Author: has written 428 posts for this blog.

Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

87 Responses

  1. Marked Hoosier
    Marked Hoosier May 17, 2010 at 12:14 pm |

    This tragic story gathers the worst comments on news sites. They just make me so ill…

  2. Sparks
    Sparks May 17, 2010 at 12:15 pm |

    Oh god, that’s just awful. I don’t even want to look at the comments on news sites.

  3. EKSwitaj
    EKSwitaj May 17, 2010 at 12:18 pm |

    What do we do? How do we make this stop? This can’t go on.

  4. Juniper Elliot
    Juniper Elliot May 17, 2010 at 12:46 pm |

    They were looking for a homicide suspect. I’m glad they’re on the case, I wouldn’t want some lunatic to come and murder me in my own home or anything.

  5. Holy!
    Holy! May 17, 2010 at 12:52 pm |

    The truth is that children (and many, many, adults) are mowed down on a regular basis in Detroit; yet, those murders are pretty viewed as the norm. People will be outraged over this–and it is an outrage–but how many people care about the hundreds killed every year in the city?

    1. Jill
      Jill May 17, 2010 at 3:37 pm | *

      The truth is that children (and many, many, adults) are mowed down on a regular basis in Detroit; yet, those murders are pretty viewed as the norm. People will be outraged over this–and it is an outrage–but how many people care about the hundreds killed every year in the city?

      There is a difference when an innocent person is killed by an authority figure vested with protecting the public from crime, though. That’s why this case is getting a lot of attention. That doesn’t mean that other lives aren’t just as important, but it’s not like there’s no reason why this one has media traction.

  6. La Lubu
    La Lubu May 17, 2010 at 12:56 pm |

    ‘Cuz it’s so much less deadly when the murdering lunatic is wearing a badge.

    This is disgusting. Who ran this fucking operation? They need to be not just fired, but brought to trial for reckless homicide. There is no excuse for this.

  7. Tracey
    Tracey May 17, 2010 at 12:59 pm |

    This is so sad, and I am left almost wordless. I am also bitter and enraged, especially at people who are already trying to excuse the officer and the tactics (hello some Gawker commentors). What do they expect to happen when they throw a grenade into someone’s house and bust in with guns drawn? Aren’t the same people who will defend police tactics like this used against POC the same ones who want gun rights to be able to shoot someone who enters their home with a gun? This is another instance where the life of a black person means nothing and can easily be seen as expendable and collateral damage. While this family mourns, there are already calls for leniency, compassion, and understanding for the poor, poor officer who committed this. There is already demonizing of the grandmother for allegedly tussling with someone who entered her home with a drawn weapon where her grandchild lay on an allegedly burning couch (that people are quick to accept the officer’s words about the fight over that of the family is telling).
    This is why I got so outraged when people got upset about a post on Feministing that ended with “Fuck the Police”. Fuck any institution that has this much leeway and authority and applies it in such a blatantly racist and classist manner. I can gurantee if this had been a rich white family, the police would have scoped it out to make sure the kids were not there or tried to wait for the suspect to leave. I hope justice is done in this case and that if forces a hard look at how much power police have and the tactics they use.

  8. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 17, 2010 at 1:23 pm |

    @Holy! – hundreds are killed in Detroit by police negligence? Or hundreds are killed period? My understanding was that police don’t frequently kill young children during the course of investigation which is why this is such a big deal. Who are these people trying to protect? And why do police get to engage in brutality that gets a bye?

    Also, to others, lunatic? Really?

  9. Astrid
    Astrid May 17, 2010 at 1:27 pm |

    I wish I had somehting insightful to contribute, but I have no words, except to say this is so horrible. It may happen often in Detroit that people are being murdered, but that is all the more reason to be upset and angry.

  10. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 17, 2010 at 1:33 pm |

    Err, that’s not to say that the hundreds that are killed in other ways are not a big deal. I meant to suggest that this is important not just because it was a murder, but because there’s a failure of “peace-keeping.”

    I’m sorry for how confusing my comment was.

  11. Natalia
    Natalia May 17, 2010 at 1:35 pm |

    Oh my God. What in the fuck?!

  12. Holy!
    Holy! May 17, 2010 at 1:36 pm |

    Hundreds are killed, not hundreds are killed by police.

    Around 400 people a year are killed in Detroit. The city is usually the most violent in the nation. Children are killed; people disappear; drug killings and gang violence are normal every-day events. However, this is usually met with silence. An event like like this will put a spotlight on the problem for awhile, then it will be forgotten and things will go back to how they’ve been.

    Instead of highlighting cases and reporting them with no context, we should by wondering why the city is in a meltdown and what can be done about it. Why do citizens and our leaders tolerate the fact that the former largest center of manufacturing in the world is now the most dangerous city in America? All of that relates back to this tragic situation.

  13. Faith
    Faith May 17, 2010 at 1:46 pm |

    “Oh my God. What in the fuck?!”

    What Natalia said. I don’t know what else to say.

  14. La Lubu
    La Lubu May 17, 2010 at 1:48 pm |

    Also, to others, lunatic? Really?

    You are right. I’m sorry for being an asshole.

  15. annaham
    annaham May 17, 2010 at 1:57 pm |

    Wrenching. Absolutely horrific.

  16. jules
    jules May 17, 2010 at 2:13 pm |

    oh my god

  17. Lance
    Lance May 17, 2010 at 2:16 pm |

    The wording of the article and handling of the case is incredibly revealing. If it had been anybody other than a police officer breaking in, I doubt the article would say the “officer’s gun went off”; it would say that he shot her. His name also would be revealed by now. If I’m reading the end of the article correctly, it seems like the homicide suspect wasn’t even in the apartment; he was “in the building,” presumably in another apartment. Given police logic, I’m half-expecting them to charge the guy they were chasing after with the girl’s death; I’ve seen crazier felony murder theories.

  18. Miranda
    Miranda May 17, 2010 at 2:33 pm |

    This is absolutely horrific.

  19. Kaz
    Kaz May 17, 2010 at 3:18 pm |

    Oh my god, that is awful.

  20. leficent
    leficent May 17, 2010 at 3:22 pm |

    I just checked up on detnews- looks like they were filming for a damn television show:

    “An attorney representing the family of a 7-year-old girl shot to death during a Sunday morning raid says the family knows the Detroit police officer who fired the fatal shot is “not a monster” but said the police operation was flawed and influenced by TV production concerns.

