Detroit mayor says violent May shows some have given up hope, but the problem must be solved
BIRMINGHAM, Mich. – BIRMINGHAM, Mich. (AP) — Detroit Mayor Dave Bing said Thursday the city has no answer to the recent spike in violence that has left at least 12 people dead, including a patrolman, two teenage boys, a grandmother, the adult son of another police officer, and a 7-year-old girl.
"It's very demoralizing, very painful ... don't know how to stop it, quite frankly," Bing told a group of area business and elected leaders Thursday during an annual political forum in the suburban community of Birmingham.
Tension after a Detroit police officer accidentally shot second-grader Aiyana Stanley-Jones during a raid early Sunday morning continues to hang over the city.
Police have said the officer's gun discharged inside the house after he was jostled by, or collided with, the girl's grandmother.
An attorney for the family has filed two lawsuits in the case and claims the shot was fired from outside on the porch.
Both Bing and Police Chief Warren Evans have apologized to the girl's family, and the Michigan State Police have launched an investigation into her death.
Democratic U.S. Rep. John Conyers on Wednesday asked Attorney General Eric Holder to have the Justice Department look into the case and evaluate similar police raids, nationally. On Thursday, U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade in Detroit said in a statement the Justice Department is monitoring the state investigation.
Bing said he believed blame was being laid in the wrong place.
"Too many people are pointing to the police department," he said Thursday. "I don't think they are the problem. They have to be the solution."
Detroit had 379 homicides in 2009, and 375 the year before.
So far in 2010, the numbers are down. There were 60 homicides through the end of March, compared to 80 over the same period last year.
But the numbers have recently spiked.
A 29-year-old man was shot to death inside a gas station early Thursday morning by a masked assailant. A police spokeswoman said he was the son of a police officer and investigators were looking into why he was killed.
Between the May 3 shooting death of officer Brian Huff while investigating a "shots fired" complaint in a vacant house through Tuesday, the Wayne County medical examiner's office had recorded at least 12 homicides, including the death of Stanley-Jones.
A 15-year-old boy was shot to death on a friend's porch. Police have said he may not have been the intended victim. A 65-year-grandmother was shot and killed when a bullet aimed at a suspected carjacker went awry and blasted into her home.
Je'rean Blake, 17, was slain Friday outside a convenience store, apparently after looking at 34-year-old Chauncey Owens the "wrong way," according to prosecutors.
It was the search for Owens in that slaying that led the Detroit police Special Response Team to the house on Lillibridge where Aiyana was killed.
Owens, who is engaged to be married to Aiyana's aunt, was arrested in an upstairs flat after her shooting. He was arraigned Thursday on a charge of first-degree murder in Blake's death and ordered held without bond pending a June 1 preliminary examination.
Prosecutors and police said they didn't know whether Owens had a lawyer.
"You've got individuals all over the city that are frustrated, that are angry, that have given up hope, and we've got a culture where it's like it's OK to do whatever you want to do, and it's not, and we've got to change that and that's not going to happen overnight," Bing said.
Conyers' call for federal intervention may be an "overreaction," Bing added.
"I want to make sure that I give all the support that I can to our police department to do the things that they need to. I'd rather keep it local."
Already undermanned, Detroit police also are facing about $6.5 million in budget cuts proposed by the City Council. Officials are trying to reduce a deficit of more than $300 million.
"Cuts of this magnitude certainly would have a negative impact on our response times to citizens' 911 calls," Police Chief Evans said in a statement. "The loss of this funding would send us in the opposite direction of where we need to be going."