Detroit artist Sheefy McFly was painting a mural on a viaduct near the intersection of 7 Mile Road and John R when he was arrested by two Detroit police officers on June 19. Police believed McFly was vandalizing the viaduct when in reality he was commissioned by the City of Detroit to paint the mural as a means to reduce illegal graffiti.
The 29-year-old muralist, whose real name is Tashif Turner, was commissioned by the city’s managing contractor 1xRun as part of City Walls, a multi-year beautification project that pays artists to create public art in a bid to prevent vandalism, the Detroit Free Press reported.
He had been working on the project for several days when police officers approached him, thinking he was vandalizing the viaduct. McFly had a permit to paint the mural, but on the day police officers questioned him, he did not have the permit with him.
“I told them I’m painting this mural for City Walls, and I got to have it done by Friday,” McFly told the Detroit Metro Times. “They asked me to put my hands down and everything. I’m like, what’s going on?”
McFly said the officers tried to handcuff him, but he pulled away to walk over to his bag and search for his permit. That’s when the situation escalated; McFly told the Detroit Metro Times that the officers acted like he was resisting arrest and trying to run off.
“It’s an oxymoron — doing something for the city and being arrested by the city,” McFly told the Detroit Free Press.
The officers called for backup and placed him in the back of a police car. McFly said other officers with “four or five police cars” arrived on site. He eventually asked the officers to reach out to Zachary Meers, the City Walls coordinator whose name and contact information is listed on McFly’s permit.
McFly also said that he stopped resisting the officers because he feared being shot. “I just kept my composure because I felt like if I actually got angry, they can shoot,” he told the Detroit Metro Times. “Like they will shoot me or they will beat me and I’m gonna still go to jail.”
Authorities reached Meers who confirmed McFly had a permit and had been commissioned by the city to paint the mural. However, officers still arrested McFly after they discovered there was a warrant for his arrest from a past traffic violation.
According to the Detroit Metro Times, McFly was sent to the Detroit Police Department’s detention center, where he was placed in a cell with more than a dozen men and no beds. He was released on June 20.
“It was really harsh reality, and it felt crazy to actually be in jail doing something for the city by the city,” McFly told Click on Detroit.
“Worst thing about it is they humiliated me dog,” McFly tweeted days after his arrest. “They treated me like a criminal in front of my artwork I did for my city pulled up 7 Cars deep. They took me to jail [and] treated me like a felon. I’m just a Artist bro.”
Detroit Police did not immediately respond to The North Star’s request for comment. Department spokesperson Sergeant Nicole Kirkwood told the Detroit Free Press that McFly was uncooperative with the officers’ investigation. The officers on the scene arrested him for allegedly resisting arrest and obstruction, as well as the outstanding arrest warrant, Kirkwood said.
Fellow spokeswoman Holly Lance told the Detroit Metro Times that vandalizing the viaduct is a felony that could cost the city more than $10,000 to clean up. “The bottom line is he had a permit, but he wasn’t able to produce it. His actions resulted in what occurred next,” Lance said. “He was being investigated for a felony. He did not cooperate with officers or have proper documentation.”
McFly’s resisting and obstruction charge will likely be sent to Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office for further review. He is scheduled to appear in court for the parking ticket warrant on July 3.
The artist told the Detroit Metro Times that he feels race played a role in how the officer’s treated him. “They just obviously saw me as a graffiti writer and treated me like a criminal,” he said.
“That’s what makes me so angry about it because all my life, I never painted illegally at all. I don’t do nothing bad,” he said. “So for them to come out and treat me like a criminal, like I shot somebody… it just had me feeling like I was profiled, you know.”
McFly said he was still deciding when — or if — he will finish painting the mural. He told the Detroit Free Press that he needs a few days to “collect” himself and figure out how he can be safe while painting.
About the Author
Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.