The story that’s caught the nation’s attention started with the senseless point-blank killing of Jerean Blake on Friday, 14 May. The 17 year old was shot to death outside a party store after leaving Southeastern High School where he was preparing to graduate. Blake planned to enter military service. According to the teen’s mother, Lyvonne Cargill, the string of events that followed isn’t “as innocent as it looks”. She said:
It didn’t take me an hour to know who killed my son. I do not know them. I never seen them before. All I knkow is that they bragged about the way they killed my son.
Just 34 hours after Blake’s murder, Detroit Police Special Response Team officers were at a duplex to arrest a suspect. Police arrested Chauncey Louis Owens, 34, during the raid early Sunday morning. Owens was in an upstairs flat of the duplex, just two blocks from the store where he gunned down Blake. Owens’ actions were unquestionably pre-meditated. He told his victim “You better not be here when I come back.” Apparently he had to run home to get the gun he used to slaughter a kid half his age. Why? Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy summed it up:
The death of Jerean Blake is as senseless as it can get. The allegations are that [Owens] killed the 17-year-old high school student because he looked at [Owens] the wrong way.
Owens faces charges of first-degree murder and using of a firearm in the commission of a felony. He’s being held without bond until his June first arraignment. Owens’ prior criminal record includes 2 counts of auto theft, for which he was still on probation, breaking and entering, and escaping from the Washtenaw County jail.
Unfortunately, DPD’s raid went bad and 7 year old Aiyana Stanley-Jones was killed when an officer’s gun discharged. As Assistant Police Chief Ralph Godbee said, “This is a tragedy of unspeakable magnitude.” But, in the wake of the raid, the circus began and the original victim was all but forgotten. Beyond speculation and questions about what really happened, crews from A&E were filming for the network’s “First 48″ series. Some claim police were overly aggressive and used a flash-bang (stun) grenade because there were going to be on TV.
Aiyana’s family lawyer, Karri Mitchell, said the family wasn’t even thinking about a lawsuit. Speaking to the Detroit News on Monday, Mitchell said:
We’re not indicating the officer’s actions were intentional. We know it was an accident, but the method that they used in executing the search warrant was flawed. The family understands that the officer is not a monster. He didn’t intentionally shoot a 7-year-old girl.
Next in the 3-ring circus is the sheister lawyer made famous by representing Dr. Death, Jack Kervorkian, in his assisted suicide cases. By Tuesday afternoon, bottom-feeder Geoffrey Fieger was filing lawsuits in both federal and state courts on behalf of the family. This is the same family that, as late as Tuesday morning, Fieger was still arm-twisting so he’d have something to say at the press conference he’d already called. Fieger doesn’t care any more about little Aiyana or her family than he does about yours. As Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said, “[Fieger's] taking advantage of a terrible situation and it’s about money as far as he’s concerned.” Meanwhile, Fieger says the police raid was improperly executed and overzealous.
Despite Michigan State Police handling the investigation into the police raid that took Aiyana’s life, the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality called on US Attorney General Eric Holder to have the Justice Department investigate. Not to be left behind, especially in an election year, US Rep. John Conyers sent Holder a letter requesting federal resources to ensure the case gets the “close scrutiny” it deserves. Conyers (D-Detroit) is chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, which oversees Holders’ Justice Department. No undue influence there, ya think?
Detroit Police announced <a href="http://www.racewire.org/archives/2010/05/detroit_police_departments_long_troubled_history.html" target="_blank"Joseph Weekley is the officer whose weapon discharged, the round striking Aiyana Jones in the neck. Weekly, 34, is a 14-year veteran of the Department. He’s spent the last 6 with DPD’s Special Response Team.
The fact Weekley has been profiled by A&E’s show Detroit SWAT fuels speculation he might have been “hotdogging” for A&E First 48 film crews. DPD said Weekley was involved in a non-fatal shooting last year involved a barricaded gunman. The department determined he acted appropriately. In another federal lawsuit, filed last year, Weekley is named as part of a raid team during which an officer shot two dogs and pointed a weapon at children, including an infant. DPD is also under two federal consent decrees stemming from Justice Department lawsuits over excessive force and unsafe holding cells.
