Aggressive Cop or Justified Force??
On September 3rd 2013, Sgt. Eric Giese of the Mt. Pleasant Police Department would conduct a traffic stop on Michael Kowalczuk, for making a wide right turn which caused Sgt. Giese to make a U-turn and follow Kowalczuk. In the report filed by Giese he claims the vehicle was speeding based off him having to pace the vehicle from 4-5 car lengths behind (mind you he had to turn the squad around to catch up to Kowalczuk). He also notes in the report that based on his experience of intoxicated drivers that they try to get into their houses before officer’s can physically detain them. This detail is important as Giese at no time prior to the traffic stop or during noted anything to do with stopping this vehicle on suspicion of driving under the influence or speeding. These details would later be adopted for the purpose of the report.
https://youtu.be/IUOF-2VmQ_o Video of Traffic Stop
In the video, Kowalczuk’s vehicle proceeds several blocks after Giese activates his red/blue lights and later after activating the squad’s camera. Kowalczuk makes a couple of turns until he pulls over in front of his residence. After Kowalczuk stops his vehicle, he opens the driver side door. Giese immediately exits his squad car with his service weapon drawn and proceeds to yell confusing commands at Kowalczuk, “Stop, Get out of the car, stay in the car, show me your hands”. Giese then order Kowalczuk to get out of the car. As he does this you can hear him ask “what did I do man”. Giese orders him to the ground and immediately grabs hold of Kowalczuk's left arm and slams him to the ground not allowing any time for Kowalczuk to comply with Giese’s already conflicting orders.
To demonstrate the cleverness in the writing of police reports in order to ensure a conviction, below is an excerpt taken directly from the report which is not entirely accurate based on the squad video.
According to the report filed by Giese, “The vehicle did stop, and I did notice the driver side door open up. Again, based on my training and experience, when the driver side door opens, the driver usually attempts to flee and run into their home before police are able to apprehend them. At that point I ordered the driver to get back into the vehicle (mind you Kowalczuk never exited the vehicle) and show me his hands and I drew my service weapon on the party. The suspect, later identified as Michael Kowalczuk complied and showed me hands, at which point I approached the vehicle fearing that he would still try to take off, holstered my weapon, placed him in a blanket escort, had Kowalczuk exit the vehicle and told him to get onto the ground. I told him to get on the ground so he would be unable to run away from me. At this point, he said “what did I do man”. Based on the fact he was not complying with my orders of getting on the ground, I then performed a hug yourself decentralization and directed Kowalczuk to the ground. While on the ground, he had his hands underneath him, at which point I again told him to get on his stomach and put his hands behind his back. He was flailing on the ground, not complying with my commands, so I was forced to draw my taser, and I ordered him to place his hands behind his back, get on his stomach, or he would be tased. At this point he did comply. He got on his stomach and put his hands behind his back……”
You hear in the video Giese aggressively giving multiple orders to Kowalczuk as he is physically assaulting him. Kowalczuk responds with “I’m down man”. As Giese yells to put his “hands behind his back” and “get on your stomach”, you can clearly see in the video that Kowalczuk is in fact on his stomach already from the angle in which his feet are directed.
As family members exit the residence due to the commotion outside, Giese has Kowalczuk handcuffed and Giese attempts to control the scene as it’s escalating very quickly. In the video you can see Kowalczuk attempting to sit up and Giese aggressively yells at him to stay down and then immediately lunges on top of Kowalczuk, at which time due to the physical assault from Giese you see Kowalczuk’s feet strike Giese. It’s at this point that Giese strikes Kowalczuk in the face with a closed fist. As the father, Jeffrey Kowalczuk begins to rush forward after the punch to his son, Giese stands back and draws his taser and orders the family to get back. At this point Kowalczuk stands up and aggressively proceeds towards Giese and he orders him to get back down, but immediately fires his taser. Kowalczuk would be tased twice due to failure to comply with direct commands from Giese. The issue though is the multitude of conflicting orders coupled with the immediate response from Giese with a very narrow window allowed for compliance. Clearly, Kowalczuk makes some very serious mistakes during this encounter and common law right to self defense when engaged with an officer no longer stands based on Supreme Court Rule, but the question and concern is to the aggressive nature of Sgt. Giese which escalates the encounter very quickly from start to finish. It’s during these types of encounters and the officers actions, either lack of training or failure to follow training and policy that places officers in “officer induced jeopardy” as we are seeing in the Jay Anderson shooting with former Wauwatosa Police Officer Joseph Mensah.