    The police “were excited; they were on TV,” said Oak Park attorney Karri Mitchell, who is representing the family of Aiyana Jones. “They didn’t have to throw a grenade through the front window when they knew there were children in there.”

    The attempted arrest of a murder suspect at a two-unit house on Lillibridge on the city’s east side was videotaped for an episode of “The First 48,” a reality crime show on the Arts & Entertainment Network, said Detroit police spokesman John Roach.”

    From The Detroit News: http://www.detnews.com/article/20100517/METRO/5170371/1409/METRO#ixzz0oDiOrufF

  21. UnFit
    UnFit May 17, 2010 at 3:47 pm |

    “to step back from the immediate events is to see what happens in communities who internalize the corporate military worldview that some people are expendable”

    That. And if you view people as expendable, it doesn’t matter if they’re innocent, or underage, or defenseless… Nothing about them matters.
    This is fucking disgusting.

  22. Skateaway
    Skateaway May 17, 2010 at 3:48 pm |

    I just checked up on detnews- looks like they were filming for a damn television show

    And here I thought nothing could make this story more horrifying.

  23. Bushfire
    Bushfire May 17, 2010 at 4:07 pm |

    “And here I thought nothing could make this story more horrifying.”

    I agree, Skateaway. This is about the most horrible thing I’ve ever read. What should happen is several police officers should be fired and charged with homicide and a giant investigation made into their bosses, but I’m betting nothing will happen.

  24. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable May 17, 2010 at 4:14 pm |

    @Lance, I like the catch on the “gun went off” phenomenon. For all the gun control I would love to see (sorry friends of guns), I’m completely on board with the NRA that guns don’t kill people of their own accord.

    No, the gun did not “go off.” Someone shot the gun.

  25. Bushfire
    Bushfire May 17, 2010 at 4:17 pm |

    I can’t get this out of my mind. A few years back I was talking to an Anarchist who told me we shouldn’t have police. I was shocked and I asked her what would we do about crime?

    Now I understand exactly what she meant and I agree. Police harass people for no reason, taser them to death, shoot them, etc. And has the presence of police ever stopped people from committing crimes? If we as a society wanted to reduce crime we would build affordable housing and share resources with everyone. It is clear that police only exist to protect the dominant culture, to keep down the lower class, and to protect rich people from poor people.

  26. MissaA
    MissaA May 17, 2010 at 4:26 pm |

    HolyfuckHolyfuckHolyfuck

    @ leficent

    Thanks for that info. My jaw literally dropped when I read that. I also wonder how much they got on tape. That could potentially make the prosecution of this crime a lot easier.

  27. William
    William May 17, 2010 at 4:34 pm |

    Good on everyone who caught the utter bullshit about the gun just “going off.” This was a major metro SWAT team, their weapons are modern enough that they aren’t going to accidentally discharge unless they’re in such poor repair that handling them would be negligent. The only way a modern firearm in even passable repair discharges is if someone puts a round in the chamber, turns the safety off, puts their finger on the trigger, and musters a not-insignificant amount of pressure to pull the trigger.

    Radley Balko has been covering this story for about a day at this point and I have to say, its actually looking a lot worse that the (already gut-wrenching and horrific) reports you’re drawing from, Cara. The home was a duplex, the suspect was in the apartment next door. Essentially, the police raided both apartments because they either didn’t do their research or they felt it was better safe than sorry.

    Also, it appears that the police have lied from the beginning. Early reports of the murder state that the officer’s gun went off during a scuffle with the victim’s grandmother (who was taken into custody for said scuffle). The police then backed off a bit and said that it went off when the grandmother bumped into the officer. Now the family’s lawyer claims that he has video evidence that the shot was fired from outside the home.

    http://www.freep.com/article/20100517/NEWS01/100517037/1003/Fieger-The-shot-was-fired-from-outside-Aiyana-home

  28. William
    William May 17, 2010 at 4:40 pm |

    Given police logic, I’m half-expecting them to charge the guy they were chasing after with the girl’s death;

    I’m not half-expecting it, I am fully expecting it, especially if the police begin to come under fire and are looking for some way to appease the mob.

  29. Faith
    Faith May 17, 2010 at 5:24 pm |

    “Now I understand exactly what she meant and I agree.”

    People have never understood why I have such a problem with police either. Police don’t make me feel safer; they make me feel the opposite. People with guns period do not make me feel safer, even if they are supposedly on my “side”. I could live a perfectly happy life if I never saw a gun ever again. Guns have done nothing but made our society even more violent.

    “If we as a society wanted to reduce crime we would build affordable housing and share resources with everyone.”

    Yep.

  30. S.L
    S.L May 17, 2010 at 6:16 pm |

    This is the most tragic story I have seen in a long time. How does the family even move forward from this? And they were being filmed? I agree with posters above, this is unnecessarily tragic because an innocent child was murdered. And this wasn’t even an innocent child caught in crossfire out on the street. This was an innocent child asleep in her own home. Horrible and sad and my prayers go out to the family.

    To add to some of the comments on whether police actually make people feel safe or protect society:
    I don’t constantly feel safe because of the police because I’m aware that if, for instance, someone were to attack me, I wouldn’t have time to call the police and wait for them. I would need to defend myself. However, I do feel safe in some instances. One night I ran out to the 24hr rite aid for something and I realized that a guy was following me. I called the police from inside the store because I didn’t want him to follow me to my car. WIthin 5 minutes, three squad cars were there. They came inside and cleared it up. Turns out the guy following me was security (not sure why) and the police walked me to my car and told me “better safe than sorry, you were right to call.” So yeah I do feel protected in some instances.

    Also, my family hunts. My stepdad has at least 6 different hunting rifles for different seasons. When I was younger, my grandfather could hunt in our backyard. (Rural area) So….no. Not buying the whole “guns are always evil tools of destruction” argument.

  31. haley
    haley May 17, 2010 at 6:17 pm |

    I agree with Faith.

    I see a lot of commentary by people who say things like “think of the officer’s point of view” or “it was just an accident”. My response is if you want to justify and look at the situation from an officer’s situation, go turn on one of the hundreds of reality/fictional tv cop and jail shows.

