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One of the officers accused of beating Raleigh man was also involved in a 2016 beating

Michael G. Blake has worked for the North Carolina State Highway Patrol since 2018.
Michael G. Blake has worked for the North Carolina State Highway Patrol since 2018.

Michael George Blake, one of three law enforcement officers accused of beating a Raleigh man last month, was involved in the beating of a motorist two years ago that left the man with head injuries, broken ribs and a collapsed lung.

Blake, 45, a trooper with the North Carolina Highway Patrol, was not criminally charged or disciplined for the 2016 incident near Cary.

Blake and other law enforcement officers had a physical confrontation with Raphael Maurice Rogers, who had been the target of a heroin-trafficking investigation in Wilmington, on the evening of Aug. 31, 2016. As part of the probe, Blake pulled Rogers over for speeding on U.S. 1, and another state trooper and a Cary police officer were called in to help.

During a struggle, officers twice used a stun gun on Rogers, and they used their fists, knees and batons to strike him, according to court records filed in Wake County. Rogers spent six days in the hospital after the incident.

Blake "beat the hell out of my client," Wake County public defender Michael Howell, who represented Rogers, said this week.

A judge ultimately dismissed the drug charges against Rogers, saying the search that led officers to find nearly 2 ounces of heroin that evening was unlawful.

Twenty months later, on April 3 of this year, Blake was accused of beating 29-year-old Kyron Hinton in east Raleigh. Several people had called 911 to report that a man, Hinton, was standing in the middle of the street and might have a gun.

Hinton was unarmed when police arrived, and he says he suffered a broken nose and eye socket and was bitten about 20 times by a police dog during his encounter with law enforcement.

Blake, fellow Highway Patrol trooper Tabithia L. Davis and Wake County sheriff's deputy Cameron Broadwell face felony assault charges in Hinton's case. Each is also accused of willfully failing to discharge duties.

Prosecutors dismissed criminal charges against Hinton.

Federal investigation

Blake, who has been with the Highway Patrol since October 2008, has one disciplinary infraction on his record. He was suspended in 2015 for unspecified misconduct, according to records made public this week.

The day of the encounter with Rogers, the Highway Patrol was assisting with a larger investigation. A federal drug task force in New Hanover County had been monitoring Rogers for about three weeks, using GPS to track his cellphone. They suspected he was bringing drugs into the Wilmington area.

On the day of the traffic stop, Rogers traveled by train from New York to Raleigh and then rented a Chevrolet Cruze at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, according to court records. The federal Drug Enforcement Administration asked the Highway Patrol to stop Rogers, and Blake did so at about 6:25 p.m., when Rogers was reportedly traveling above the speed limit on U.S. 1.

Blake gave Rogers a warning for speeding, and then officers searched the Cruze with help from a Cary police officer's canine. The dog indicated drugs were there, but officers couldn't find any.

Blake then instructed Rogers to get out of the patrol car, where he had been sitting, "so the trooper could search him," Howell said in one of several court motions asking a judge to suppress evidence in the case. That's when the physical confrontation began.

An audio recording from Blake's dash camera indicated the struggle between Rogers and the officers went on for about two minutes, Howell said. Howell had filed several motions to obtain video footage from the troopers' dash cameras but did not receive it.

The State Highway Patrol, in response to the motions, said a dash camera inside the car of a second trooper at the scene was not recording, Howell said this week.

A report from Wake County EMS, which responded to the scene, says the troopers stated "the patient began to resist arrest, and they had to go to hand to hand combat, and then use their batons. Troopers also state that they tazed the patient twice to regain control of him."

Rogers' face was swollen and his left eye was swollen shut, according to the EMS report. Howell said Rogers also suffered broken ribs, a collapsed lung, bleeding in the brain and facial injuries.

Police say they found about 51 grams of heroin in Rogers' "crotch area" while paramedics were loading him into an ambulance bound for WakeMed in Cary.

Less than six hours after he arrived, Rogers was transferred to the trauma unit at WakeMed in Raleigh. Doctors discharged him Sept. 5.

Rogers was charged with one felony count each of trafficking in heroin by possession and by transportation.

But Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway in September 2017 dropped the charges, partly because Rogers was subjected to an "unreasonable seizure."

"By the time Trooper Blake had seized the heroin, the trooper had far exceeded the time needed to handle the matter for which he had stopped the defendant, a speeding violation," Ridgeway said in his ruling.

Ridgeway also suppressed incriminating statements Rogers made to officials in the emergency room and threw out the evidence federal agents had obtained in regards to tracking Rogers' cellphone location.

Howell said he was not focused on whether the officers should have faced criminal charges in Rogers' case.

"My goal was to keep Rogers from going to prison for 20-plus years," he said. "I didn't really think of the cops."

Video from Hinton case

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From left, Cameron Broadwell, Michael G. Blake and Tabithia L. Davis. Special to the Observer

In the Hinton case, a Wake County judge will determine Friday whether to order law enforcement to make public video footage from the April 3 incident.

Davis, the other Highway Patrol trooper charged in the case, has not had any previous disciplinary infractions. Neither has Broadwell, the Wake County sheriff's deputy.

The three officers will make their first court appearance June 11.

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