LANSING, Mich. (WLNS) — A former city of DeWitt police officer on Sept. 14 pled no contest to two misdemeanor offenses related to an off-duty incident on Jan. 14, 2021, in which he drew a gun on a Black teen newspaper delivery driver.
The former police offer, Chad Vorce, 45, is charged with Public Officer–Willful Neglect of Duty and Aggravated Assault.
The city of DeWitt, which originally fired the police officer, Chad Vorce, after a review and an investigation by Michigan State Police, released a statement Friday regarding the outcome of the case.
“The conclusion of the criminal case last week before the Honorable Judge Cori E. Barkman in the Clinton County Circuit Court validates that the City of DeWitt was on the correct side of this incident from the very beginning, and shines a light on the inadequacies and injustice of Michigan’s mandatory arbitration law,” city spokespeople said in the statement.
Following the city of DeWitt’s firing of Vorce, an arbitrator’s decision in Dec. 2021 forced the city to reinstate Vorce to the police department.
Though the the teen, Alexander Hamilton, had been delivering newspapers in a van as a new employee for the Lansing State Journal at the time of the January 2021 encounter, former Officer Vorce, who was off-duty, had mistaken Hamilton for a suspect in recent break-ins.
“I thought it was him because he fits the same description, black hoodie…Frickin’ black guy,” Vorce was heard saying on a recording.
When Vorce followed Hamilton out of a neighborhood, Vorce said he thought the boy was trying to back into his truck. “He just tried to ram me!” Vorce said on a 911 call. “He’s trying to ram me! I’m going to go shots fired if he does it again!”
Hamilton said that at the time, he did not know that Vorce, who was off-duty, was a police offer.
Vorce shortly after pointed his gun at Hamilton while he was still in his van, so Hamilton drove away toward a gas station. They both drove around the gas pumps until they both stopped, when Vorce got out of his vehicle and pointed his gun at Hamilton.
One witness statement said Vorce had threatened to shoot Hamilton; another witness statement said the off-duty officer’s behavior was shocking.
“It just seemed like this gentleman did not have control of his own emotions and therefore couldn’t be in control of the situation he was in,” the witness said.
In the investigation, MSP had found that Vorce had not had law enforcement authority to pursue the situation with Hamilton, that he was outside his jurisdiction, that his use of force was unjustified and excessive, that his tone and demeanor were excessive and that he put the community at risk by saying “shots fired” while on the phone with 911 dispatchers.
After the city of DeWitt fired Vorce, he appealed his termination, leading to an arbitrator’s eventual forcing of the city of DeWitt to reinstate Vorce.
The city of DeWitt in its statement said the state’s mandatory arbitration law had caused unnecessary delay in bringing justice to the case.
“This outdated and misdirected law has not only cost the city of DeWitt and many Michigan municipalities legal fees and wasted time, but is an injustice to the citizens of the state,” city spokespeople said.
“…There is certainly a place for arbitration…however, this case illustrates the inappropriate application of the law when used to protect an individual who violates the public trust and prevents a municipality from taking personnel actions necessary to maintain a police force that respects every individual’s civil rights,” the city went on to say.
As a condition of state prosecution accepting Vorce’s plea, he has now resigned his position as a police officer and has relinquished his MCOLES certification, which is required in order to serve as a police officer in Michigan.
The deal allowed Vorce to plead to the misdemeanor charges, rather than the felony charges originally filed against him in 2022: assault with a dangerous weapon, felony firearm and misconduct in office.
“In this plea agreement we prioritized both the officer’s resignation and the surrender of his MCOLES certification as a matter of public safety and public trust in law enforcement, as well as the concerns and wishes of the victim in this assault,” Attorney General Dana Nessel said in a statement Sept. 14.
Both of the charges against Vorce are punishable by up to one year in prison. His sentencing by Barkman is scheduled for Oct. 16 at 2 p.m., in Clinton County Circuit Court.