    Indeed, this very incident was caught on tape:

    “AN attorney representing the family of a seven-year-old girl who was shot to death during a raid in Detroit said the police operation was flawed and was influenced by TV production concerns”

    http://www.news.com.au/world/police-shot-girl-7-during-tv-show-filming/story-e6frfkyi-1225867999215

    Cops are professionals and a privileged sect of our population with the lawful right to arrest, detain, physically beat, restrain, and, yes, even kill. That is an enormous amount of power. If getting rid of the police force is too radical for some, then how about we engage Direct Democracy? That is, how about citizens get to choose who they wish to “serve and protect them”. The citizens of any given district should elect the the people they wish to give the privilege of carrying weapons and authority. And cops should be held to the same standards of action and decorum as those citizens.

    For a site that documents police brutality:
    http://www.policebrutality.info/2008/12/police-abuse-and-strip-woman-and-leave.html

    Cop Watch:
    http://www.berkeleycopwatch.org/

  32. S.L
    S.L May 17, 2010 at 6:19 pm |

    And if this whole thing was caught on tape, I don’t even know how these police could defend themselves. Um, excited because you were on TV? You were still real life police with real life responsibilites, namely protect and serve. FAIL

  33. Alison
    Alison May 17, 2010 at 6:30 pm |

    This is so appalling and horrifying. How in the hell are cops supposed to make us feel “safe” and “protected” when they go off like this all the time? And yes, I mean all the time. I’m sure for every case like this that we do hear about, there are others that are successfully swept under the rug or dressed up as something other than straight up police brutality and total overreaction.

    There is absolutely nothing that could be said to excuse these actions, and yet people will try over and over and over again. Heaven forbid we speak the truth about corrupt violent monsters in our police forces – better to give lies and excuses, and to totally disrespect the dead and the survivors in the process.

  34. Valerie2
    Valerie2 May 17, 2010 at 7:11 pm |

    That picture of Aiyana is so sweet. I just don’t know how you get over a loss like that. My heart goes out to the family.

  35. Xenu01
    Xenu01 May 17, 2010 at 7:14 pm |

    Oh my god; this is so horrifying there aren’t any words. The treatment of people of color in this country by the supposed institution of justice is unjust and the murder of so many promising youth is nothing short of genocide. I am so sorry for the loss of this family.

  36. The Black Cat
    The Black Cat May 17, 2010 at 8:05 pm |

    Oh my God, oh my God, that poor, precious little baby girl. How the hell could this happen? My heart bleeds for her and her family, this is horrific.

  37. S.L
    S.L May 17, 2010 at 8:10 pm |

    There is absolutely nothing that could be said to excuse these actions, and yet people will try over and over and over again.

    Not sure if this was directed at me, but just to be clear I abolsutely agree with you. There is no reason good enough (wrong address, excitement over the TV cameras, confusion) that would justify taking the life of an innocent child.

  38. MissaA
    MissaA May 17, 2010 at 9:13 pm |

    @ S.L

    Not buying the whole “guns are always evil tools of destruction” argument.

    You’re assuming that killing living creatures for sport does not qualify as “destruction”.

    But leaving that aside: Hunting accidents? How is the accidental death of a friend or family member an acceptable risk for a recreational activity? People still reach for their hunting rifles when they think there’s an intruder in their home, and again may end up mistakenly harming a family member. Even if they’re not mistaken, I don’t think someone should have to pay for one’s stolen tv or stereo with their life.

    Browse through the Darwin Awards, and see how many gun-related deaths there are. People will always do silly and reckless things, but adding guns to the mix just makes it more deadly.

  39. samantha
    samantha May 17, 2010 at 10:43 pm |

    This is so sad…….I cannot believe what I am reading,I have a 8year old daughter and I wouldn’t like that to happen too anyone to loose there kids.what the need to do is train these officer more better.

  40. MertvayaRuka
    MertvayaRuka May 17, 2010 at 11:31 pm |

    The attorney better get his hands on that footage quickly. All it’ll take is for the DPD to lean on the producers of that show and anything incriminating will never see the light of day. The media these days would rather work with the cops than against them; the former being more profitable and less likely to make their people end up on the wrong side of the law.

  41. Ariane
    Ariane May 17, 2010 at 11:39 pm |

    I’m seriously having trouble typing anything that doesn’t involve expletives.

    The police department is defending the shooter? That’s unbelievable. I’d expect them to hang him out to dry, even if his actions were the result of a messed up culture that makes him think this sort of tragedy is an acceptable risk. I’d never expect any police department to address the root cause of such a disaster (because I’m incredibly cynical about police as an organisation), but to not even see there is any significant fault to be assigned?????

    My tears for Aiyana mean diddly squat, but I still need to say how much I feel for her family.

  42. MertvayaRuka
    MertvayaRuka May 18, 2010 at 12:28 am |

    Ariane, they’re not going to hang him out to dry because there’s enough wiggle room and enough public blame of the family that they don’t feel a need to. I can’t honestly remember ever seeing cops hang one of their own out to dry, unless of course that one was exposing police corruption or brutality. That’s when they usually get left to swing in the wind. This kind of stuff, this is why the fact that there are “good cops” doesn’t move me in the slightest. Those “good cops” can still be counted on to back up the bad ones unless there’s no covering up their guilt. It may be anecdotal, but in my forty years of life I’ve personally seen and heard of three cops who didn’t, don’t and won’t cover for bad cops at all. One of them’s nearly been forced out of law enforcement. The other is only a short time out of the academy so he hasn’t had time to feel the real pressure yet. The third was in an “accident” when the brakes on his squad car failed and is now severely brain-damaged. In my opinion, take it for what you will, they’re just another gang but with better equipment and better PR.

  43. William
    William May 18, 2010 at 9:19 am |

    The police department is defending the shooter? That’s unbelievable. I’d expect them to hang him out to dry, even if his actions were the result of a messed up culture that makes him think this sort of tragedy is an acceptable risk. I’d never expect any police department to address the root cause of such a disaster (because I’m incredibly cynical about police as an organisation), but to not even see there is any significant fault to be assigned?????

    I think the thing which strikes me most about so many of the comments in this thread is that there are so many people who basically hold this view. Aiyana’s death is a tragedy and a horror, but its hardly unusual and the response of the DPD is standard operating procedure for an officer involved shooting. The police are violent and aggressive as a matter of course, that is especially true when they’re responding to people of color and always true once the poorly trained SWAT team gets involved. Violent raids like this happen, without exaggeration, hundreds of times per day in this country. This is business as usual. The police don’t serve and protect, they enforce thats why they’re law enforcement.

