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Who Do You Believe?

There's plenty, of course, that disturbs, saddens and angers all of us about the shooting death of 7-year-old Aiyana Jones, a little girl killed on the eastside of Detroit early Sunday when a police officer's gun went off during a raid of her home. Already, there's debate about the details of the raid, about flashbang devices and overbearing police tactics and what not.

But for me, it's not the details, but the discrepancies that are most chilling.

After throwing a concussion grenade through a window, police charged into the home and an officer's weapon fired after there reportedly was some sort of contact between the officer and Aiyana Jones' grandmother, Mertilla Jones, 46. Mertilla Jones has denied there was any sort of contact between her and police.

At a press conference in front of the home Sunday evening, Mertilla Jones said there was no struggle: "I hit the floor when I heard them hit the window.

"They blew my granddaughter's brains out. They killed her right before my eyes. I watched the light go out of her eyes. I seen it."

When I read this, I remember being struck instantly by one question: Who do you believe?

See, I've watched this kind of divergence before, this split in the narrative between what gets officially reported and what really goes down in violent interactions between poor black people and the police. And I've seen how the truth gets minced into so much worthless confetti.

The inclination, at least by many of us, is to always embrace the official version of events. Cops raided home looking for suspected murder, tussled with belligerent grandmother, gun went off, child died. And yes, that could very well be what happened.

But who do you believe?

The question persists because I also know those stories that so rarely make it into the official report, the ones about being detained for "looking suspicious," being arrested for "fitting the description," being assaulted for "talking back and having a bad attitude." Some of them are my own stories.

The question persist because this city's police department has paid millions in brutality cases, is still being overseen by a federal monitor and has long held a reputation for heavy-handed tactics.  The question persists because I've already heard those close to the family offer another version of the story, how the flashbang grenade landed on the child while she slept on the couch, how the family had no clue what was happening when the cops came, how there was no tussle before the shooting.

Who do you believe?

Again, there are plenty of us who are inclined to give the benefit of the doubt to the cops in instances like this. To most who think like this, the police can only be the good guys, the brave men who rush to your home moments after you report a crime, the friendly civil servants who smile readily and hold open doors for the elderly, the lenient lawmen who let you off traffic stops with only a warning.

And this isn't completely wrong. There are officers who do live up to that ideal, everyday men and women trying to do the best they can to keep the streets clean before making it back home to their families each night.

And nobody in this city would say we don't need them. I was pissed about the death of a Detroit police officer weeks ago precisely because he was doing the job we need him to do, and he shouldn't have died because of it. Hell yes, Detroit needs its cops. And when the city loses one, the least we can offer is our tears, our collective anger.

But what now do we owe this dead child, whose family was saying as recently as Monday that they've yet to be visited by police administrators or Detroit city officials in the aftermath of this tragedy?

Can it really be so easy to just accept what we're told in the face of such a gravely serious discrepancy? Clearly, something's very wrong here: Either the grandmother's at least partly to blame or she isn't. Either there was a tussle, there was "contact," or there wasn't. Either Mertilla Jones helped precipitate this horrific incident or a police officer, acting on his own, accidentally gunned down Aiyana and now someone is wrongly smearing the child's blood on her grandmother's hands.

Who do you believe?

Obviously, I don't know for sure. But I was raised in that community. I'm as familiar with the good cop patrolling the eastside as I am with the bad. I can believe the officers, who went to arrest a man suspected of murdering a 17-year-old Detroit boy days before and blocks away, had the right intentions.

But I can also believe 46-year-old Mertilla Jones when she says her grandchild was shot to death without anyone ever having gotten up off that floor.

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  • 1

    Your words are a prudent, timely reminder to avoid assumptions -- especially reflexive ones.

    While waiting and watching, what I do believe is that our community won't benefit from the Rev. Al Sharpton flying in Wednesday for a "police brutality" rally like an opportunistic vulture attracted by a fresh carcass.

    We also don't need cable TV reality show crews rolling along on raids, as The Detroit News says one from the A&E network's "The First 48" did Sunday morning.

  • 2

    I do believe Black activists like Sharpton have a role especially when the local leaders have failed the community for decades..

    Clearly none of us commenting on this site know what happened yet I do know that assumptions are worthless even advice form posters like Stamm with his cheap shot at Sharpton..

    I bet Stamm would not attack a jewish activist with the same venom he invoked against Sharpton..

    Crime reporting in urban venues is pure speculation and fiction based upon the inherent ignorance of most reporters who cover the beat after the incident has occured...

    Most crime reporting in urban venues is full of assumptions, disinformation and hearsay ..I am withholding my opinion until the facts are in..

