Fire & Fuel

The incident [the shooting death of Aiyana by police] came after a two-week spate of high-profile shootings in the city -- starting with the gunning down of Detroit Police Officer Brian Huff on May 3.”  “Outside the home, the department's special response team was prepared to go in. Film crews with A&E's "The First 48" reality show, which follows police departments nationwide during the crucial 48 hours after a homicide is committed, were taping the team for a documentary.”  “Some questioned whether the use of the stun grenade was more for show than safety, as officers had an A&E TV crew with them.”  That’s a rhetorical question, RIGHT???

When the legitimate media is present, it is supposed to be as the objective witness, the eyes of society.  Unfortunately, the media is all too often playing buddy and cheerleader for the officers.  Isn’t it interesting how they say “gunning down of Detroit Police Officer Brian Huff” using such inflammatory language but, while Aiyana’s death is getting coverage, they’ve not worked up to such for her?

With an officer’s death just a couple of weeks prior, it certainly seems to me the Detroit officers are fired up and seeking revenge on the community.  A camera crew in tow was merely more fuel for the adrenaline fire these officers were already burning.  But it doesn’t take much to fuel the Detroit PD firestorm.  They’ve long since declared war on the citizenry of Detroit, on the streets and in the courts.

In 2004, the Detroit PD burst into the home of an elderly couple and essentially found NOTHING.  If this next case doesn’t open your eyes that a raid could happen to you, then I don’t know what will.

In 2004: “After battering down their front door, the cops tossed in two flash-bang grenades and knocked Leonid Marmelshtein, a 69-year-old Russian immigrant, to the ground.”  The police had obtained a warrant based upon a trash search that turned up a “trace” of marijuana which trash search was instigated by some whiney, accusatory, buttinski neighbors.  After throwing him to the ground, it’s alleged they punched and kicked him.  I have no doubt they did just that.  “Marmelshtein with obstructing and assaulting the police and disorderly conduct. He pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct, a misdemeanor. A judge took the plea under advisement and dismissed the charge a year later.”

It’s in federal court now in a case filed by the Marmelshteins.  "No reasonable law enforcement officer would have considered a confused elderly couple to be capable of producing the kind of tense and rapidly evolving uncertain situation which would require 10 police officers to make split-second decisions, including the use of two flash-bang devices," U.S. District Judge Julian Cook said in September in refusing Southfield's request to dismiss the suit.  YAY for Judge Cook!

On Feb. 8, 2007, special response team officers raided a home on the city's near-west side with a search warrant seeking evidence against a man arrested in an armed robbery. According to suits filed last year in Wayne County Circuit and U.S. District courts, police shot two dogs "without any justifiable reason whatsoever" in a room near a child.”  They shot guns NEAR CHILDREN to shoot 2 DOGS based on an EVIDENCE warrant in a case where the suspect was already in custody!  The police report fails to mention that 3 children were in the house.  Gee, what a surprise!  As my mother would say: LYING by omission is still LYING.

Officer Jason Brasgalla wrote in his report that he fired five shots from his 9mm submachine gun at the two pitbulls after one of them charged, causing him to "fear for his life."  The police reports show that Officer Joseph Weekley -- whose gun fired the shot that killed Aiyana Stanley-Jones on Sunday, according to Detroit police sources -- was part of the February 2007 raid.

The lawsuits accuse police of assaulting the Westbrooks, falsely imprisoning them, and negligence. It also claims that police entered their home without warning.  But Brasgalla's report said officers "knocked and announced 'Police,' and there was no answer at the front door" before they forced their way in.  In court filings, Ashford wrote that none of the cops was disciplined.”

Wherever did police get the impression that people have to leap to their feet to run and fling their doors open to allow an invasion by armed thugs and then throw themselves on the ground only to be punched and kicked?

One former homicide detective, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, said the usual tactic is to assign officers to watch a house and arrest a suspect in a less-aggressive manner.  "Something like this, you kind of just sit back and watch the house and get the guy going to the house," the former detective said.  I’d agree that is the way it SHOULD be done but I certainly can’t say it’s now the “usual tactic”!

That person and a current Detroit officer said flash-bang grenades are typically reserved for disorienting barricaded gunmen so that police can enter and quickly end a volatile situation.  I can't think of a court case in my memory" where a stun grenade was used to make an arrest, said another local law enforcement official with more than 35 years of experience.  REALLY???  Picked up a paper in the last couple of days???  Toss the grenades, break down the doors, promptly forget it ever happened!  No wonder things go so wrong in a force filled with that much self delusion.

