Thursday, October 15, 2020

Autistic man may be retried in Westland armed robbery

An autistic man who suffered a serious injury as a result of a blow from a Westland police officer wielding a baton may once again face armed robbery charges. 

Judge Sandra Cicirelli of the 18th District Court dismissed armed robbery charges against Nicholas Deshawn Blair, 24, during a hearing June 11. Her decision was based on a forensic report which evaluated him as incapable of cooperating in his own defense and having “no likelihood of competency.”

Cicirelli dismissed the charges without prejudice which allows the charges to be refiled and prosecutors have entered a court motion to set aside that dismissal and have Blair undergo another competency evaluation.  

If medical professionals find him competent during a Nov. 12 examination, Blair will face armed robbery charges in an incident which took place Jan. 16 at the Arby's restaurant on North Wayne Road in Westland. According to police reports, Blair entered the restaurant and implied he had a gun while keeping his hand in his pocket and left the restaurant with about $200. An employee reported a robbery and responding Westland police officers observed Blair running near Woodcrest Apartments. According to police reports, Blair did not respond to police orders to stop and subsequently fell face-first into landscape rocks. 

Responding Ofc. Kristopher Landis reportedly struck Blair in the head and neck with a collapsible baton. He was subsequently fired for using excessive force in the incident.

Westland Police Chief Jeff Jedrusik said the use of the baton by Landis did not adhere to department policy or training. Jedrusik also asked Wayne County prosecutors to review the use-of-force evidence against Landis, an evaluation which remains incomplete.

Blair recently had his eye surgically removed and repaired, according Jon Marko, the attorney representing him. Marko claims that the blow from the baton caused the injuries and added that the trauma from the arrest made the life of a disabled man even more difficult.

 “I think they should just dismiss the charges altogether, but this is not unheard of,” said Marko. “It's pretty standard. I'm not surprised.” 

A co-defendant in the armed robbery case, Shairnee Carson, 32, who lived at the Woodcrest Apartments at the time Blair was arrested, pleaded guilty to a charge of being an accessory after the fact to a felony. 

She is expected to be sentenced this month.