DETROIT (WXYZ) — A troubled Detroit Police sergeant who has been the subject of at least 85 civilian complaints since 2009 has been sued at least 8 times throughout his career, a 7 Action News investigation reveals.
The settlements alone have cost Detroit taxpayers $830,000.
Sgt. Stephen Kue was removed from his patrol duty last week, only hours after a 7 Action News investigation revealed the officer’s staggering number of civilian complaints alleging he harassed people of color, used demeaning and racist language and used or threatened to use excessive force.
Now, court records reveal that, in Kue’s 12 years with the department, he has been among its most sued officers, too.
The lawsuits appeared to be a surprise to his own department; they were omitted from Kue’s internal department officer profile. The department today is investigating why.
“He seems to be a frequent flyer,” said attorney Dave Robinson, who has sued Kue multiple times.
In the lawsuits against him, Kue has been accused, for example, of assault and battery, deprivation of civil rights and gross negligence.
In each of the lawsuits, Kue is just one of several DPD officers sued, like in 2014 when he and his partners were accused of raiding the wrong home on Rutherford Street, then tackling the homeowner.
The case settled for $87,500. The city admitted no wrongdoing.
In October 2016, Terry Parnell was at his mother’s home when Kue and his partners showed up in the front yard. Parnell said he had a legally purchased and registered handgun on his person, and when the officers arrived, he took it out and placed it on the front porch.
He said that’s when officers took him to the ground.
“I said that’s a legitimate weapon,” Parnell said. “Tried to give him my paperwork. They didn’t want to receive it. Handcuffed me, booked me.”
Parnell was taken to the Detroit Detention Center, but later released.
“Mr. Parnell was on his private property and a citizen can have a gun on their own private property,” said his attorney, David Robinson.
Parnell sued DPD for wrongful arrest. He settled that case—along with a separate lawsuit against the department where Kue was not a defendant—for $375,000. The city admitted no wrongdoing.
Lisa Ingram and her family say they were in their driveway when Officer Kue and his partners arrived to conduct a raid on their neighbor’s home.
“Their job is to protect and serve,” Ingram said. “Not abuse.”
Ingram and her family say they were handcuffed, had guns pointed at their heads and were hit with demeaning language by the officers as if they had broken a law.
“They had guns to our head, told us to get on the ground, shut the (expletive) up,” recalled Demetris Taylor. “We ain’t got no right to talk, any of that.”
The family sued; the city settled--again, admitting no wrongdoing—for $130,000.
Today, the city is defending a lawsuit filed by Mark Gaddis.
On the night of July 21, 2017, he and members of his family were gathering on the front lawn of his aunt’s home in Detroit, when a dark car pulled up.
“I really just heard the car and instantly a few people started running, so instantly my reaction was to run,” Gaddis said. “As soon as I started running, I heard someone say: I’m going to shoot you! I’m going to shot you! So I really started running fast then.”
The men chasing him were cops—including Officer Kue—but Gaddis said that wasn’t clear at first. It was dark, they were in a semi-marked DPD vehicle and their headlights were off.
The officers briefly apprehended him, according to the lawsuit, “kicking him and beating him” before Gaddis broke free.
At that point, Gaddis was shot twice: once in the buttocks and again in the back of his ankle.
Officers said Gaddis had a gun and tried to use it. He was taken to the hospital in temporary serious condition.
“I woke up in the room with detectives in the room…and they just kept trying to make me say I had a gun,” Gaddis said through tears. “And just try to force me to say (expletive).”
Gaddis would be charged with 11 felonies, including assaulting a police officer.
“Did you have a gun that night?” asked Channel 7’s Ross Jones.
“No sir,” Gaddis said.
Detroit Police investigated the shooting, ruling it justified.
During trial, multiple officers said they saw Gaddis had a firearm, and Kue said he raised it.
But two witnesses in the neighborhood said just the opposite: that Gaddis had no weapon. One even said his hands were “wide open” and empty as he ran away from officers.
When forensics tested the gun that police said Gaddis handled, it couldn’t conclusively match DNA found on the gun to him.
Gaddis faced 11 felonies; a jury acquitted him of all of them. Today, he is suing the officers and DPD.
“Every eyewitness testified—who was interviewed and testified—stated unequivocally he had his hands in the air, they didn’t’ see a gun, there was nothing in his hand,” said Gaddis’ attorney Julie Hurwitz.
In federal court today, DPD stands by its officers.
In a motion to have the case tossed, attorneys wrote: “Gaddis’ active resistance to the officers attempt to detain him, the blading of his body and pointing a weapon, or what was perceived to be the pointing of a weapon, at Officers…[and the] recovery of a handgun in the vicinity of where Mr. Gaddis fell, further established the requisite probable cause for his arrest and prosecution.”
Sgt. Kue did not respond to phone calls or text messages seeking comment on the lawsuits against him.
“It’s like a gang in itself,” Gaddis said. “I’m more scared of them than I am of any gangs that’s out there in Detroit. That’s who I’m scared of.”
Perhaps the most alarming thing about all the lawsuits against Sgt Kue is that they appear to have been a mystery to Detroit Police.
His internal employee profile, intended to track officer performance, doesn’t show that he’s ever been sued.
“He has been sued eight times and none of them are in this profile,” Jones said to Chris
Graveline, the Director of DPD’s Professional Standards Division. “Does that trouble you at all?”
“Yes,” Graveline responded. “Our (internal) database should be accurate in terms of number of lawsuits.”
How that happened is being investigated today, and as a result of our story, interim Chief James White has taken Kue off the street and is personally reviewing all of the 85 complaints against him, and why some were dismissed.
“I am concerned,” White said Friday at a press conference, “and I am absolutely disappointed in some of the findings.”
A DPD spokesman declined comment on Gaddis’ lawsuit, as it is still pending in federal court.
Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at email@example.com or at (248) 827-9466.