Detroit Police Murder 7-year-old girl in house search

–George Hunter, Doug Guthrie and Valerie Olander / The Detroit NewsMertilla Jones recounted the horrific death of her granddaughter this evening outside the home where the 7-year-old was killed by a police bullet.

“They blew my granddaughter’s brains out. They killed her right before my eyes,” Jones said. “I watched the light go out of her eyes. I seen it.”

Aiyana Jones was fatally shot early Sunday by a Detroit Police officer hunting for a murder suspect, police said. She had been asleep on a living room sofa when officers raided her east-side home.

Police arrested a 34-year-old suspect, but declined to say if he was found in the downstairs apartment where the girl was shot or in an upstairs flat they also raided.

The shooting happened at 12:40 a.m., when the Special Response Team executed a no-knock search warrant on the duplex in the 4000 block of Lillibridge. Officers rushed in after throwing a stun grenade through the glass of a front window.

Family members said they were told by police the gun discharged when Mertilla Jones, 46, attempted to wrestle away the officer’s weapon. Later Sunday, police spokesman John Roach said the weapon may have fired simply because Jones and the officer collided.

Mertilla Jones was held until Sunday afternoon, and it remained unclear if she will face charges. Police said she spent several hours hospitalized with what police described as medical issues.

Ron Scott, leader of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, said tonight that his group will seek an investigation of the shooting by the U.S. Department of Justice and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.

“They came into my house with a flash grenade and a bullet,” said Charles Jones, father of the slain girl. “They say my mother (Mertilla Jones) resisted them, that she tried to take an officer’s gun. My mother had never been in handcuffs in her life. They killed my baby and I want someone to tell the truth.”

Police had been seeking the 34-year-old suspect from Friday’s slaying of 17-year-old Southeastern High School student Jerean Blake at a liquor store near the corner of Mack Avenue and St. Jean, said Detroit Police Assistant Chief Ralph Godbee.

Speaking on behalf of Police Chief Warren Evans, who is on vacation, Godbee said, “This is every parent’s worst nightmare. It’s also every police officer’s nightmare.”

Godbee stressed that information he released was preliminary, and that the police department planned to launch a full investigation. He also said police are not categorizing the shooting as accidental yet, “although we don’t believe the gun was discharged intentionally.”

Deputy Chief James Tolbert said investigators will submit a warrant for the 34-year-old man “as soon as possible.” The officer involved in the shooting has been placed on leave with pay during the investigation.

“Based on our intelligence, we got a search warrant for the location (on Lillibridge),” Godbee said. “Because of the violent nature of the crime, we thought we were entering a potentially dangerous situation.”

Officers tossed the explosive device through the glass of an unopened window at the front of the house, Jones said. He said he rushed from a back bedroom to see his mother being pushed to the floor and another officer carrying his bleeding daughter from the house.

“According to our officers and at least one independent witness, the officers announced themselves as police officers before going in,” Godbee said.

“This is a tragedy of unspeakable magnitude,” Godbee said, calling Sunday “probably the worst day of my career.”

Godbee would not comment on reports that neighbors told officers that there were children in the house, and pointed out toys in the front yard.

Godbee didn’t say if the suspect in Blake’s slaying was arrested in the downstairs or upstairs apartment. Godbee said, “The suspect was within the scope of our search warrant.” He added that the warrant allowed police to search both units.

Godbee said the suspect’s car, which matched the description by witnesses to Friday’s shooting of the 17-year-old on Mack, was at the location.

“This hurts us all,” Godbee said. “We’re not robots; we have children of our own.”

Godbee extended an offer of help to Aiyana’s family — and expressed fear that anger might boil over in the community.

“We might be the target of anger,” Godbee said. “All we can do is stand ready to offer our condolences to the family, and any help we can give them.”

Charles Jones said he was trying to not be angry. He sat on the blood-stained front porch of his home Sunday, looking stunned and answering the questions of relatives, neighbors and news reporters.

“I want this story to be heard. This was a wrongful death,” Jones said.

The vigil was under way tonight. in front of the home at 4054 Lillibridge.

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