    One of the very few things the libertarian community has done right in the last few years is track the increasing militarization and belligerence of our nation’s police. Swing over to TheAgitator.com and you’ll find stories similar (perhaps not quite as repulsive as setting a child on fire before shooting her, but certainly with the same set of circumstances and negligence). Google Cheye Calvo, a small town mayor who’s dogs were murdered in front of his children during a raid just like the one Aiyana’s family suffered. Or Kathryn Johnston, a woman in her 90s who was subjected to a similar raid, had the audacity to fire a shot at the masked men kicking in her door, and was shot to death as a result. The aftermath uncovered a widespread pattern of lying and altering evidence in Atlanta’s police department. Then there is Cory Maye, his story is disturbingly similar to Aiyana’s case in that the police were after a suspect next door and didn’t seem to know the house was a duplex. The police didn’t announce themselves, Maye’s young daughter was in the home, an officer in plain clothes pointed a gun at them both without saying he was an officer or that there was a warrant being served and Maye defended himself and his daughter. He now sits on death row. There was last year’s execution of a handcuffed man, on film, by a BART officer. There is Sal Culosi, a man with no history of violence or criminal behavior, who was arrested by a SWAT for betting on sports with his friends. While handcuffed and face down he was shot in the back of the head. Isolated incidents? Heres a role call http://www.theagitator.com/category/paramilitary-police-raids/

  44. leficent
    leficent May 18, 2010 at 9:50 am |

    Another terribly sad thing is that the suspect they were looking for was wanted in connection to the shooting death of a 17-year-old.

    In any case, the Michigan State Police have taken over the investigation. I feel a little better that the MSP will be asking the questions.

    Also, it appears that G. Fieger will be representing the family legally- he is a well-known local attorney and will know how to deal with the media issues.

  45. UnAttributableSpoon
    UnAttributableSpoon May 18, 2010 at 11:16 am |

    You know, I really try to believe that humanity is fundamentally good and that only changes because of circumstance and experience…But more and more I find that belief is cracking.

    Absolute power corrupts absolutely. I don’t care if you’re a politician, police officer, priest/reverend/minister…hell, even a high school wrestling coach (the wrestling coach from my old high school was recently fired for being ‘too intense’…when in reality, he backed one of the boys on his team up against a wall and choked him), authority without some form of supervision or accountability is unacceptable.

    People wonder why I get angry. Things like this make me angry and so sad my heart hurts.

    Fuck this. I’m moving to the Moon.

  46. Alara Rogers
    Alara Rogers May 18, 2010 at 11:48 am |

    I just… I don’t even know what to say. I keep thinking about my kids, who sleep on couches, on the other half of a duplex, in a neighborhood where there is known to be drug crime. But I’m pretty sure this would never happen to me and my kids, because I’m white. And I should never be able to type that sentence. No one should be able to type that sentence, because it should never be true. That beautiful little girl, and those animals killed her and won’t serve any justice at all — hell with serving time, they won’t even be fired.

    Meanwhile, if Aiyana’s dad or grandmother had successfully killed one of the cops in defending her, they would be dead or on death row. Because you’re not allowed to defend yourself from cops.

    Why are the NRA dumbasses who think it’s a good idea for private citizens to own submachine guns not *also* all over these examples of blatant military force against civilian Americans? (Disclaimer: I do not think all NRA members are dumbasses, just the ones who think that it’s appropriate to let people buy any gun they want, whatsoever, with no common sense restrictions at all.) I strongly suspect it’s because most of the victims of this kind of police brutality and idiocy are black, but it has happened to white people too… why are they usually the first ones to defend cops who murder little girls, and the first to call for the death of guys who shoot cops who were beating their brothers? (In amidst all the furor over whether or not Mumia Abu-Jamal was innocent or guilty, which was the criteria being applied to whether or not he deserved the death penalty, even his supporters never pointed out that according to the prosecution’s charges against him, he shot a cop WHO WAS BEATING HIS BROTHER. Men get 5-10 with time off for good behavior for shooting girlfriends who were sleeping with other men; doesn’t shooting a stranger who’s beating your brother qualify as much more of a crime of passion, much more understandable and human, than shooting the person you love for any reason whatsoever?)

    The police system in this country is broken, and I tend to think what we need is two additional “policing” organizations: one that carries no weapons and seeks to mediate, in situations like mentally ill people climbing out on their own roofs, and one who get their funding, their glory and their promotions from nailing regular cops. Not “internal investigations” — totally external, but focused on the cops. The watchers of the watchmen. And it needs to be a federal crime for any authorized law enforcement officer, at any level of goverment, to kill an unarmed suspect or a person who is not a suspect at all, so that a federal-level cop investigation squad can swoop down and pull these guys out of their comfy home towns where they have beer with the judge’s son on Fridays and drag them into a venue where all anyone knows about them is they set a little girl on fire and then shot her.

  47. irene
    irene May 18, 2010 at 11:59 am |

    This is horrific, and what is more sickening (to me) is that as a resident of Southeast Michigan this little girl is not the first or last child to die via gun violence in her own home in Detroit this year. There have been children murdered in their sleep as drive-bys shot the building, and while there are the vile monsters on the news boards there will also be those people who sigh without registering shock and continue on, because in Detroit children being the target of violence is nothing out of the disgustingly ordinary.

  48. Hollie
    Hollie May 18, 2010 at 12:50 pm |

    This is by far one of the saddest things I’ve read.
    But throwing in “what words, when black citizens have to constantly fear systematic police brutality and violence, not only against themselves but also against their small children?”
    It could happen to anyone, any family. White, Asian, Black, Mexican. Don’t make it a race issue, it’s the poorly trained police issue.

  49. Mandolin
    Mandolin May 18, 2010 at 1:02 pm |

    Holly, don’t be a jerk. It’s a racial issue because while it “could” happen to anyone, it systemically happens to black people more often.

  50. Holy!
    Holy! May 18, 2010 at 1:38 pm |

    The majority of the DPD is black. Nearly all the top leadership of the force is black. Practically all of the city wide leadership is black.

