Serious questions raised in arrest of man ridiculed by GPP police

Michael Scipio a day before he was accused of breaking into a house. The lone eyewitness said he had a beard.

Michael Scipio, the mentally ill black man who was frequently ridiculed on video by white Grosse Pointe Park cops, has been in jail and a psychiatric center since March.

The 56-year-old is accused of breaking into a home in Detroit’s Indian Village just a week after we revealed the videos. But serious questions have surfaced about the investigation and the lone eye witness.

Image from video in which police ridiculed Scipio.

At 11 p.m. on Nov. 21, Callie Sullivan was working at her desk when she heard a loud noise. A intruder had smashed a window in the sunroom and unlocked the door. Sullivan grabbed a hammer and struck the man, prompting him to flee.

At the time, Sullivan, who is white and new to the area, told police that the intruder was black and had a beard. Five weeks passed before Detroit police showed Sullivan a series of photos of different men and asked if she could identify the intruder. She pointed to a 10-year-old photo of Scipio.

“They were using an old and inconsistent photo in a photo identification lineup,” his attorney Victoria McCaskey from McCaskey Law said.

A day before the alleged break-in, Scipio was at a press conference involving the Grosse Pointe cops, and he did not have a beard.

“He was clean-shaven,” said Robert Burton-Harris, an investigator for the law firm.

Fingerprints taken at the scene also didn’t match Scipio’s.

Still, Scipio, who has been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and was initially deemed incompetent to stand trail, is facing 20 years in prison on a charge of first-degree home invasion. A special prosecutor was appointed to the case, likely because of the expected media attention that never came.

Scipio’s pro-bono legal team is puzzled by the handling of the case.

The trial is scheduled to begin Nov. 11.

Following our stories about Grosse Pointe police humiliating Scipio, five cops were suspended without pay, placed on probation for a year and required to attend sensitivity training.

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.

  • Ronald Diebel

    Anyways, I too have had my dealings with this man-child. He is large and insane, and scary. I would prefer that he receive proper medical treatment. I would also prefer not to have to deal with him.

    • Trexinmichigan

      Right there with you. Hard to have compassion when he’s trying to break down the front door. I mean my brother in law. Same problems.

    • While I agree with you that it is better that he receive proper medical care and that he is probably better off institutionalized, it disturbs me that he has been incarcerated so long without a trial. It’s kind of a fundamental tenant of our republic.

      • Ronald Diebel

        You are absolutely right.

  • I will never forget the day I met Michael. He was staggering down the alley behind my house, obviously inebriated, when he stopped to urinate on my trashcan while leering at me angrily. It was a magical moment cut all too short, as he teetered farther down the alley only to stop at my neighbor’s home to yell incoherently at the lady of the house. Then, just as he came, he slowly lurched off into the distance.

    Sometimes it makes me sad, though… Michael being gone. I have to remind myself that some birds aren’t meant to be caged. Their feathers are just too bright. And when they fly away, the part of you that knows it was a sin to lock them up does rejoice. But still, the place you live in is that much more drab and empty that they’re gone. I guess I just miss my friend.

    • bebow

      You are a poet, GP.

    • muckraker_steve

      GP, I hear you run a blog. What’s the web address? While you and I don’t always agree on things, you’re a good writer with an important perspective.

      • Run a blog makes it sound a little grandiose. I have a webpage which I post alcohol fueled rants that are poorly edited and heavily based in satire. Since a lot of people can’t tell the difference between my true views and the satire I use to provoke conversations that involve views that might otherwise go unseen, I write under a pseudonym.

        Thank you for the kind words, but if it wasn’t clear, I ripped off the last paragraph from Stephen King’s “Shawshank Redemption”.

      • Ronald Diebel

        Important? I’m not sure I would go that far.

      • Steve, quick question. Does Michael’s lawyer have any explanation of the broken arm the police found him with?

        I understand the unreliability of eyewitnesses and their susceptibility to being lead by police, but the physical evidence seems to suggest that he may have at least been there.

        In my brief encounters with Michael, he never really seemed to come across as part of the criminal element. Also, despite the GPP Police’s mocking of him, they, as far as I know, never arrested him and considered him harmless.

        In the story I wrote about above, a cop drove by shortly after Michael mosied on. I flagged down the cop and told him what happened. The cop then described Michael to me, and I confirmed his description. He then told me that he was “harmless” and “that he passes through from time-to-time”, also that it was “cool”. I told the cop that it probably isn’t the best thing to allow visibly drunk people roam about urinating on things and yelling incoherently at people. The cop then shrugged and drove off. This isn’t the typical reaction to a citizen’s complaint, which leads me to believe that the cops didn’t really view him as a criminal, or, potential criminal.

        What’s my point? While, he never seemed like the B&E type to me, and I don’t think the cops really thought he was either, the physical evidence of a broken arm and the witnesses account of hitting him with a hammer seem to add up. Though, it’s entirely possible that he had a broken arm from an unrelated incident and just happened to be in the area. I also have a little trouble understanding how a housewife can swing a hammer hard enough to break an arm on a man the size of Michael. Not impossible, but certainly suspect.

        So it comes full circle back to my original point. How did he get the broken arm?

        • Michele

          if you keep him in prison long enough, he’ll grow a beard, does that count as corroborating evidence? The broken arm is the last relevant point in this situation unless the witness saw the robber hurt his arm. A man with an injury is not in any way an indication of his participation in a crime. Public urination is an offense, ticket him for that. Disturbing the peace earns a fine, ticket his for that. But don’t charge him for a crime for the sake of closing a case. And don’t fall for the random side-detail.

          • Michele, despite you distinct lack of paragraphs, I can infer that you’re missing part of the story. The witness/victim of the crime, who identified Michael as the suspect, also claims to have fought him off with a hammer. The side details I added were to speak to Michael’s character and general demeanor. Meaning, that I don’t see him as a home invader. However, I do find it very suspicious that he was arrested in the area with a broken arm and later identified by the victim.

            Further, I think they either need to give him a trial, or let him go. However, it’s my sincerest hope that they’re working on a deal that would remand him into some sort of institution where he could get the proper care he needs. Despite his past transgression of micturating on my trashcans, I like the guy.

          • Guest

            Don’t let him near your blog. It’s a trap.