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Mich. Supreme Court overturns man’s conviction, rules he had a right to flee police

The Court ruled that the officers never had sufficient reason to suspect that the man was trespassing and that, without it, they weren’t acting legally when they tried to detain him


The Michigan Hall of Justice, home of the state Supreme Court, in downtown Lansing, Mich., on Oct. 24, 2022.

Ben Orner |

By Matthew Miller

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Michigan Supreme Court has overturned the conviction of man found guilty of fleeing from Kalamazoo police and assaulting, resisting, or obstructing a police officer, saying police didn’t have sufficient reason to detain him in the first place.

Kalamazoo police officers approached Douglas Prude on May 30, 2019, as he was sitting alone in his car with the engine off in the parking lot of Fox Ridge Apartments, a complex that police patrolled regularly because of frequent reports of criminal activity, according to court documents.

Officer Nicholas Deleeuw asked Prude for ID and whether he lived there. Prude said he stayed at Fox Ridge sometimes with his girlfriend.

He didn’t give his name, but one of the officers knew who he was.

When Deleeuw went to check an apartment complex database to see if Prude had been warned about trespassing there in past, Prude asked the other officer, Nathan Belen, whether he was being detained. Belen said he was.

“We have to be prepared in a moment’s notice to react to situations like this,” Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay said, applauding the professionalism of his deputy
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Prude started his car. He drove away, fast. He was caught, charged and convicted by a jury Kalamazoo County. The Michigan Court of Appeals upheld his conviction.

But in a 5-2 ruling issued Friday, the state Supreme Court found that the officers never had sufficient reason to suspect that Prude was trespassing and that, without it, they weren’t acting legally when they tried to detain him.

“There is nothing suspicious about a citizen sitting in a parked car in an apartment-complex parking lot while visiting a resident of that complex,” Justice Megan Cavanagh wrote for the majority. “Moreover, a citizen’s mere presence in an area of frequent criminal activity does not provide particularized suspicion that they were engaged in any criminal activity, and an officer may not detain a citizen simply because they decline a request to identify themselves.”

Kalamazoo County Prosecutor Jeff Getting, whose office prosecuted Prude, said the high court’s arguments “make sense in the abstract.”

“Putting them into the context of what the police were attempting to accomplish that day, sometimes the context of the situation gets lost as we’re arguing cases in front of the court of appeals or Michigan Supreme Court,” he added.

But asked what might be a more appropriate standard, he said the court’s ruling was “consistent with the Constitution.”

Justice David Viviano wrote in a dissenting opinion that the several factors that led officers to detain Prude - the fact that he was in a high-crime area, that he’d backed his car into a parking spot in a secluded part of the complex, that the complex had a trespassing policy that required non-residents to be in the company of residents – were sufficient reason to detain him when taken together.

“Looking at the totality of circumstances in the light most favorable to the prosecution, the lower courts did not clearly err by finding that the officers had a reasonable suspicion that defendant was trespassing,” Viviano wrote.

Prude’s attorney John Zevalking did not respond to requests for comment.

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