Seven-year-old Aiyana Jones was asleep on her grandmother's couch when at 12:40 a.m. Sunday Detroit police executed a "No-Knock" warrant on the duplex where she lived. In all the confusion -- it's a no-knock so the police just throw a flash bomb grenade in your house and break down the door, guns drawn -- Aiyana's grandmother either got in a confrontation with or bumped into a police officer and it lead to the officer's gun being fired, hitting Aiyana in the neck as she slept.
How many different kinds of messed up is this?
From the Detroit News:
Mertilla 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."
The police were looking for a murder suspect, who they later arrested. Police haven't said whether they found the suspect in the part of the duplex where Aiyana and her grandmother were or if the suspect was in another apartment. But this is the peril of a no-knock warrant. The misconception that a mysterious "show of force" where you don't say you're the police and you just break down a person's front door will lead to immediate compliance -- instead of that a citizen thinking someone has broken into their house to kill them.
There is some despute whether or not the police declared they were the police in all that commotion. The police told the Detroit press that at least one witness may have heard the police announce themselves. I've covered enough crime as a newspaper reporter to know that sounds a whole lot like shoddy ass covering, but hey, someone might have heard it! Of course, the "beauty" of a no-knock is that you DON'T have announce whether you're the police or not, hence why, to me, this sounds like ass covering.
Mind you -- these techniques are actually MILITARY techniques many American police forces have adopted in recent years. Military techniques that were used on a regular basis in Iraq where it took a few years for the US military to realize that breaking into Iraqi homes in the middle of the night, shooting the dog, and dragging husbands and fathers away in their underwear -- usually based on shoddy intelligence -- did not endear them to the general population.
This is usually the no-knock scenario: You're asleep, in your apartment or home, and it's past midnight when suddenly there is a loud crashing noise and flashes of smoke and light and people are breaking down your door with guns drawn and your response is of panic and confusion. You're pretty sure you're about to die, so, naturally, you put up a fight. But as it turns out, it's the police executing a "No-Knock" warrant with a flash grenade. But, ahem, how would you know that if it's past midnight, you're asleep and it just sounds like armed killers are trying to break into your house? How would you know this, especially, if you live in a high crime area where actual criminals DO break into people's houses and accost them?
No matter the scenario, this is a sad situation and why "no-knock" warrants should be illegal. How did it make more sense to raid the house without announcing you were THE POLICE first? How does it make sense to go in, guns drawn, on unarmed people -- let alone a grandmother and a seven-year-old? Don't you make the point to find out who's in the house first before you establish how you're going to rush it? And why would you raid a house in a way that would almost guarantee confrontation? In my home state of Missouri they passed the Castle Law (which is also known as the "shoot the Avon lady" law), where if someone stumbles up on your property and they aren't welcome you have the right to use deadly force if you want to. (That's also legal in Texas, BTW.) So if the police are conducting a no-knock warrant on someone who has a house full of weapons and the police just happen to have the wrong house -- what kind of nightmare are you causing?
Or, you know? You could accidentally shoot a seven-year-old, asleep on her grandmother's couch.
From the Detroit News:
(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."
I don't know how you can be effective in fighting crime if you keep, with some regularity, causing distrust and disaster among the citizenry you're supposed to be protecting. Often in urban crime areas the police would bemoan how often citizens wouldn't come forward to testify or wouldn't name name's when crime is committed, but given the history, who's really surprised here? If the police kill your neighbor's seven-year-old granddaughter -- whether or not it was an accident -- how friendly are you going to be towards the police? How forthcoming are you going to be with information? How many people are just going to shrug and say they feel they have a better shot with the gangbangers and the drug dealers?