Madison Heights police sued in federal court over 2022 arrest

Lawsuit filed by resident alleges excessive use of force, illegal search and seizure

By: Andy Kozlowski | Madison-Park News | Published August 17, 2023

 Larry White, 74, of Madison Heights, seen here bleeding after an encounter with Madison Heights police last year, is suing the department and four of its officers in federal court.

Larry White, 74, of Madison Heights, seen here bleeding after an encounter with Madison Heights police last year, is suing the department and four of its officers in federal court.

Photo provided by Marko Law, PLLC


MADISON HEIGHTS — A lawsuit has been filed in federal court against the Madison Heights Police Department and four of its officers, alleging they used excessive force on a resident last year and violated his constitutional rights under the Fourth and 14th amendments.

The lawsuit was filed Aug. 15 at the U.S. District Court in Detroit. The plaintiff is Larry White, 74, a resident of Madison Heights and a veteran. He is represented by Marko Law, PLLC, and Somberg Law, PLLC. The defendants are officers Thomas Baker, Rick Zamojski, James Rayner and John Heinrich, as well as the Madison Heights Police Department.

At press time Aug. 16, the U.S. District Court confirmed that there were no attorneys on record for the defendants. The same day, Madison Heights City Manager Melissa Marsh said in an email, “This case has yet to be reviewed or assigned to legal counsel.” She later said in a text message: “The city has no comment at this point.”

When asked for comment, Brent LeMerise, the police chief of Madison Heights, said via email, “The Madison Heights Police Department is not going to comment beyond Melissa’s response.”

As described in the lawsuit, the officers, who were wearing body cameras, were dispatched to White’s home on July 23, 2022, where they spoke to two concerned neighbors. The neighbors told them that their children had been inside White’s home getting ice cream and had safely returned.

The lawsuit states that Zamojski, Baker and Heinrich then went to White’s residence, and that White was cooperative, speaking to officers from his front door. White also allegedly told the police that he had a legally registered firearm, secured in a holster on his right hip.

Zamojski reportedly ordered White to step out of his home, “despite no crime having been committed and lacking probable cause,” the lawsuit states. White asked if the officers had a warrant, which they did not. The lawsuit claims that Zamojski then grabbed White’s right arm and tried to pull him out of his home.

The officers then entered White’s home “and brutally tackled (White) and dry stunned him with a Taser multiple times, while Larry begged them to stop and told them he has a heart condition,” the lawsuit reads. It further alleges, “A Madison Heights police officer, believed to be (Zamojski), then unholstered (White’s) own gun and put it to the back of his head, execution-style, while (White) was being held face down to the ground.”

The lawsuit notes that there had been no emergency or perceived danger prior to the incident. The neighbor’s children were already back home. White had been cooperating with the police while legally carrying his firearm in his own home.

The officers charged White with assaulting, resisting and obstructing a police officer, as well as assault with a dangerous weapon.

On March 23, Oakland County Circuit Judge Kwame Rowe granted a motion by White to suppress all evidence police collected after their “illegal entry” into White’s home, saying it violated his Fourth Amendment right under the U.S. Constitution to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.

On May 11, the remaining charges were dismissed. The Madison Heights Police Department was also ordered to destroy White’s fingerprints and arrest card.

According to the lawsuit, White has suffered physically and mentally as a result of the incident. He sustained torn rotator cuff muscles in both shoulders, causing him ongoing pain, limited mobility and impairment. He also suffered neck and spinal injuries when forcefully slammed to the ground, requiring surgery.

White has also allegedly suffered memory loss and cognitive difficulties, as well as a major stroke last December that resulted in a week-long hospital stay. He has been attending therapy several times a week to address side effects of the incident. He also reportedly suffers from severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

The lawsuit claims that the police not only violated White’s Fourth Amendment rights that protect him against excessive force, illegal search and seizure, and malicious prosecution, but also his rights under the 14th Amendment, which extends those protections to the states.

White now seeks relief, including actual damages of $75,000 against the defendants, as well as punitive damages to be decided by a judge.

“Police shouldn’t break into a home and brutalize a veteran for being a good neighbor and giving some kids ice cream. We firmly believe in upholding the rights of every individual, and we are committed to seeking justice for (White),” said Jonathan Marko, White’s attorney, in a statement.

“White should be given a medal, not have his life ruined,” said co-counsel Nicholas Somberg, in the same statement. “This lawsuit sheds light on the importance of holding law enforcement officers accountable, and ensuring proper training and supervision to prevent future instances of excessive force.”