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Posted: May 19, 2010

NEW DETAILS FROM POLICE SOURCES

Detroit police outline final moments of Aiyana's life

BY JIM SCHAEFER
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

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.

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This account of the police raid and fatal shooting of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones Sunday morning comes from information provided to the Free Press from Detroit police sources. It's a snapshot of the police version of what went down at 4054 Lillibridge -- key portions of which are sharply disputed by the girl's family.

The sources are not named because of the sensitivity of the ongoing probe into the girl's killing.

Southfield attorney Geoffrey Fieger on Tuesday announced the filing of two lawsuits in state and federal courts that allege a conspiracy to cover up the truth.

Investigation starts humming

By dinnertime last Saturday, the Detroit police investigation into a bold homicide from a day earlier was starting to hum. About 3 p.m. Friday, someone had shot and killed a young man, 17, outside a party store on the east side. Homicide detectives had a name and an address of a suspect, plus a description of the getaway vehicle.

But homicide needed a hand in finding the suspect.

Inspector Donald Johnson rounded up the Special Response Team, Detroit's version of SWAT, a highly specialized group of officers who are trained to handle high-pressure cases like barricaded gunmen, hostage situations and, sometimes, homicide arrests.

The SRT was called in to help homicide pursue the 34-year-old suspect. A crew from the Arts & Entertainment cable channel, which often has followed Detroit's SRT for reality programs, would tag along, cameras rolling.

Members of the SRT's surveillance team first checked a home near the south side of the Coleman A. Young International Airport, formerly City Airport. They were looking for the suspect's 1999 silver Chevy Tahoe. But about 7 p.m., there was no sign of it there. The cops soon heard, though, they should be looking for another vehicle: an older Dodge sedan.

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. Sure enough, both vehicles were there, parked near the duplex.

They also noticed several men milling about the streets. One officer saw someone he said he believed to be the suspect. That man went inside the duplex. This information, relayed back to homicide and supervisors, led police to ask a judge to sign a search warrant, which would authorize a raid on the Lillibridge home.

By about 10:30 p.m. Saturday, roughly the time cops sought and found a judge, a routine announcement went out to all marked police cars in the area: Don't go into the neighborhood near Lillibridge.

It was the type of warning police relay when other cops are about to make a raid. It helps prevent plainclothes and uniformed officers from clashing unwittingly.

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.

Sources said the raid team was told there was information that the suspect might be armed, possibly with an assault rifle and a handgun. Someone said there also might be dangerous dogs and that the house was believed to be a possible dope den, according to the sources. (Fieger said it wasn't, saying it was a family home for four children.)

According to the sources, 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.)

By 12:40 a.m., the team of officers converged on the house. The department's armored vehicle rolled up the street.

The officers said they announced their presence and knocked on the door to the lower flat. One team hit the door of that apartment, and another team headed through another door to the upstairs apartment.

At some point, and the timing varies slightly among officers, the police fired a flash-bang grenade -- also known as a stun grenade -- through the front window, just above where Aiyana slept with her grandmother Mertilla Jones in the first-floor front room.

Fieger, the family's lawyer, said the girl was burned by the grenade. Autopsy results have not yet been released.

What happened next is the event most disputed by Aiyana's family and Fieger.

According to police sources, Weekley was first through the door. Carrying a protective shield, he encountered resistance and pushed to get inside. Jones tried to grab his gun, which fired. The girl was hit.

Jones, who was held overnight and released, said she grabbed for her granddaughter when the grenade came through the window, not for police. She said she made no contact with any officer.

Fieger says police fired the shot from outside the home, striking the girl, possibly through the open front door.

Whatever happened, in moments, it was over.

After officers secured the lower flat, after other police cornered the murder suspect upstairs and he surrendered without incident, after Weekley approached his sergeant and reported what went down, Aiyana was in a police car, speeding toward St. John Hospital.

One officer drove. Another who carried her out to the car got on the radio with police dispatch. A third sat with Aiyana and tried to help her.

But doctors couldn't save her.

Contact JIM SCHAEFER: 313-223-4542 or jschaefer@freepress.com

Geoffrey Fieger alleges police cover up in Detroit girl's death (06:29)
Attorney Geoffrey Fieger held a news conference with the family of Aiyana Stanley-Jones. He alleges police are covering up how the 7-year-old was killed. Fieger said Aiyana was burned by a flash-bang grenade before being shot and killed by police.
http://www.freep.com/section/VideoNetwork?bctid=86375062001 http://www.freep.com/section/VideoNetwork?bctid=86375062001 http://bcdownload.gannett.edgesuite.net/detroitfreep/35547428001/35547428001_86381069001_ari-origin07-arc-152-1274209684486.jpg?pubId=35547428001 Geoffrey Fieger alleges police cover up in Detroit girl's death Attorney Geoffrey Fieger held a news conference with the family of Aiyana Stanley-Jones. He alleges police are covering up how the 7-year-old was killed. Fieger said Aiyana was burned by a flash-bang grenade before being shot and killed by police. 2980 frontpagefront pageaiyana jonesdetroit policefrontfeaturedNewsexpressdetroitDFP 06:29
Aiyana Stanley-Jones' grandmother Mertilla Jones, left, reacts with Aiyana's aunt Krystal Sanders as attorney Geoffrey Fieger announces state and federal lawsuits in the girl's death. Jones said she grabbed for her granddaughter, not police.   (MANDI WRIGHT/Detroit Free Press)

Aiyana Stanley-Jones' grandmother Mertilla Jones, left, reacts with Aiyana's aunt Krystal Sanders as attorney Geoffrey Fieger announces state and federal lawsuits in the girl's death. Jones said she grabbed for her granddaughter, not police. (MANDI WRIGHT/Detroit Free Press)

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A version of this story appears on page 1A of the Wednesday, May 19, 2010, print edition of the Detroit Free Press.

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