  51. MertvayaRuka
    MertvayaRuka May 18, 2010 at 1:43 pm |

    Alara, the average right-wing NRA-types don’t get into a lather about this sort of thing because it’s happening to people they don’t like. I remember when Kathryn Johnston was shot they were falling all over themselves to defend the officers and paint her as some sort of hardened criminal. Until it came out that they not only botched the warrant but they let her lie handcuffed and bleeding to death in her living room while they decided how best to cover up what they’d done, ultimately deciding on planting drugs in her house. After that, all those discussion threads about those poor persecuted cops and the evil liberals and race-baiters out to get them just withered away. They simply don’t care until it’s some straight, christian white guy who gets their door kicked in. At that point, they’ll make a lot of noise about jackbooted thugs of law enforcement and socialist nazi liberals, maybe one or two of them will get busted trying to do something stupid and eventually the rest of them will go back to laughing at YouTube videos of protesters being beaten and pepper-sprayed. As far as they’re concerned all of us not-like-them people are just criminal parasites and while they’re not going to run out and start up American’s version of the SA (yet), neither will they shed a tear or raise a cry when law enforcement abuses us. Of course the big problem is, a pretty sizable chunk of law enforcement feels the same way about us. William is right, they don’t serve or protect, they enforce. They make sure lower-class crime doesn’t spill into upper-class neighborhoods, they target the poor while virtually ignoring the wealthy, they make sure that commerce isn’t disrupted by unruly people exercising free speech in a fashion that’s not patriotically correct and they ruthlessly punish anyone who dares to oppose or even disrespect them. If you’re so foolish as to actually use force against them for any reason, even your own defense or the defense of another, you’ll be lucky if you live to see the inside of a courtroom. They are the enforcers of the status quo and whatever good they do is secondary at best to that role.

  52. abbyjean
    abbyjean May 18, 2010 at 2:02 pm |

    and how many people of color need to be killed by police before we can see it as systemic? there’s still such strong presumptions that the police didn’t do anything wrong – both in the court system and the court of public opinion – that even in the modern era when these events can be videoed by cell phones (like oscar grant’s murder by police in oakland), which helps push back against the assumption that the police don’t do bad things and only kill people by ‘accident’, people still go straight to arguing that it’s an isolated incident, it’s not a race incident, it’s not indicative of systemic police discrimination against and harassment of people of color.

    i also find it disingenuous to raise the other people of color killed in detroit to minimize the importance of this event. effective policing requires the trust and cooperation of the community. these kinds of events, and the police department defending them, contribute to an atmosphere where people of color can’t and don’t trust the police to enforce their rights and keep them safe. i think it’s extremely likely that ongoing problem contributed to the other deaths in detroit.

  53. Sailorman
    Sailorman May 18, 2010 at 2:15 pm |

    This is horrible.

    What has happened is that the court cases addressing service of warrants and arrests have become so insanely lenient towards the police that they can almost do anything they want, and escape justice through a variety of creative (and post facto) justifications.

    These folks seem to have a good lawyer. Maybe they can put some justice back into the system. It won’t bring the girl back but it may deter other similar deaths.

  54. MertvayaRuka
    MertvayaRuka May 18, 2010 at 3:05 pm |

    abbyjean, people go straight to reflexively defending the cops because that’s what we’re practically programmed to do. Likely none of us grew up watching police use dogs, billy clubs and fire hoses to attack unarmed, unresisting marchers. We grew up surrounded by heroic, incorruptible portrayals of cops in television shows and movies. If there was such a thing as a “bad cop” they were always a horrific anomaly that the heroic cops dealt with quickly. More often than not it was the standard “tough cop breaking the rules for a good reason because the police are being prevented from doing their jobs by liberal hippie bleeding heart commies” narrative. We still see that today; cops in movies and television regularly beat suspects, plant evidence, perjure themselves in court and it’s almost always portrayed as being right for them to do with very few exceptions. This country’s been steeping in cop-worship for decades; it’s really not that surprising that people will knee-jerk defend them no matter the circumstance.

  55. Dorian
    Dorian May 18, 2010 at 3:36 pm |

    @Mertvaya It may not be surprising that that’s the knee-jerk response, certainly. But since when is that a good enough reason to just accept it as okay?

    If anything, my reaction is to say “alright, there’s a huge cultural push for us not to hold the police accountable. How do we counteract that? How do we push back?”

    @Thread-in-General: I have some friends who have suffered abuse at the hands of the police, though nothing as horrific as this. It was because they belonged to a marginalized population–it very much could *not* have happened to anyone, and I think it’s important to acknowledge that and look at the way the system encourages further harm to people belonging to oppressed groups.

  56. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan May 18, 2010 at 4:28 pm |

    Another terribly sad thing is that the suspect they were looking for was wanted in connection to the shooting death of a 17-year-old.

    Oh, fantastic. I know that what I always look for in my law enforcement personnel is for them to say “17? Shit, I’ll see you murdering-a-teenager and raise you a decade younger.” >.<

    In other news, WHAT THE FUCK POLICE. It's pretty fucking hard to mistake a sleeping 7-year-old for anything remotely dangerous. Here’s a hint; don’t randomly fire lethal weapons at motionless children. Not a lot of wiggle room on that one.

  57. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan May 18, 2010 at 4:42 pm |

    It was because they belonged to a marginalized population–it very much could *not* have happened to anyone

    Absolutely. And even for things that do occasionally happen to privileged people, part of the privilege is that they really don’t have to worry about it on a daily basis. I’m white, I’ve never been hassled by a cop, and I don’t get that little frisson of fear every time I see a cop. Because I have white privilege. In contrast I’m a woman, I have never been raped, but I do think twice about being alone with strangers/walking at night/taking public transportation certain times/etc. because I don’t have the male privilege that allows my guy friends to blithely go out as they like without being warned by everyone they run across that they could get OMG raped! It’s just not on their minds like it’s on mine. And cops aren’t on most white people’s minds.

    Little white girls will continue sleeping on couches and their white parents will continue to not worry about it. And probably those white parents are absolutely right; their kid is probably not going to be shot by a cop. But now the brown parents of little brown kids are going to have another reminder every time they look at the fucking couch that their kid could get killed by the people who pretend to protect them. And maybe their kids are going to survive to adulthood just like that white kid. But that little bit of pain from looking at a couch is going on the pile with everything else that the white parents never have to deal with because they are privileged in that way.

  58. thetroubleis
    thetroubleis May 18, 2010 at 5:20 pm |

    I’ve been shaking with rage over this for the past few days.