But experts in police training and practices said that the devices are a regular part of police repertoire in a variety of situations.”  Now THAT I believe!

"They give police a greater element of surprise," said Jon Shane, professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.  He said the grenades can be "clearly appropriate ... (and) not an unreasonable tactic" for police going after a murder suspect.  Says YOU!  I say they are GROSSLY unreasonable if there is another option (and there are almost always other options), especially if there are others present and more so if there are children, animals, elderly, or anyone else unable to defend themselves from YOU present.  You’re not entitled to control us because it’s convenient!

The devices give officers a 6- to 8-second window to gain control of a high-risk situation by creating a momentarily overwhelming distraction and diversion, said Steve Ijames, a consultant and trainer who has worked with the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the State Department for overseas training.  In 60% to 70% of events using flash-bang grenades, the devices have given the cops an edge, he said -- and he has never heard of the devices "ratcheting things up."  How could you possibly be THAT self deluded?  And I have a serious suspicion that the 60-70% of cases where they gave cops the advantage were the cases where they didn’t need to use them at all!!!

Detroit is especially sensitive to shootings involving police. An extraordinarily high rate of police shootings of civilians brought about a Justice Department civil rights probe early in the decade that led to federally mandated reforms in the department.  The police department is still under federal oversight as it slowly adopts the reforms.”  Um, hey, Justice Department, You’re doing a CRAPPY job of oversight!

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”  Maybe we need to have posters of that printed and plaster them on our doors!

In a dissenting opinion in a 2000 decision in the U.S. 7th Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge John Coffey said that judges often end up second-guessing snap decisions made by police.  "It is often said that judges have minutes, hours, days, weeks, and even months to make a decision," Coffey wrote, "but officers have only a split-second to make a life-or-death decision when entering the residence of a drug dealer and determining exactly how to restrain a person who has a criminal history involving weapons... "  Very true judge but these are often PLANNED raids.

Two hours later, the police learned the suspect was at a home on Lillibridge, a duplex with an upper and lower flat, about two blocks from St. Jean and Mack, where the 17-year-old was killed….  Officers rolled by the house and checked it out…. By about 10:30 p.m. Saturday, roughly the time cops sought and found a judge…  A little after midnight, the raid team gathered on a nearby corner for a safety briefing. There were homicide detectives and members of the SRT. The raiding officers were told the suspect was believed to be inside the Lillibridge duplex…  the briefers did not mention the possibility of any children being inside. (Family members have since said publicly that the yard was strewn with toys, and a cousin of the dead girl said he was outside yelling a warning as officers approached that children lived there.)  police fired a flash-bang grenade…  After the boom and flash, after the dogs started barking, after the single crack of a gunshot, Detroit Police Officer Joseph Weekley walked back out onto the porch.  Weekley made his way to his sergeant and reported what had just happened. A woman inside grabbed my gun, Weekley said, according to police sources. It fired. The bullet hit a child.

Even if I believed the police version, I’d be pissed over this one.  They got a warrant for 2 homes with no idea where the suspect actually was and without a concern for any innocents that might get caught in their raid.  Aiyana’s grandmother says she didn’t have contact with the officer and I believe her.  Even if she did, SO WHAT?  She had EVERY right to defend herself and her family from this invasion!!!  As far as I’m concerned, this is a capital murder; the execution of a child while committing another crime.

The family's [version of events] is much different, according to Southfield lawyer Geoffrey Fieger, who represents loved ones of 7-year-old Aiyana.  Fieger said the shooting was no accident, and that he has seen video footage showing that the gunshot was fired off before officers entered the home.  "The police conspired to blame the grandmother, who was sleeping on the couch with Aiyana," Fieger said Monday.”

Southfield attorney Geoffrey Fieger today announced the filing of two lawsuits – one in state court, one in federal court – alleging civil rights violations and a conspiracy to cover up the circumstances of the Sunday shooting death…  Fieger asked city leaders, including Detroit Mayor Dave Bing and Police Chief Warren Evans, to apologize to the family and admit wrongdoing…”

Go get them Fieger!  Chew them up and spit them out.  Hopefully, you included the Justice Department as a defendant in that federal case.

And, folks, the above cases are ones where they had warrants and were at least where they were supposed to be.  Every now and then, police kick in the wrong door altogether.  It could be YOUR door and, obviously, their "knock and announce" these days is done about 5 seconds before they kick that door in.

Aiyana, rest peacefully and please don’t be angry that we seem to use you after death.  We want to remember you, see justice for you, and see that no other child has to die as you did.

For those who want to continue to follow Aiyana’s story, I’ve found several FB pages that might be of interest to you:

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