Update on the News: Detroit's Spasm of Violence
New developments in the case of Aiyana Stanley Jones, the 7-year-old girl fatally shot by Detroit police early Sunday:
The chief prosecutor of Wayne County, Mich., which includes Detroit, announced Wednesday that Chauncey Louis Owens, 34, has been charged in the fatal shooting of Jerean Blake, a 17-year-old high school senior. It was Blake's killing, last Friday, that led police to search for Owens at the two-story white house where Aiyana lived with her grandmother.
The precise relationship between Owens and Blake is unclear. The authorities say that about 2:45 p.m. Friday, the men argued in a hardscrabble neighborhood on Detroit's East Side. Owens allegedly left, but returned a few minutes later and shot Blake, who was standing outside a grocery store with his girlfriend. The boy, police say, stumbled across the street, collapsed and died.
The violence erupted May 3, when five Detroit police officers were shot, one fatally, while investigating a reported break-in at an abandoned building. Then, on May 12, a 69-year-old grandmother cooking dinner was killed by a stray bullet from a man apparently defending himself from a carjacker. All of this comes as Detroit officials have touted a drop in violent crime.
Tension remains high in Detroit, a city with a long history of bloody conflicts between police and civilians. Congressman John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, has asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to investigate Detroit's spasm of violence. Michigan Gov. Jennifer M. Granholm called Aiyana's death "a complete and total tragedy," the Detroit Free Press reports. The mayor of Detroit, Dave Bing, and his police chief, Warren Evans, have expressed sympathy about Sunday's incident. The mayor has also criticized Geoffrey Feiger, the attorney who has filed a lawsuit on behalf of Aiyana's family, for “taking advantage of a terrible situation,” according to the Free Press. Meanwhile, the Rev. Al Sharpton is expected to deliver Aiyana's eulogy on Saturday.
UPDATE 2: Earlier today, the Detroit City Council voted to cut the police department's budget by $6.5 million, or roughly 2%. The Free Press' Naomi R. Patton reports:
The council is expected to deliver the budget to Mayor Dave Bing by Friday. It determined that the Police Department, which amounts to 42% of the city's budget, could longer be spared from budget cuts. Cuts were also applied to the $144 million allocated to the Detroit Fire Department in Bing's budget.
“This is the toughest decision that I've made since I've been here,” Council President Pro Tem Gary Brown, former Detroit deputy police chief, said before initially proposing a 4%, $13 million cut from Bing's recommended $248 million budget allocation for police. “I recommend that we have to find a way to make the cut without impacting officers on patrol.”