    I just can’t even articulate anything that puts my feels about this down.

  59. Charity
    Charity May 18, 2010 at 7:38 pm |

    Just wanted to chime in to say, while I also have no words to express my horror at this brutality, I thought Alara’s idea of the two additional police forces was excellent.

  60. William
    William May 18, 2010 at 7:53 pm |

    Why are the NRA dumbasses who think it’s a good idea for private citizens to own submachine guns not *also* all over these examples of blatant military force against civilian Americans? (Disclaimer: I do not think all NRA members are dumbasses, just the ones who think that it’s appropriate to let people buy any gun they want, whatsoever, with no common sense restrictions at all.)

    Well, I’m one of those dumbasses, I suppose (more SAF than NRA, but close enough) and I can say that a lot of people in that community are all over these kinds of cases. Balko was on this story better than a day before anyone else was really running with it and has spent the last five years of his life specializing in documenting the increasing militarization of police in the US. Its also worth noting that a lot of us have been talking about these kinds of problems since Waco and Ruby Ridge and that not a few of us ended up as stridently pro-gun because of this kind of government behavior. Huey Newton didn’t start carrying a rifle because he was afraid the Klan would roll into Oakland, after all…

    But hey, if you want to call me an asshole even when I agree with you because you’re pissed that a bunch of police set a little girl on fire and shot her in her own home, go for it.

    The police system in this country is broken, and I tend to think what we need is two additional “policing” organizations: one that carries no weapons and seeks to mediate, in situations like mentally ill people climbing out on their own roofs, and one who get their funding, their glory and their promotions from nailing regular cops. Not “internal investigations” — totally external, but focused on the cops.

    Completely, utterly, unequivocally agreed.

  61. MertvayaRuka
    MertvayaRuka May 18, 2010 at 10:46 pm |

    Dorian, trust me, I’m definitely not saying “oh well, it is what it is”. Education, getting these stories out in the public eye and making sure they stay there and they don’t end up as a retraction printed under the sporting goods section of the classifieds, encouraging people to carry and use cell phone cameras if they are able to, every little bit helps. The cops sure as hell aren’t going to hold themselves accountable and even though they have recording devices of their own, those have been known to mysteriously malfunction when they’re not trying to get clear footage of people they think are leading protests.

    Its also worth noting that a lot of us have been talking about these kinds of problems since Waco and Ruby Ridge and that not a few of us ended up as stridently pro-gun because of this kind of government behavior. (forgive me if I screwed up the tags there)

    William, you must have had much better people around you. I came at this from the opposite end, having been a right-wing gun enthusiast for many years but starting to drift leftward before Waco and Ruby Ridge. Before then, when stuff like this would happen, I don’t honestly recall anything but either thundering silence, victim-blaming, applause or vile commentary of the “good, (insert number here) less of them drawing welfare on my dime and popping out kids” variety. I never saw the people around me express anything even approaching concern or sympathy. Naturally, that was one of the big things that caused me to drift leftwards.

  62. William
    William May 19, 2010 at 2:13 am |

    I never saw the people around me express anything even approaching concern or sympathy. Naturally, that was one of the big things that caused me to drift leftwards.

    I’m sure a big part of it is the kinds of people I tend to be around and the kinds of blogs I follow. But you’re absolutely right, there are a lot of really bad people in the movement, enough that I don’t really consider myself a part of it anymore (although that has more to do with the Christianists invading anything right of center than anything else). I’ve heard my fair share of those kinds of comments and that tends to be the end of my involvement with someone. That said, there are genuinely good people who are very concerned with the implications our broken system of law enforcement has on liberty. Theres obviously a long way to go (and a lot of people who have no interest in moving from where they are), but I think that some on the left have a tendency to see anyone who doesn’t self-identify as a progressive as The Enemy (and the same is true of some people on the right). What that leads to are the good people on both sides doing the same work without comparing notes or being able to pool activism. It leads to stories like this spreading more slowly, reaching fewer readers, pissing off less people. It leads to silence.

    I’m sure that there isn’t a lot of overlap between Feministe readers and the kinds of libertarians who follow criminal justice. But in a case like this, when a little girl was set on fire and shot to death by police who were mugging for a camera and didn’t bother being careful because they were in a poor area and they know that most people really don’t care what happens to brown people, I would hope that people could put their baggage aside and try to work together to stop another horror like this from happening. We can argue about the rest later, but I just don’t see the percentage in alienating one another when children are being murdered in their beds.

    And maybe, if we’re very lucky, the two sides might learn something from one another and we might see something (or many somethings) new and interesting and vibrant and better equipped to respond to the unconscionable experiences we’re all forced to endure in varying degrees.

  63. Emeryn
    Emeryn May 19, 2010 at 11:02 am |

    ….Oh Em Gee.

    I’ve been immersed in work as of late, so I am just now seeing this story for the first time.

    I also just threw up.

    This is DISGUSTING. I feel so bad for that family.

    It makes me even sicker when I think “How could something like this happen?!?” and then I read the comments on news sites and see people defending the actions of the police.

  64. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe May 19, 2010 at 4:58 pm |

    Did these homicidal screwups even find the person they were looking for? Was he even in the house? Good God almighty.

  65. Chris
    Chris May 19, 2010 at 5:47 pm |

    We need to be absolutely positively CLEAR on this issue. Police tactics and Military tactics are completely different. The Military has time and time again stressed that their methods have been statistically proven to be superior and that they often mock the tactics used by civilian officers. If the military was in charge of this situation 1) this house would have never been raided and 2) even if it was that little girl would be alive today due to proper survellience techniques. The Military boats close to zero causalities when it comes to civilian raids and when they happen they take it hard. Now we certainly think they happen a lot with the Military since the news is all over their mistakes, but don’t listen to the news, listen to FACTS. Civilian authorities are reckless when it comes to things like this and it’s not surprise this girl is dead due to negligence. Calling this a militaristic maneuver is an insult to the military who would have saved this girl’s life.

  66. William
    William May 19, 2010 at 6:21 pm |

    Did these homicidal screwups even find the person they were looking for? Was he even in the house? Good God almighty.

    Does it matter? I’m not trying to be flip, but would it make much of a difference at all if they got the guy or not? A 7 year old girl was set on fire and shot in the throat because police were showing off for the cameras and her grandmother was arrested to cover up the police’s behaviors. They could have pulled Bin Laden out of the basement and I don’t think it would mitigate the horror of this story one bit.

