DETROIT (WXYZ) — Sandra Wilson, the woman arrested by Detroit police and accused of stealing a credit card she says she was only trying to return, is suing the City of Detroit and alleging her constitutional rights were violated.
At the same time, Detroit police officials are defending the conduct of their officers who interrogated and later arrested Wilson, calling it “strong police work.”
As 7 Action News first reported last month, Wilson was arrested in June after police accused her of stealing a woman’s credit card.
On surveillance video, Wilson could be seen picking up a credit card left on a gas station counter and handing it to a customer who had just left the station after, Wilson says, the customer told her it belonged to her.
Police acknowledge that Wilson didn’t use the card and have no evidence she knew the other customer she gave it to.
However, the card turned out to belong to a different customer who’d been inside the gas station that evening, who says the card was used to charge hundreds of dollars in unauthorized purchases.
Wilson’s photo, along with the woman she handed the card to, were posted on the Detroit Police Department’s social media pages. The caption indicated that Wilson was wanted for credit card theft.
She voluntarily walked into the city’s 7th precinct ten days later, attempting to clear her name. Instead, she was told she was the focus of the investigation and was later arrested.
In October, Judge Paul Cusick threw the charges against Wilson out, calling the case “absurd and ridiculous and wrong,” adding that the investigation was not thorough.
“I’m left to clean up my life,” Wilson said in an interview this month. “Just what’s left”.
As a result of her arrest, Wilson lost her job as a security officer. But since our story aired, she received a handful of job offers from viewers who were troubled by what happened to her.
Without a steady source of income, Wilson also faced eviction. But after nearly 150 donations poured in to a GoFundMe page, she was able to avoid losing her home.
More than $13,000 in donations have been made so far.
“I’m so thankful and humble,” Wilson said.
But if she was hoping for an apology from Detroit police, the department says not to expect one.
Chris Graveline, the department’s director of professional standards, called the arrest “strong police work” and defended the officers who interrogated and arrested Wilson.
Throughout Sandra’s interrogation, she can be heard asking for a lawyer, but her interrogation didn’t stop. Two independent experts contacted by 7 Action News said that it should have.
Graveline reviewed the interrogation, concluding it was proper.
“It complied with our policies as well as the constitution,” he said.
Graveline says that because Sandra voluntarily walked into the precinct—after police put her wanted picture on social media— she was not considered “in custody.”
She’d been made aware of her Miranda Rights, Graveline says, and should have known she could leave if she wanted to.
Even today, he insists that DPD arrested the right person.
“She held on to the card for 15 seconds,” said Channel 7’s Ross Jones.
“Correct,” Graveline replied.
“Do you have any evidence she got a dime from it?” Jones asked.
“Not that I’m aware of,” he said.
“Any evidence she knew the woman she gave the card to?” Jones asked.
“Not that I’m aware of,” Graveline replied.
“Any evidence this was a scheme?” Jones asked.
“Not that I’m aware of,” he said.
“Why then was she charged with credit card theft?” Jones asked.
“Because she’s the one who actively took the card off the counter and went and handed it to not the owner of that credit card,” Graveline said.
DPD defends charging Sandra based on an exchange that took place during her interrogation, coming long after Sandra asked for a lawyer.
“Who do you give that card do?” asked one of the officers.
“I gave the card to the man behind the counter,” Wilson said, contradicting what was seen on video.
To Sandra, it was an honest mistake that was easy to explain.
She was being asked about a five-minute visit to a gas station she frequents regularly that happened ten days earlier. Despite repeatedly being asked to see the surveillance video from the day in question, officers would only show her still photos.
But to DPD, the inconsistency was evidence of Sandra’s guilt. She must have been trying to hide something, they believed, even if they couldn’t prove what it was.
The judge who dismissed the charges, Paul Cusick, disagreed. He slammed prosecutors and police, adding that the investigation was not thorough.
Through her attorneys, Sandra has prepared a lawsuit against the City of Detroit, expected to be filed Wednesday.
“What would be the most beneficial for her would be actual change,” said Koro Khamo, one Wilson’s attorneys. “An apology is a step towards that change, but we need more training. We need more supervision.”
As for Sandra, she says she won’t let what happened to her change who she is.
“You drop your money, I’m going to give you your money back,” she said. “I’m going to help you…I’m not going to change. I’m going to be me.”
Nearly six months since arresting Sandra Wilson, DPD says they’ve still not caught the woman who they believe actually used that credit card. In fact, they still don’t even know who she is.
Their investigation is ongoing.
Contact 7 Investigator Ross Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (248) 827-9466.