Phoenix Police Detective fired after police brutality caught on tape

Phoenix police released video of an incident that led to the firing of Detective Kevin McGowan.  Police Chief Joe Yahner determined McGowan used excessive force against 18-year-old Patrick D’Labik during an incident Dec. 23 at a smoke shop at 3860 E. McDowell Rd. McGowan was on paid leave until his termination in March.

The video shows McGowan walking into the store and pulling his weapon. At the same time you see D’Labik put something down on the store counter and raise both his hands in the air. D’Labik then starts to get down on the ground in a push-up-type position and was almost on the ground when McGowan stomps on D’Labik’s upper back, forcing his arms to buckle and his face to smash against the ground.

“I tasted blood and that’s when I had spit and I looked on the ground and my teeth was already there,” D’Labik said in an interview with CBS 5 News Thursday. The strike knocked out three of D’Labik’s teeth and broke two others. D’Labik said that at the time, he didn’t know what the officer used to push him to the ground. “I just know that he pushed me down more than he should have – way more than he should have,” D’Labik said.

McGowan was part of the Fugitive Apprehension Team looking for a homicide suspect on the day of the incident, according to a police report. He had seen D’Labik earlier that morning, walking with a subject that looked like the suspect they sought. When McGowan saw D’Labik a little while later walking by himself along 40th Street near McDowell Road, he pulled up to him to try to talk with him, according to the report.

McGowan told investigators that when he started to get out of his vehicle, D’Labik took off running. D’Labik admits he ran because he had a small amount of marijuana in his pocket, had just gotten out of juvenile detention when he turned 18 in November, and didn’t want to get arrested. McGowan ran after D’Labik and confronted him inside the smoke shop at gunpoint.

“He was like, ‘Put your hands up,’ so I put the phone down, I put my hands up. He said, ‘Get on the ground,’ and I went to get on the ground and that’s what he did,” D’Labik said. The report indicates McGowan was concerned D’Labik might run again. He also said he could not see D’Labik’s hands as he was getting on the ground and delivered the strike to get him on the ground quicker.

Investigators submitted the report to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for review for possible aggravated assault charges. In February, the office said it declined prosecution because no crime had been committed. But Yahner said he believed the policy violation was egregious enough to warrant termination.

“The use of excessive force will not be tolerated by the Phoenix Police Department, but because this case is currently being appealed we cannot discuss the specifics and will respect the civil service process,” the police department said in an official statement. During his 17-year career McGowan received dozens of commendations and positive performance evaluations. The only disciplinary actions in the file were two written reprimands in 2007 and 2013. Both, were for minor infractions.

McGowan has an attorney and said he is appealing his termination to the City of Phoenix Civil Service Board. His attorney, Steven Serbalik, issued the following statement:

“Officer McGowan is a decorated 17-year veteran of the Department. He earned dozens of commendations and has no significant prior discipline. The video obtained by the media does not show the complete series of events related to this detention/arrest.

“The entirety of this incident, including the video, was reviewed by an independent expert and by a panel of attorneys at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. These reviews resulted in a determination that no crime was committed by Officer McGowan. Officer McGowan filed an appeal of his termination and is looking forward to being reinstated to complete his career with the Phoenix Police Department.

“Officer McGowan will not be giving any interviews related to this incident, and this will be the only statement he will give related to this matter, as his appeal is currently pending before the Civil Service Board.”

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