared, I didn’t wanna tell you guys.”
Officer: “Well, of course not, but we’re not gonna smell it…. I was like, where’s the dope here, guys?”
Ambulance leaves. Officers continue to reenact incident and laugh, words inaudible due to closed door.
The Justice System
Then Jim had to go to court to fight the bogus citation for allegedly failing to use his turn signal, at night on an empty dirt road. First Officer Smith told his story. When Jim’s turn came, he said, “Judge, this man is not being completely honest with you. He stopped me, pulled my clothes off, and threw me in the ditch.” She turned to the officer and asked, “Did you do that?” Officer Smith replied, “Not exactly.” The judge ruled in Jim’s favor.
Jim decided to sue the State and the DNR. He spoke to the Detroit firm of Sklar and Hurwitz, but never signed a representation agreement. The firm did not represent Jim’s best interests; they failed to meet deadlines and dropped claims from the complaint without Jim’s input. A settlement hearing proceeded, despite Jim requesting a delay until the VA completed evaluation of his injuries. Judge Gerald Rosen appointed Magistrate Steven Whalen to mediate that settlement hearing, and Whalen suggested that if Jim’s claims of permanent injuries were sustained (which they later were when a pinched nerve was diagnosed by the VA) then the settlement should be a high figure. Sklar then argued for a lower settlement for his client. Later Sklar colluded with Judge Rosen to impose a settlement agreement that Jim repeatedly rejected, despite being told by Sklar that if he didn’t accept and went to trial instead, the judge would make sure that he didn’t get a penny. Jim neither signed nor agreed to the settlement. Judge Rosen ordered “that plaintiff’s counsel shall have the authority to take any actions necessary to effectuate the settlement.”
Sklar, the attorney, then claimed the VA had a lien on the settlement for Jim’s treatment costs, but claimed that if Jim signed off on the settlement agreement, the VA would agree to drop the lien. At that point, Sklar also attempted to get Jim to sign a belated representation agreement. Jim refused to sign either and Sklar proceeded to pay large sums directly to St. Joseph Mercy Hospital and the VA Hospital from Jim’s settlement. Administrators at the VA have since told Jim that they had no right to that settlement money, but they will not return it. If not for the lawsuit, Jim would not have had any charges for his care at the VA. Jim filed a complaint against Sklar with the Michigan Bar and received formal clearance to file a malpractice suit against him, but could find no attorney in Michigan willing to take the case.
A Life of Dignity
Sergeant Jim Anderson is 70 years old. He comes from Lilbourn, Missouri, and has lived in Ypsilanti for 46 years. He recalls that in his formative years, “I had to work so hard to understand white people that it took me a lot longer to understand who I am myself.” He is an inventor, he served as a mechanic in the military for 19 years, and he can take a generator apart and put it back together. He is married, with eight children and eight grandchildren. He tells his grandsons not to even speak to police: “That’ll get you killed.” He’s never been in jail in his life. He is a member of Strong Tower Church and of WeROC (Washtenaw Regional Organizing Coalition, a faith-labor group).
From 2001 to 2004, he worked on a pasture poultry project in Missouri, inventing a new way of raising chickens. He invented a wrench that you can use to loosen a lug nut with one hand. His motor invention went sour after his encounter with the police in 2009 because he could no longer focus and suffered from severe PTSD. Six months ago he resumed his work and is in the process of filing a patent through Lincoln University in Missouri. He is also in the process of writing a book about his research and personal experiences.
This incident occurred 11 months after Sheriff Jerry Clayton took office. In March of 2010, Jim received a letter from the Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office stating that they had investigated the incident and Lieutenant Jim Anuszkiewicz “concluded that the deputies on the scene acted appropriately in there [sic] contact with you.” Last week, after Jim told his story publicly for the first time, the Sheriff’s office called him requesting more information and were at present unable to locate the case or the investigation.
Jason Smith has been a Conservation Officer with the DNR since 2005. He is now a Sergeant in Oakland County, out of the Metro Detroit (District 9) office. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org and the district office number is 313-396-6890. [Note: There is another Jason Smith who is a DNR CO in a different district.]
Deputy Holly Farmer was involved in the 2010 incident in which 31-year-old Stanley Jackson, Jr., of Belleville was killed by police after they Tasered him three times.