    Also, its worth noting in all of this that the guy they were after wasn’t an escaped prisoner but a murder suspect. A black murder suspect in a poor area of Detroit being hunted by a police department with a very long (and very recent) history of police misconduct. Maybe he did it, maybe he didn’t, but if the police can fuck up an arrest this badly one has to wonder how good a job they did on the initial investigation. They did all of this to catch a guy who might have committed a crime.

  67. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe May 19, 2010 at 6:24 pm |

    Cara–Thanks, I missed that in the comments, and it wasn’t in the news story you linked to.

    I suppose it’s expecting too much of sworn police officers with drawn weapons to look at a house number (or get it right on the warrant, if they even had one).

    I respect cops as a whole, I really do, but people who think there isn’t chronic racism among white cops are kidding themselves. I remember when I was a young reporter, a police department I was covering used shooting-range targets of silhouettes of a running man with an outlandish Afro, over the words “Running N*gger Target.”

    I was shocked but never considered writing about it, in part because the police can be a big help in covering the community (or a big hindrance, if they decide they don’t like you). Looking back, not an outstanding career moment.

  68. William
    William May 19, 2010 at 6:50 pm |

    Generally, when an officer kills someone on duty, the department fights like hell to keep their name a secret. Seems they’ve had trouble managing that, given that some of the papers in Detroit are getting aggressive and the guy was on TV. The killer’s name is Joseph Weekley and apparently he’s pointed weapons at children in raids before…

  69. S.L
    S.L May 19, 2010 at 7:42 pm |

    Yeah, so the guy they were looking for was a suspect. As in, innocent until proven otherwise. Right?
    That part didn’t register at first, because all I could think about was Aiyana and her family. But then I thought about it and I was like “wait…murder suspect grenades WTF??!!

    Um, is a flash grenade designed to start a fire wherever it lands? To create a smoke signal distraction? What?

  70. anonymous
    anonymous May 20, 2010 at 4:18 am |

    If they used ‘military tactics’ that child would be alive

    “Generally, our troops, including the special ops guys, use what we call “cordon and knock”: they set up a perimeter around the target location to keep people from moving in or out,and then announce their presence and give the target an opportunity to surrender. In the majority of cases, even if the perimeter is established at night, the call out or knock on the gate doesn’t happen until after the sun comes up.

    Oh, and all of the bad guys we’re going after are closely tied to killing and maiming people.

    What might be amazing to American cops is that the vast majority of our targets surrender when called out.

    I don’t have a clear picture of the resources available to most police departments, but even so, I don’t see any reason why they can’t use similar methods.”

    http://www.theagitator.com/2010/05/14/more-militarized-than-the-military/

  71. Sailorman
    Sailorman May 20, 2010 at 7:55 am |

    Um, is a flash grenade designed to start a fire wherever it lands? To create a smoke signal distraction? What?

    Flashbang grenades create a very bright and blinding light (flash) and a loud deafening noise (bang) and are designed to daze and disorient people for a short time, making them theoretically less likely to resist or be able to fight effectively. It’s a combination of “looking right at the biggest camera flash ever” and “having a cannon go off next to your head.”

    Unlike most grenades flashbangs are not specifically designed for the purposes of killing people (most of their power goes into flash and bang, and they aren’t supposed to make lethal shrapnel.) But they’re still explosive and if they land on or too close to you then they can really hurt or kill you.

    They’re controversial because while they are supposed to be “non lethal,” in practice they can be used in a lot of very dangerous ways, and can injure or kill people. And also, like Tasers, the “non-lethal” designation leads to their overuse. Officers feel free to toss a flashbang into a house because they focus on “nonlethal” and not on “dude, it’s a fucking EXPLOSIVE GRENADE.”

    Also, what you’re seeing is the expansion of military tactics. Because if your job was just to protect yourself and you weren’t concerned about the inhabitants of the house, you would actually want to toss a flashbang into every home where you were breaking down a door.

    Militaries do that, because there’s no question that they value their soldiers’ lives higher than the civilians of another country.

    But this is the U.S.A., and we’re not supposed to be making that call, which is what makes it even worse.

  72. Tracey
    Tracey May 20, 2010 at 8:17 am |

    S.L.,
    From my knowledge (limited) they are meant to cause sensory disorientation through the bright flash which temporarly blinds (something to do with sensory overload in the eyes, the eyes take in too much light) and the loud noise which may cause a ringing in the ears and be a sudden surprise. So you hear a loud noise, may get a decrease in hearing and are blinded for a couple of seconds while armed people bust into your living room.
    They can, and have in the past, caused fires though. They aren’t necessarily meant to cause fires but they do contain flammable elements, and as I said, have defiantly started fires in the past.

  73. Sasha
    Sasha May 20, 2010 at 3:57 pm |

    After hearing about what happend to this little girl, all I could do is cry! Put to death by the hands that vowes to protect her.
    The thing is I myself have a seven year old and I can’t imagine the pain her family is going through but I can say that kissing my sons face, hearing his laugh, watching him grow, waiting for him to get off the bus everyday after school, and so much more of all the precious moments God allows me to have with him being his parent and then in the matter of minutes no longer ever again being able to do any of those things, would have to be a pain so deep that if I felt an once of what her parents now feel, I would problably die!
    So to the Detroit Police, go ahead and cover the ass of the officer (like you do in so many other cases such as this) who took Aiyana’s life cause I know that you guy’s have your code of honor.
    I understand that the excitement of being on camera played a part in the error of the operation, well now you’ll have the media cameras in your face so that you may tell the citizens and most importantly her family of how your 5minutes of fame gave them a lifetime of pain! Then go home and sleep well………..

  74. Sasha
    Sasha May 20, 2010 at 4:06 pm |

    To Aiyana:

    Rest Precious Angel your in God’s hands now, where no man can ever do you harm!

    To The Jones Family:

    My prayers are with you at this time you so desperatley need it and I will have you in my thoughts always.

  75. Vance
    Vance May 20, 2010 at 5:46 pm |

    I am a police officer myself and this case is a tragedy. This did not have to happen, and even though this is NOT the whole story, it sounds like some poor planning on the Detroit Police Department.

