Detroit police officer uses chokehold on protester...

Detroit police officer uses chokehold on protester Nakia Wallace during rally against police shooting

The Detroit Police Department prohibits officers from using chokeholds except in life-or-death situations.

detroit activists at protest

Photo: Nakia Wallace, center, leading a march in Detroit in June after the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Credit: Sarah Williams

Detroit Will Breathe leader Nakia Wallace was placed in a chokehold by a Detroit police officer as she and seven others were arrested during a protest on Detroit’s northwest side Friday. All have since been released.

Members of the anti-police brutality group and other Black Lives Matter demonstrators convened at Six Mile and San Juan Drive after officers fatally shot Hakim Littleton, 20. The shooting occurred when officers arrested another man in connection with a July 5 shooting, on an outstanding warrant for drug distribution. Littleton fired four shots at officers as they were arresting the other individual, Police Chief James Craig said.

Police were dressed in riot gear as they engaged the protesters Friday. Craig said protesters were throwing projectiles at the police, who then used tear gas to subdue the crowd. 

According to a press release from Detroit Will Breathe, DPD officers used batons during the clash and protesters sustained injuries including lacerations, broken bones, bruised ribs and tear gas burns. A DPD spokeswoman told the Detroit Free Press two officers were injured Friday

Wallace told Detour that she was arrested and placed in the chokehold after screaming at a DPD officer who she said was pinning down another protester with his knee.

Photo of Nakia Wallace being arrested at a protest over a police shooting in Detroit, Friday, June 10, 2020. | Credit: Adam J. Dewey, courtesy Detroit Will Breathe

“I kept screaming to get their knee off his neck, that they’re going to kill him,” she said. “They eventually got off him. The cop pushed me and said, ‘leave’, and I said, ‘I live here, I live here.’ And they arrested me, they placed me on the ground, and I was in a chokehold.”

Chokeholds violate DPD guidelines on use of force. They have been banned unless deadly force is deemed necessary since 1996. DPD said on Sunday that Craig had launched an internal investigation into the incident but had not yet determined whether officers violated use of force policies.

Friday night, DPD held a press conference where Craig released body cam footage that appeared to show Littleton firing on approaching officers. (You can view the videos here.)

Craig said the shooting was justified and praised the officer who charged Littleton, calling him a “hero” and adding, “he showed tremendous courage trying to apprehend an armed suspect. It’s simply a miracle he’s alive.” The officers involved in the shooting have been placed on administrative leave.

Wallace was charged with disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor. She was released by Saturday morning, along with most protesters who were detained.

However, Meeko Williams was detained until Sunday evening, after police alleged he threw a water bottle at them. The Wayne County Prosecutor’s office declined to charge Williams due to lack of evidence, but police said they would refile the warrant.

Williams’ attorney William P. Hackett told Detour that Williams had been deprived of access to counsel all weekend and should have been released as soon as the prosecutor declined to file charges (though he was not certain exactly when that decision was made). Hackett was able to file a writ of habeas corpus to secure Williams’ release late Sunday. A writ of habeas corpus forces the court to show a valid reason for a defendant’s detention.

Williams reported for his scheduled arraignment Tuesday and was informed that no charges had been authorized. He was then released.

Hackett told Detour that Williams was “swarmed by police,” according to a video he viewed of Friday’s protests, and his client did not have the opportunity to assault officers as alleged. “He was taken down and he had cops kneeling on him,” said Hackett. “So I don’t know how he could assault anybody. He wasn’t given an opportunity.”

‘Different solutions’ to conflict needed

Wallace told Detour she would like to know more about DPD’s strategies for de-escalating conflict in situations such as the one in which Littleton was killed. She and other protesters have suggested that no matter Littleton’s actions, DPD resorts to force — in this case deadly force — too often

“I would be curious to know what the police’s plan was for an arrest and what their plans are in those different situations,” she told Detour. “Because all too often we see too much brutality and force on the part of police and that just leads to the death of people, too many times.”

She added that she sees DPD as “super-militarized.”

“They’ve got a lot of toys that lead to the death of people,” she said. “They utilize chokeholds, they utilize batons and force for no reason. It’s time for them to be defunded and demilitarized. They’ve got to come up with different solutions to conflicts. And certainly, giving them $370 million dollars a year hasn’t resulted in that.”

UPDATE July 14: This story was updated to reflect that Meeko Williams reported for arraignment Tuesday morning and was informed that no charges had been authorized. He was released with no charges.

Nina Misuraca Ignaczak is a contributing editor for Detour Detroit. She is the founder and executive editor of Planet Detroit, a digital media startup that tells Detroit’s environmental stories while building a community of engaged readers who are informed and empowered to act personally and publicly. She is an award-winning freelance journalist who writes, edits and produces stories about the environment, place and identity. Her recent work has been published by Detour Detroit, Belt Magazine, HuffPost, Detroit Free Press, WDET, Crains Detroit Business, Business Insider, Curbed Detroit and Model D. Prior to her career in journalism, she worked in urban planning in the local government and nonprofit sectors. She has a Master of Science in Natural Resource Ecology and a Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Twitter: @ninaignaczak


  1. Joseph Marra

    14 July

    It is mind boggling that Detour Detroit will devote an entire article to the use of a chokehold on a protestor, a protestor who was part of an angry mob assaulting police, police who had defended themselves against unprovoked attack from a local thug, while COMPLETELY ignoring the ongoing slaughter of children and residents by the thugs who claim control over our streets and neighborhoods.

    How do you not mention that just on July 4th weekend alone, 8 people were shot and three killed JUST ON THAT BLOCK? How do you not mention that my friend and neighbor was run over and left dead in the street like a stray dog a block north of there two weeks earlier while riding his bicycle ? His mother is so broken hearted he has left her house, and the City.

    What about the 8 year old girl who was gunned down recently on Birwood in the Seven Mile/Wyoming earlier? No click bait there, I see.

    If black lives really matter to them, Nakia and Meeko and Tristan would stop their chest thumping and posturing in front of the cameras, and look at what is happening around them. If it weren’t for the outstanding leadership of Chief Craig in this most recent incident on Six Mile, this City could easily have been up in flames again thanks to the lies, distortions and innuendo spread by these professional agitators.

    Just as we need to hold DPD, and all government agencies accountable when they do wrong, we need to be equally vigorous in praising them when they got it right.

    On Friday, on San Juan/Six Mile, DPD got in 100% right. End of story.

    To mention Hakim Littleton’s name in the same breath as George Floyd or Breonna Taylor is a bloody disgrace. Littleton brought his own death on himself, for whatever reason. He was no victim of police brutality.

    Stop inciting hate and violence in the neighborhoods. We already have enough problems here.