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A Detroit cop faced firing for Greektown punch—until Eastpointe gave him a badge

Kairy Roberts deemed 'untruthful' by DPD, but still hired in Eastpointe
Posted at 4:22 PM, May 16, 2023

EASTPOINTE, Mich. (WXYZ) — Among Detroit police officers, it was known as “the punch heard 'round the world.”

In August 2021, Detroit police officer Kairy Roberts was caught on video punching a man in the face in Greektown—even though he appeared to pose no threat—and briefly knocking him unconscious.

Within hours of the punch, the video made headlines nationwide and Detroit Police Chief James White announced that Roberts would be suspended. An internal investigation quickly followed.

“I have some serious concerns as to how that was handled,” White said at the time. “We’ve come to expect our officers to de-escalate situations. I did not see de-escalation there. I did not see our training there.”

By July of the following year, DPD concluded that Roberts had punched the man, 34-year-old Marcus Alston, without justification.

The investigation also found that he failed to render aid after Alston was briefly knocked unconscious and that he was not truthful with investigators.

Roberts was hit with a slew of internal charges, and Detroit police officials say the presumptive penalty was termination.

But Roberts didn't give his bosses a chance to take action against him. He resigned in September and, days later, accepted a new badge just down the road.

‘LIGHTS OUT’ 

Alston and his friends came to Greektown on July 31, 2021, to celebrate a friend’s upcoming wedding. The night began like any other.

“Pretty typical,” Alston said of the evening. “We were just clowning around, having fun.”

But as police body cam would show, the fun came to an end after 2 a.m. when officers flooded Monroe Street trying to clear out the remaining crowds.

See the bodycam below. Viewer discretion is advised

Bodycam video shows Detroit officer punching man

As he was walking to his car, Alston said officers turned him and his friends around, sending them in another direction.

“They told us to go back the other way,” Alston said. “But before we even go all the way back around, the melee happened.”

Officers were seen on video pushing back the groups of young men and women still lingering.
At first, Alston says officers focused their attention on a different group of friends walking along Monroe Street. Body camera shows a team of officers descending on two men wearing ski masks, delivering repeated punches and knee strikes.

The punches continued, even after an officer’s body-worn camera fell to the ground.

At the same time that was going on, a different group of officers had now surrounded Alston and his friends.

One man was seen being pulled down from behind by an officer who, seconds later, begins delivering repeated punches.

Then, Officer Kairy Roberts is seen shoving another man to the ground, before a second man is thrown to the concrete.

It was then that Alston can be heard demanding officers’ badge numbers.

“They got attacked by the police,” Alston said. “Usually when we see something like that, it’s getting swept under the rug, so I just spoke up.”

After he did, another officer can be seen grabbing onto Alston and pushing him back several feet before ultimatley shoving him into the middle of the street.

Body cam video shows Alston falling onto his back before quickly getting up.

“I get up off the ground, and then it’s lights out,” Alston said. “I never see the punch coming.”

The punch, delivered by Officer Roberts, knocked Alston out. Once he was on the ground, officers did not render aid, according to a DPD investigation. Instead, they yelled at him to get up.

“Don’t walk up on my partner,” Roberts can be heard yelling. “Get up!”

Alston said he blacked out for several seconds, and the video shows Roberts having to lift him up, propping him against his legs.

A disoriented Alston is heard saying: “I didn’t do nothing.”

Seconds later, Roberts would leave Alston in the street and, not long after that, he would turn off his body camera.

No officer was observed rendering aid. Even a supervisor, Sgt. Scott Barrick, was seen walking away from Alston following the punch. Barrick would later receive a written reprimand.

Alston would eventually file a civil suit against Roberts and the Detroit Police Department.

His attorney, Johnny Hawkins, called Roberts’ actions “egregious, offensive, unnecessary (and) unprovoked.”

Detroit police ultimately agreed.

A DPD force investigation concluded in July 2022 that Roberts punched Alston “without justification” and recommended that internal charges be brought against the officer.

“Kyrie Roberts, he’s a bully and he enjoys his job,” Hawkins said. “That’s the way it looks to me.

FALSE STATEMENTS 

But potentially even worse than the punch, DPD’s investigation found that Roberts was repeatedly untruthful when he spoke to investigators.

Roberts first tried to justify the punch, according to the investigation, by claiming he first saw Alston “strike an…officer in the head with an unknown object,” before Roberts delivered the punch.

But the video showed “no evidence” an officer was struck with anything, and DPD's investigator found that no officer reported being struck in the head.

Roberts also claimed he saw Alston “raise his left hand with a closed fist,” but body cam shows Roberts wasn’t making a fist at all.

The presumptive penalty for making untruthful statements is termination, DPD officials say, because officers with a documented history of not being truthful can be impaired from testifying in court.

“I wouldn’t want him on my roster,” Hawkins said. “That’s a clear liability.”

WELCOME TO EASTPOINTE

But with internal charges looming, Roberts resigned from the Detroit Police Department on September 16, 2022.

Ten days later, he was being sworn in by Eastpointe Police, just down the road.

The city’s public safety director, George Rouhib, would not say whether he was aware of the internal charges lodged against Roberts, or the details of his suspension, but described the city’s background check as “very thorough.”

Rouhib said he was generally aware of the allegations against Roberts stemming from the punch, and said he was aware that the Wayne County Prosecutor declined to bring criminal charges against him.

But by phone, Rouhib said he was unaware of the internal charges brought against Roberts—including that he was not truthful with investigators—and referred 7 Action News to the city's personnel director.

He did say that he never saw the video of Roberts’ punch until it was provided to him by 7 Action News.

“Everyone makes mistakes,” Rouhib said. “And we’ve taken a lot of chances on officers and actually they’re really good officers.”

Repeated calls to Roberts and his police union were not returned.

Eastpointe’s Mayor, Monique Owens, did not return calls seeking comment, nor did City Manager Mariah Walton.

“He shouldn’t be working nowhere as a cop," Alston said. "He shouldn’t be protecting and serving anybody anywhere."

“You’re unleashing (him) from one bad situation to another city, you can open up a whole another floodgate of anything can happen.”

Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at ross.jones@wxyz.com or at (248) 827-9466