As other officers arrive on the scene from Mt. Pleasant and Racine, a Mt. Pleasant Supervisor arrives. Giese informs his supervisor “I’m mic’d on here, let you know” which is code for watch what is said. In the video you can hear Giese claim “he started to bail out of the car”. At no time did the video show Kowalczuk “bail” in order to flee the scene. He simply opened his car door, which is never a good idea during a traffic stop. It can be heard even by Giese’s supervisor “what’s he running for?” which was based off Giese’s account of what happened. Giese’s account of the “order of events” pertaining to the traffic stop as well as the physical altercation is not accurate according to what was captured on video during the incident. It’s almost intentional to justify the heightened aggressive actions taken by Giese during this incident.
At one point Giese when asked claims “I didn’t punch him in the face at all” despite the video clearly showing him punching Kowalczuk while handcuffed. Later in his report he would admit to this strike calling it a “focus strike”. During the video, Giese claims he has no injuries and he is ultimately fine, yet in his report he claims to have suffered pain from Kowalczuk kicks to the abdomen and groin area.
From the encounter and physical attack by Giese, Kowalczuk would suffer from a broken jaw, dislocated shoulder, orbital fracture, causing one of his eyes to be knocked out of his sockets.
Michael Kowalczuk eventually was charged with 1 count of Felony Battery to an Officer, 1 count of Misdemeanor Resisting, 1 count of Misdemeanor Failure to Stop/Flee, and 2 counts of Misdemeanor Bail Jumping. One of the bail jumping charges and the failure to stop/flee charge would end up getting dismissed but were read into the court proceeding. Kowalczuk plead “no contest” to the remaining three charges. In addition he would plead guilty to driving while intoxicated. After Kowalczuk is taken to the hospital, another Mount Pleasant Police officer conducted field sobriety tests at Giese’s request. Mind you, with all of the injuries sustained during the physical encounter the field sobriety tests were performed. The tests were conducted while Kowalczuk’s head was restrained in a cervical neck collar. The officer who did the tests wrote that Kowalczuk “appeared cross-eyed” and one of his eyes “could not track all the way out" because of the orbital fracture. The officer reported that Kowalczuk still failed the eye-tracking test. Kowalczuk then passed the one-leg stand test before failing the walk-and-turn test by not perfectly walking heel to toe. A blood draw later showed that his blood alcohol level that night was .106, above the legal driving limit.
His father, Jeffrey Kowalczuk was charged after the incident with Misdemeanor Resisting/Obstruction (which would later be dismissed and Misdemeanor Disorderly Conduct which he plead “no contest”.
A civil suit for “excessive use of force and violation of constitutional rights was filed in 2020 for the incident surrounding Kowalczuk and Giese. A copy of the civil suit as well as the motion to dismiss can be found in the link provided. https://bloximages.chicago2.vip.townnews.com/journaltimes.com/content/tncms/assets/v3/editorial/2/13/2136da61-fd73-59ed-8ed9-9acef159fd21/5dc84e43415c7.pdf.pdf
In June 2019, Giese would be involved with an “Officer Involved Shooting” where Tyrese West was shot and killed by Giese. That original encounter stemmed from West being pulled over for “failure to have a headlight” on his bicycle and later fleeing. Giese would later be cleared of any wrong doing in the West shooting.
During an open records request in an attempt to obtain the personnel file for Sgt. Giese, the Mt. Pleasant Police Department has denied NSM access to this file. Upon rebuttal to the denial, we were denied a 2nd time. Mt. Pleasant PD has refused to give this file to any inquiring entity.
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