Kent County, MI – Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel announced charges on Tuesday against a Lowell police officer who shot a teenage passenger after a police chase.
The incident occurred on Aug. 29, 2020 when now-former Lowell Police Officer Jason Diaz became involved in a chase with a fleeing suspect, MLive reported.
After the high speed chase through Kent and Ionia Counties, Officer Diaz allegedly fired eight shots at the suspect’s car, WOOD reported.
Lowell police said at the time that Officer Diaz fired at the car as it was driving at him.
One of the shots hit a teenage passenger in the head, WOOD reported. The wounded passenger survived.
Lowell Police Chief Chris Hurst said Officer Diaz, 40, was placed on paid administrative leave after the officer-involved shooting as is protocol while the incident is under investigation.
The Ionia County Sheriff’s Office investigated the shooting, MLive reported.
The Michigan Fraternal Order of Police (FOO) said Officer Diaz was cleared of wrongdoing and put back on patrol a few weeks ago.
But he submitted his resignation on Monday before the charges against him were publicly announced, WOOD reported.
The attorney general said on March 9 that the now-former police officer broke the law and violated the Lowell Police Department’s use-of-force policy when he fired his weapon.
Nessel announced that former Officer Diaz had been charged with felony assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder, a count of misconduct in office by a public official, and a count of weapons, careless discharge causing injury, MLive reported.
The first two charges carry a 10-year and 5-year sentence, respectively, if the former police officer is convicted.
Former Officer Diaz was arraigned in Ionia County Court before Magistrate David Wirth on Tuesday and released on a $5,000 bond later the same day, MLive reported.
“In our judicial system, everyone enters with the presumption of innocence until proven otherwise in a court of law,” Mary Ann Sabo, a spokeswoman for the city of Lowell, said in a statement. “Although this individual is not currently employed by the city, pending the outcome of the case, he could reapply for a position in the department or with the city.”
The FOP has stood behind the officer and said in a press release that the union will be providing his criminal defense because the charges arose from the lawful performance of the officer’s duties.
“Officer Jason Diaz, like thousands of other officers go to work every day in Michigan to protect the public and stop crime,” the press release read. “The work they do is hard and requires them to make split second decisions, whereas others get the luxury to second guess them for months and even years.”
“In this time of intense law enforcement scrutiny, the Fraternal Order of Police Labor Council will ensure that the true facts of this incident become fully known and understood by both the public and the Courts,” the FOP wrote.