But Weekley has been involved in charitable and community events, as well. In 2003, he founded the SWAT for Tots program to collect toys for homeless and abused children during the holidays. Just last month, Weekley was involved in “Run With the Cops, Not From Them” to raise money for kids with cancer. A coworker said Weekley “tried to make kids see that the cops are the good guys.”
Even before the cop’s race was known, race-baiters and professional opportunists Rev. Al Sharpton and Rev. Jesse Jackson began coming out of the woodwork. On Wednesday, 19 May, although stopping short of calling Aiyana’s shooting a racial incident, Jacksons wickered race in on the guise of deaths in other cities. Speaking to Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman, Jackson said, “So there’s a racial dimension to this, which is volatile and ugly.” Then he drug up the riots of the 60s and health care disparity. Excuse me, Rev. Jackson, but none of that has anything to do with this case! Stop trying to turn a tragedy into a purposefully orchestrated act of genocide.
A week after her death, Aiyana Stanley-Jones’ funeral took place at Second Ebenezer Church. Rev. Jackson, John Conyers, Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, and several Detroit City Council members attended the 22 May service. Hundreds of mourners were also there.
Rev. Al Sharpton gave the eulogy ostensibly at the request of the family, though I suspect it was the other way around. In the eulogy, Sharpton said, “I came because I feel we must stand and show the value and worth of the lives of our children.” At one point, he called on the congregation to help stop the violence in Detroit, saying, “This is it. This child is the breaking point.” While he condemned Detroit Police’s actions, asking if police in the affluent suburbs would use a stun grenade, Sharpton took a surprisingly positive approach:
I’d rather tell you to start looking at the man in the mirror. We’ve all done something that contributed to this.
In a typical, self-aggrandizing, egotistical display, Fieger also spoke at the service. As if to, yet again, make a mockery of the innocent girl’s death, a virtual spitting on her casket.
Will Jackson and Sharpton attend Jerean Blake’s funeral? John Conyers or Ficano? Detroit City Council members? I doubt it. The death of both kids is terrible and tragic. But Jerean Blake’s killing doesn’t suit the opportunists needs.
Some have questioned why the police were in Aiyana’s apartment at all, but the warrant was valid for both flats in the duplex. Fieger questions the flash-bang grenade, perhaps rightly so, citing toys and neighbors telling police there were kids in the apartment. The accidental discharge that killed an innocent 7-year old does not change her family’s bad choices. Neighbors even said the girl’s house was no place for kids. Aiyana’s aunt, Regina Morgan, was engaged to Blake’s murderer, Charles Owens. Aiyana’s family harbored Owens in their house, albeit the upstairs flat. Aiyana’s father, Charles Jones, had also been seen at the party store on the day Blake was killed. And they had to have known if Lyvonne Cargill knew as early as Friday evening. Owens’ heinous crime set in motion the series of events that led to Aiyana Jones’ tragic death.
Not to excuse the police—this is still a wrongful death—but who will compensate Jerean Blake’s family? Fieger didn’t jump on the bandwagon to represent his mother in a lawsuit. I doubt Fieger will give his share of the Aiyana Jones lawsuits to Ms. Cargill. She wants Chauncey Owens charged with another murder. She summed it up:
I feel like [Owens] should do time for two murders. He’s the reason why the 7-year-old girl’s life was in danger. The whole family should go to jail. You don’t harbor a fugitive that you know killed my son.
And, to add some additional context, Detroit has seen a startling increase in homicides over the last month or so. On 3 May, Jason Gibson, a career criminal, shot 5 Detroit police officers responding to a 9-1-1 call. Detroit Police Off. Brian Huff was killed in that altercation, just 2 weeks earlier. His family and fellow officers just laid him to rest a week before Jerean Blake’s murder.