    Please visit my blog site for my detailed commentary on the crime of reporting crime...

  • 3

    BTW where was Alan's indictment of Figer, Cox, Granholm?? When was the last time a Rabbi came to the hoods and lead a protest???????????????????

  • 4

    Once again, the racist lowlife Greg Thrasher rears his illiterate head. He's been banned from every other publication in town, so he has to resort to thinly veiled racist taunts to get attention.

    Greg, get a job and stop living like a parasite off your long-suffering wife. And please go away.

  • 5

    This is such a Tragedy. And who Do You Believe? I have head people call in on The Al Sharpton's Show so quick to make judgements on the Family. Even though I believe that they found the young man up stairs. And I believe that it was a Two Family Flat, so the families did not neccessarily had to be of kin. But in any Event, A Seven Year old girl is dead. And for those who think that All you have to do is be a Law abiding citizen for the The Police not to come and Kick down your door, or to pull you over........Wake Up!!! That is not The Reality!!!!! But besides this Girls death. My issue is and has been with The NAACP. When other kids got shot, in Detroit..Where Were You? When The Elderly woman got Raped by a Young Black Man, Where Were You? When The Grandmother got shot and killed last week Where were you? I am tired of you Hogging the Mic, when something like this happens or some other kind of Racial Injustice. Because believe me, as Rev. Al Sharpton is deciding whether he is going to Come to Detroit...You'll be Somewhere in The front of The Camera. When Pastor E. L. Branch called the Men out in the Streets in Detroit to Patrol and watch Over The Community....You Should of Been Right There!!! And Just a Note. The Advancement of Colored/Black People, is not Only about Stopping Racial Divisions. For How can We Advance....If We are Killing each other?!! So, as We Pray for The Truth over this Tragedy. NAACP.....Let's See You Stand Up and Speak Up, The Next Time We are Doing Each Other in!!! This has got To Stop!!! Some of Us are Doing Our Part....What About You!!!!!

    Pastor D.

  • 6

    I know I am on target when the usual intellectual cowards start atacking me with venom and hate....

    What drives this hate? Envy?( I own a business and I live In Birmingham) Racism?( A Black man with an opinion usuallly brings out the bigots)..

    Just because I dare to have an opinion that does not comport with these hate driven posters I get this venom...

    Of course such hate just fuels,lol,lol

  • 7

    Please keep the discourse civil. We owe that to the little girl who died. None of us was there, but we do know that an innocent child was killed. And that warrants a full-scale, objective investigation. Let's all hold off on forming an opinion and push for a completely objective inquiry into the events. Personally, I think the investigation should be handled by an objective third party. Detroit Police should not take charge of this one.

    Meanwhile, let's try to keep it together. Whether we love or don't-love a public figure, let's respect the fact that this is an important news story and warrants some national attention if we are to ever find out what really happened.

  • 8

    People: I hope all of you consider the fact that we must be in the last days because there are layers of hurt and sadness in this story that are being missed because folks feel like they have to choose a side. The little girl had friends; other young people who will have to deal with their loss for years to come. The Police Officers, many of them parents themselves, continue to serve US despite their recent loss (Brian Huff) and the loss of a citizen with her entire life ahead of her. Brian Huffs' wife and son continue to grieve his loss as they witness the loss of yet another life. Aiyana's family seems to have suffered immensely since it seems not only was the little girl killed - but another family member is said to have been arrested for Murder.

    And finally, this city has been in need of healing for quite some time and this incident and all that comes with it only adds to the long suffering that has already taken place. WE HAVE TO WORK TOGETHER TO HEAL OUR CITY AND HER CITIZENS. IF NOT NOW....WHEN..IF NOT US THEN WHO???

  • 9

    Amen!!!! Yes, "We" Have got to Pray.."We' have got to come Together. Yes...."WE". And again, just like you Said...Let's not forget that a Innocent Child is Dead. As Well as Many other Children in This City and surrounding areas. I know that People are hurting now....But Please,make Sure that You do what's Right...Please. Because You Too, Will have to Face God!! And Yes, We are in The Last of The Last Days. A Day Where a Wrong Look, is Worth taking a Life.

    If My People Who are Called By My Name,Will Humble Themselves, Pray and Seek God's Face. and Turn From Their Wicked Ways......Then and OnlyThen Can God Hear From Heaven.... and Only Then Can He Heal Our Land. So, Churches,Pastors, The Detroit Police and Those in The Community.... Turn..... Turn, Turn Now, So that We/You Can Be Healed!!!

    "Be Blessed"

    Pastor D.

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