JUST AFTER MIDNIGHT on the morning of May 16 neighbors say the streetlights were out on Lillibridge Street. It’s Detroit, where whole blocks regularly go dark with no warning or any apparent pattern.
Inside the lower unit of a duplex halfway down the block seven-year-old, Aiyana Stanley-Jones slept on the couch as her grandmother watched television. Her father Charles Jones, 25, was pacing, unable to sleep.
Outside, a half-dozen masked officers of the Special Response Team—Detroit’s version of SWAT—were at the door, guns drawn. With them was an A&E crew filming an episode of The First 48, a true-crime program based around homicide detectives having 48 hours to crack a murder case before the trail goes cold.
Thirty-four hours earlier, Je’Rean Blake Nobles (age 17) had been shot outside a liquor store on nearby Mack Avenue. An informant had ID’d a man named Chauncey Owens as the shooter and provided this house as Owen’s address.
The SWAT team threw a flash-bang grenade through the window of the lower unit and kicked open its wooden door, which was also unlocked. Officer Joseph Weekley, the lead commando—who’d been featured before on another A&E show, Detroit SWAT—burst into the house. He fired a single shot, striking Aiyana in the head and exiting her neck. It all happened in a matter of seconds.
First Police tried to say that Aiyana’s grandmother had grabbed Weekley’s gun. Then they said she’d brushed the gun as she ran past the door.
Police arrested Mertilla Jones, administered tests for drugs and gunpowder, and released her Sunday morning.
At Weekley’s retrial in 2014, it was disclosed that Mertilla’s fingerprints were not found on Weekley’s gun.
The suspect, Chauncey Owens, lived in the upstairs flat, with Charles Jones’ sister. They had invaded the wrong apartment.
A high ranking Detroit official that spoke on the condition of anonymity due to the outcry said: “I’m worried they went Hollywood. It is not protocol. And I’ve got to say in all my years in the department, I’ve never used a flash-bang in a case like this.”
He went on to say that the SWAT team was not briefed about the presence of children in the house, even though the neighborhood informant, who led homicide detectives there, told them that children lived there. There were even toys on the lawn.
In the witness box in September, Mertilla Jones said: “I’m laying there screaming, asking someone to help my granddaughter because he shot her in the head. And he wouldn’t even help her. They turned on the lights and saw that she had been shot.”
When Ezekiel Edwards, the director of the ACLU’s criminal law reform project was asked about Swat and the militarization of the police:
“The problem (once the police start amassing these kinds of weapons and tools and absorb a certain mentality) is it just increases the probability that they are going to deploy it even when not warranted,” Edwards replied with: “If you’re a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail.”
Je’Rean Blake Nobles: was a father of 1 1/2-year-old daughter, Zyonna Cray. He was a member of JROTC, and on his way to the military recruitment office after senior prom and commencement. But Je’Rean never went to prom, because he became a horrifying statistic—one of 103 kids and teens murdered between January 2009 and July 2010.
Je’Rean’s crime? He looked at Chauncey Owens the wrong way, detectives say.
Chauncey Owens, a habitual criminal, was arrested upstairs only minutes after Aiyana’s shooting and charged for the slaying of Je’Rean.
He was charged with and found guilty of Je’Rean’s murder
October 2011, Officer Weekley was charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment with a gun
June 2013: Weekley’s first trial ended in a mistrial.
September 2014 his retrial began in.
October 3 2014, the judge dismissed the involuntary manslaughter charge against Weekley, leaving him on trial for only one charge: recklessly discharging a firearm.
October 10, the second trial ended in another mistrial.
January 28, 2015, a prosecutor cleared Weekley of the last remaining charge against him, ensuring there would not be a third trial.
April 2, 2015, Officer Weekley was returned to active duty as a Detroit police officer. Weekley was transferred to the Criminal Investigations Bureau.
Police Chief James Craig stated, “He’ll be in a limited duty capacity. He won’t be in the field.
Allison Howard, a videographer and photographer with A&E who was also present at the raid, was indicted on obstruction of justice and perjury for allegedly “copying, showing or giving video footage that she shot of the raid to third parties”.
Federal prosecutors say that Howard had provided false testimony to investigators about the shooting, and that Weekley’s action were reckless, and she lied to the police in an effort to blame Jones’ family for Aiyanas’ death.
In June 2013, Howard pleaded “no contest” to the obstruction of justice charge, and the perjury charge was dismissed. Allison Howard was sentenced to two years of probation in July 2013, and fined $2,000.
In April 2019, Aiyana’s family settled a lawsuit against the City of Detroit for $8.5 million.
July 26, 2019: Charles Damon Jones, Aiyana’s father had given Owens the gun used to kill Je’Rean and was sentenced Friday to 10-20 years in prison for his role.
This first link details the life of POC living in Detroit and how no one seems to care. It is eyeopening and tragic.
This link details how the police have been militarized.