Couple file lawsuit against sheriff’s deputy


Lenawee County Sheriff Deputy Greg Brown

Lenawee County sheriff’s deputy Greg Brown is the subject of a lawsuit accusing him of assaulting a Raisin Township man. His past behavior has motivated a state senator to introduce a bill that will allow law enforcement agencies access to personnel records that could provide reasons for an officer’s separation.

The lawsuit was filed in Lenawee County Circuit Court on July 5, according to Brian Keck, attorney for  Robert and Shelly VanSickle. According to a recent press report, the lawsuit names Brown, Lenawee County Sheriff Jack Welsh, the sheriff’s department and Lenawee County government as defendants, and charges Brown with “aggressively” confronting Robert VanSickle at his home on February 25. VanSickle and his wife, Shelly, accused Brown of an assault that caused injuries to Robert that required treatment at ProMedica Bixby Hospital. Shelly VanSickle has suffered anxiety attacks as a result of the incident, the lawsuit also states.

Robert was driving south on Black Highway on his way home from work and made a U-turn to pull into his driveway.  Michigan State Police and Lenawee County sheriff’s deputies were in the area looking for a driver who fled the scene of a nearby crash, and the VanSickles’ complaint states that a sheriff’s department patrol car made a U-turn and parked in front of his home after Robert stopped his car.

According to the lawsuit, a state trooper shined a light on Robert and asked him for his identification. As Robert was removing his identification from his wallet, Brown approached him, while Shelly stepped out of the home to verify that her husband lives there.

The lawsuit states that the trooper gave Robert loud verbal commands after approaching him from behind, and that “Brown aggressively confronted Mr. VanSickle,” and Shelly stepped between her husband and Brown to try to prevent a conflict.

The lawsuit says that Brown shoved Shelly into Robert’s vehicle, then grabbed Robert by the neck and shoulder while shouting expletives, and that, “Defendant Brown took Mr. VanSickle’s body to the ground. Mr. VanSickle sustained an injury to his left eye as a result of the fall.”

Other injuries Robert sustained in the incident included shoulder and neck pain, a cut on an elbow, and headaches, the lawsuit stated. Brown transported Robert to the Lenawee County Jail and then to Bixby Hospital for treatment of his injuries.

Robert and Shelly were each charged with a felony count of resisting and obstructing police. Robert pleaded guilty to one civil infraction of being a disorderly person and paid $100 in court costs, while the charge against Shelly was dismissed.

Deputy Brown was employed by the Eaton County Sheriff’s Department until June 30, 2014, when he resigned while facing an investigation for an incident on June 16, 2014, according to press reports. During that incident, Brown was videotaped by Grand Ledge resident Todd Michael Brenizer, whom he stopped for a broken taillight. In the video, Brenizer was unable to produce proof of his auto insurance and was cited by Brown for that and the broken taillight, but when Brenizer attempted to ask the trooper questions, Brown told him to get on the road or he would be arrested. When Brenizer called after Brown, who was walking away, to ask what he would be arrested for, Brown came back to the car and ordered Brenizer to get out of the car. When Brenizer asked why, Brown attempted to pull Brenizer out of the car by his arm and head, then dragged him to the ground, handcuffed him, and pulled out his taser.

Brown resigned from the Eaton County Sheriff’s Department at the end of June 2014, before any investigation could take place. He was hired as a Lenawee County Sheriff’s deputy in December, 2014.

In a story posted April 20, 2016 on, Eaton County Sheriff Tom Reich said he personally would not have hired Brown knowing of such an incident. “I think the sheriff was fully aware of what happened here,” Reich said of Lenawee County Sheriff Jack Welsh. “I was told that personally by the sheriff in Lenawee.”

Eaton County received a notice of Brenizer’s intent to sue and started discussions on a settlement to avoid a suit.

According to Senator Rick Jones of Michigan’s 24th District, which includes Clinton, Eaton and Shiawassee counties, “The attorney for Brenizer just settled with Eaton County for $70,000.”

Jones has a special interest in this case. He has 33 years experience in law enforcement and served more than 30 years with the Eaton County Sheriff Department. He began as a deputy and was promoted to sergeant, lieutenant and captain before being elected sheriff in 2000.

When Jones became aware of the video of the incident between Brown and Brenizer, he worked with the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) to write Senate Bill 1022, which was introduced June 8 and has been unanimously approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee. Jones now expects the bill to receive approval in the Senate in early September and then go to the House of Representatives for approval.

According to Jones’ website, “Senate Bill 1022 would require a law enforcement agency to maintain a record regarding the reason for and the circumstances surrounding a separation of service of a police department and shall allow a prospective employing law enforcement agency to seek a copy of reasons and circumstances surrounding the separation.”

In a telephone interview, Jones said, “I’m a former sheriff of Eaton County, and I know it can be difficult when you’re hiring to get all the facts.” He stated that he was angry after hearing of the case in Eaton County where it is alleged that the deputy lost his temper, assaulted a citizen and made a false report.

“I sat down with MCOLES and I said, ‘I see a real problem here,’” said Jones of the issue of law enforcement officers leaving a department after an incident and then being hired at another agency. “Many times the police chief or sheriff just wants the problem to go away.”

Jones said the bill will require law enforcement agencies to retain information on reasons for an officer’s separation. When an officer seeks new employment, the officer will be required to sign a waiver that will release his or her separation information to the new agency.

Lenawee County Under-sheriff Jim Anderson confirmed that Deputy Greg Brown is still employed by the Lenawee County Sheriff’s Department.


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