Aiyana Jones case, attorney says Video shows police fired into Detroit home
By Corey Williams and Ed White The Associated Press May 18, 2010
DETROIT -- Police who carried out a raid on a family home that left a
7-year-old girl dead over the weekend were accompanied by a camera crew for
a reality television show, and an attorney says video of the siege
contradicts the police account of what happened. Geoffrey Fieger, an
attorney for the family of young Aiyana Jones, said he has seen three or
four minutes of video of the raid, although he declined to say whether it
was shot by the crew for the A&E series "The First 48," which has been
shadowing Detroit homicide detectives for months.
Police have said officers threw a flash grenade through the first-floor
window of the two-family home, and that an officer's gun discharged, killing
the girl, during a struggle or after colliding with the girl's grandmother
inside the home. But Fieger said the video shows an officer lobbing the
grenade and then shooting into the home from the porch. "There is no
question about what happened because it's in the videotape," Fieger said.
"It's not an accident. It's not a mistake. There was no altercation."
"Aiyana Jones was shot from outside on the porch. The videotape shows
clearly the officer throwing through the window a stun grenade-type
explosive and then within milliseconds of throwing that, firing a shot from
outside the home," he said.
A&E spokesman Dan Silberman said neither he nor anyone else from the network
would comment about the case, and he denied a request by The Associated
Press for the footage. Detroit police were trying to obtain the film crew's
footage, Assistant Chief Ralph Godbee said Monday. Fieger said the
investigation into what happened during the raid "needed to go no further
than the videotape." "The videotape shows clearly that the assistant police
chief and the officers on the scene are engaging in an intentional cover up
of the events," Fieger said. He said more than one camera was recording at
the scene, and that the footage includes sound.
Police arrested the target of the raid, a 34-year-old man suspected of
killing a 17-year-old boy, in the upstairs unit in the two-family home.
Police had warrants to search both properties, and family members of the
slain girl were seen going in and out of both on Monday. The suspect has not
been charged, and it was not immediately clear what relationship he had to
the slain girl. The case has been handed over to the Michigan State Police
to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, Wayne County Prosecutor
Kym Worthy said Monday. Some, including the slain girl's family and others,
have questioned what effect the cameras may have had on the tactics used
during raid on the home, which had toys strewn about the front lawn on
The police department is understaffed, and officers have said they feel
vulnerable - especially after one patrolman was killed and four others were
wounded during a gunfight with a suspect in a vacant home earlier this
month. Two prominent criminal defense attorneys said they were unaware of
past instances when Detroit police used flash grenades in raids when
children were possibly present. "That's a new one," said Detroit lawyer
Corbett Edge O'Meara. "That does seem to be a pretty extreme measure. It
doesn't surprise me that the police had no concern whether they were
endangering the lives of children when they made this raid." Attorney Marvin
Barnett was more blunt: "I've never heard that before in my entire career,
that you've thrown a flash bomb in a house unless you've got an armed
suspect and you know there is nobody else in the house." "I'd like to know
who gave the order to do that," Barnett said.
Godbee said the department was confident the film crew's presence had no
effect on how the raid was conducted. He said the police department's use of
flash grenades is decided on a "case by case" basis. "It primarily goes to
the severity of the crime and the potential of violence from the offender
we're trying to get in custody," Godbee said. He declined to comment on
whether the officers involved in the raid were aware children were in the
home. "Our tactics absolutely will be addressed and assessed at the
appropriate time," Godbee said. The family was left searching for answers.
They retained Fieger, a high-powered attorney who also represented assisted
suicide advocate Dr. Jack Kevorkian, but the girl's father said he wants to
know what led to his daughter's death. "They killed my baby, and I want
someone to tell the truth," he said Sunday.
Police have not identified the officer whose gun fired the shot that killed
Aiyana. Godbee said he is a 14-year veteran with six to seven years on the
Special Response Team, and that he has been placed on paid administrative
leave pending the outcome of the investigation. The officer was cleared
following a nonfatal shooting last summer. Police were fired upon by someone
barricaded in a house and returned fire, Godbee said. The Detroit police
department has been under two court-ordered consent decrees since 2003 aimed
at, among other things, correcting how and when its officers use force on
suspects. The department declined to say whether it was being paid by the