  76. William
    William May 20, 2010 at 10:46 pm |

    Flashbang grenades tend to be filled with a mixture of magnesium and ammonium nitrate. They’re basically an aluminum tube with holes cut in it to keep the things from exploding. Ammonium nitrate is half of the mixture used to make the bomb that brought down the Federal building in Oklahoma, its a powerful explosive that creates the loud bang in a flashbang grenade. Magnesium creates the “flash” by burning at up to 3,100 °C. Non-lethal my ass.

  77. M Scott
    M Scott May 21, 2010 at 9:46 am |

    The only line I did not like is “an officer’s gun went off.”

    Guns do not “go off” by themselves. Someone has to pull the trigger. At best, this officer’s NEGLIGENCE killed that little girl.

  78. Khenke
    Khenke May 21, 2010 at 1:50 pm |

    USA.
    The land of the free. The land full of patriots. The land of hatred. The land of violence. Thank God I don’t live there.

  79. William
    William May 21, 2010 at 6:57 pm |

    This did not have to happen, and even though this is NOT the whole story, it sounds like some poor planning on the Detroit Police Department.

    A little girl was set on fire and then shot from outside of the building. Did the cop mean to kill the child? No, probably not, but whatever his side of the story might be is irrelevant. The Detroit Police Department already has a terrible record when it comes to use of force, officer Joseph Weekley (and you can be damned sure I will refer to him by name now that the police department has lost the ability to obfuscate his identity) himself has a history of aiming guns at people he shouldn’t, and the department not only initially lied about what happened but arrested an innocent woman in order to support their version of events. I can’t imagine that the whole story is going to do much to put them in a better light.

    But really, lets cut down to the meat of this story, shall we. The raid wasn’t poorly planned and Joseph Weekley didn’t make a minor mistake. This raid, as bad as it was, was business as usual when it comes to dynamic entry warrant services in this country. It isn’t new, it isn’t special, its SOP. This is what happens when police behave in an increasingly aggressive manner and when you use SWAT teams to serve routine warrants. When you SOP is “show up when everyone is asleep, toss in a flashbang, kick in the door in ski masks, shoot any dogs not in crates, put everyone face down at gun point (physically, if necessary), shoot anyone who seems like a threat, and then sort it all out once there is absolutely no risk to yourself” you’re going to have what the Armed Forces like to euphemistically call “collateral damage.”

    Then we get to the matter of the “accidental discharge.” Modern firearms in good repair don’t accidentally discharge, which leaves only a few scenarios.

    1) Officer Joseph Weekley enjoys casually executing children (we can probably all agree that this is likely not the case).
    2) Officer Joseph Weekley was so poorly trained, despite several years with the special response team, that he was startled by the burning child and deliberately fired at her in a moment of criminally poor judgment.
    3) Officer Joseph Weekley was so poorly trained, despite several years with the special response team, that he was startled by the burning child and accidentally fired at her as a result of an involuntary twitch.

    Scenario 1 can be disregarded because it is the stuff of pulp novels. Scenario 2 displays such a severe lack of judgment and training that everyone involved begins to appear criminally negligent. Scenario 3 requires that officer Weekley had his finger on the trigger rather than along the trigger guard, thus violating one of the most basic rules of safe firearm usage. The fact that he was in the field doesn’t change that, the rules exist specifically to prevent these kinds of unwilled discharges.

  80. Kevin
    Kevin May 23, 2010 at 1:33 am |

    Detroit cops are unprofessional scumbags.

  81. Radfem
    Radfem May 24, 2010 at 6:47 pm |

    We need to be absolutely positively CLEAR on this issue. Police tactics and Military tactics are completely different. The Military has time and time again stressed that their methods have been statistically proven to be superior and that they often mock the tactics used by civilian officers. If the military was in charge of this situation 1) this house would have never been raided and 2) even if it was that little girl would be alive today due to proper survellience techniques. The Military boats close to zero causalities when it comes to civilian raids and when they happen they take it hard. Now we certainly think they happen a lot with the Military since the news is all over their mistakes, but don’t listen to the news, listen to FACTS. Civilian authorities are reckless when it comes to things like this and it’s not surprise this girl is dead due to negligence. Calling this a militaristic maneuver is an insult to the military who would have saved this girl’s life.

    —————————————-

    When you talk about “casualties”, do you mean military personnel or civilians? Because civilians have been killed in raids with tactics very similar to those by civilian police forces (which employ many veterans from the military as military reserves include active police personnel). An officer in my city went on trial in federal court on war-crimes related manslaughter charges, but was acquitted. He did get caught on tape boasting in a phone call about beating the shit out of people and coming up with a reason to take them to jail after the fact. He tried to get his job back but was undone in background by a TRO filed by his wife.

    Interesting to think how seemingly isolated incidents in a person’s career can link together to create a disturbing pattern.

    Flash grenades can cause fires particularly in older, wooden homes. Sometimes they eject tiny rubber mini-bullets too. Police guns are designed to inhibit accidental discharges in different ways particularly SWAT weapons. And there’s been many documented problems with no-knock raids and tactics used. Incremental changes in some places but generally, business as usual.

    Detroit Police Department is predominantly run and manned by Black police officers. Not sure what that has to do with anything other than that officers in this racial group can adopt the “us versus them” way of thinking just as easily as officers of other racial groups. Avoiding that is a very individualized thing, not a general racial thing with officers though Black officers in particular have formed groups protesting against “police brutality” or “100 officers against…” are some names.

    SWAT teams train all the time, during their work hours unless they are collateral assignments. Hours and hours worth, and hours of debriefing after every operation. They don’t usually interact with communities in that assignment otherwise. Incident wise, less than patrol or special investigative units (which in New York with Diallo, Bell, etc. have been involved with shootings as well as Kathryn Johnston in Atlanta). Their weapons as stated earlier are supposed to have a lower risk of accidental firings. That’s what makes me wonder if it was a discharge. And having the SWAT team embed or whatever with a film team, completely inappropriate for obvious reasons.

    I think that there were plenty of other tactics used to arrest this individual rather than storm his family’s house. Those tactics have been used in other cases, not endangering families or children. But there’s less care taken in non-white neighborhoods.

    yes, there’s murders of children not by police but how does that situation improve by this action that killed a child? Does it foster good feelings towards police and community to the point where families will turn their own kids in for murders or tell on each other when they know who shot who in whose yard, car or living room and yes, bedrooms? Somehow I don’t think so.

Comments are closed.