After pleading guilty to pistol-whipping motorists without legal justification, a former Michigan police officer was sentenced Thursday to three years in federal prison. As part of the plea agreement, he also voluntarily relinquished his law enforcement license.
On June 22, 2014, Hamtramck Police Officer Ryan McInerney and another officer were in pursuit of a red Honda when McInerney hit the vehicle with his patrol car. Although the suspect placed both of his empty hands out the driver’s window in an act of surrender, McInerney fired at him before pistol-whipping the suspect and placing him under arrest according to a lawsuit filed in 2016.
McInerney later admitted to writing a false report claiming that he used his fist instead of his pistol when striking the motorist. Later that same night, he pistol-whipped a second motorist during a different arrest which resulted in breaking the suspect’s teeth.
On August 30, 2018, the Justice Department announced that a federal grand jury had returned a six-count indictment charging McInerney with civil rights violations, obstruction of justice, and firearms offenses in connection with two civilian arrests on July 22, 2014. As a result of the assaults, one of the civilians suffered broken facial bones and lacerations requiring stitches, and the other civilian suffered broken teeth, among other injuries.
On January 8, 2021, McInerney pleaded guilty to a civil rights violation charge for pistol-whipping one of the motorists. On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Gershwin Drain sentenced him to three years in federal prison followed by three years of supervised release.
“The defendant abused the trust given to him as a law enforcement officer when he pistol-whipped two arrestees on two separate occasions,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke of the Civil Rights Division in a press release. “The Justice Department will vigorously prosecute law enforcement officials who violate federal civil rights laws to ensure that the rights of all individuals, including those being taken into custody, are protected.”
“The vast majority of police officers are decent, caring and honorable men and women who are dedicated to protecting and serving the public and safeguarding civil rights,” stated Acting U.S. Attorney Saima Mohsin for the Eastern District of Michigan. “We live in a nation governed by the rule of law and no one is above the law. Police officers like McInerney who use unreasonable and excessive force and who inflict harm on the very citizens they are sworn to protect will be vigorously prosecuted and brought to justice.”
“The sentencing today is an example of the FBI’s dedication to Civil Rights through its investigations of police officers who abuse their authority under color of law to violate the constitutional rights of those they swore to serve and protect,” asserted Special Agent in Charge Timothy Waters of the FBI Detroit Field Office. “This case should not diminish the work conducted every day by the vast majority of men and women in law enforcement, but the few, like Ryan McInerney, who abuse their official capacity in dereliction of duty, will be prosecuted like any other criminal.”