MORE THAN two years have passed since Detroit police murdered 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley Jones.
She was asleep on a sofa in her grandmother’s living room when she was shot to death by officers of the Detroit Police Department (DPD), as a reality TV crew filmed the tragic incident. Today, the Jones family has still not seen justice and continues to be brutalized by the DPD.
Detroit police raided the Jones family’s duplex around midnight on May 16, 2010. Police believed a suspect in a murder that happened a few days earlier was hiding in the home. Rather than wait for the suspect to leave the house, as police officers have since told the media is standard protocol, the cops chose to storm the house in a nighttime raid—bringing camera crews with them—despite the children’s toys scattered across the lawn.
Cops approached the home and threw a flash grenade into the living room through a first floor window, temporarily blinding the occupants inside. According to attorneys for the Jones family, video evidence shows that at that point, Officer Joseph Weekley, a regular guest on reality television, shot inside the home, killing Aiyana. The film has still not been released to the public.
The cops’ version of events has been inconsistent. First, they claimed that Weekley’s gun went off when Aiyana’s grandmother, Mertilla Jones, tried to grab it in a scuffle with Weekley. But Mertilla was arrested, drug tested and examined that night for gunpowder residue on her hands. All of the tests came back negative.
The police have since backed off that story, and now claim that Mertilla brushed against Weekly as she ran from the room, causing his gun to misfire. But there was “no contact with any cop,” Mertilla told reporters. “None. They’re lying.”
… IMMEDIATELY AFTER the incident, the media set out to cover for the police and blame the Jones family for the tragedy. The day after Aiyana’s murder, Rochelle Riley, a columnist for the Detroit Free Press, wrote that Detroiters “need to stop harboring criminals and averting our eyes to thuggery.”
The Free Press ran a profile of Officer Weekley the next day, saying that he “helmed several charitable endeavors…including one that raises money for children of domestic violence victims.” The profile neglected to mention that a group of Detroit cops, including Weekley, were under federal investigation for a 2007 incident in which police raided a home, shot two dogs to death and pointed guns at children, including infants.
Weekley was arraigned in October 2011, 17 months after the fatal raid, and charged with involuntary manslaughter. He faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. The family is still waiting for the trial, which begins in late October.
Meanwhile, Charles Jones, Aiyana’s father, has been accused of aiding in the murder that police were investigating. He has been charged with first-degree murder, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison.
Detroit’s millionaire Democratic Mayor Dave Bing released a statement following Weekley’s arraignment, saying that the city “must use this difficult moment to continue bringing our community and police department together.” But the Jones family has seen what it looks like when the police come together with—or rather, against—the community: terrorism.
In spite of the court system’s foot-dragging, the Joneses have not given up hope for justice. In April 2012, Mertilla Jones made a statement to the press, saying, “I know it’s people out there praying for us…While they’re reaching out, I’m going to grab a hold of their hand. It’s time for us to stand up and speak out for Aiyana.”