>Most of us will have the luxury of not having our homes and places of comfort raided by law enforcement officials. Most of us will have the assurance that we will never have several men and women breaking down our doors and forcing us to the ground with numerous guns pointed to our heads.
Sadly, many families are all to aware of this experience. The families of Kathryn Johnston in Atlanta and now Aiyana Jones in Detriot have had their lives ripped apart by the mechanics of the no-knock warrant.
I’m not going to tell you how much of a tragedy the killing Aiyana Jones is. I’m sure you have seen that on other blogs. Yes, it’s a definite tragedy and a horrible miscarry of justice by these police officers. The fact that these officers were being filmed by A&E’s “The First 48” further adds to the confusion and concerns we all should have about this case.
The Detroit News is even reporting that the Michigan State Police has launched an investigation into Aiyana’s death and that the family’s attorney has filed a lawsuit. The news agency is also reporting about the discrepencies in the raid:
Southfield attorney Geoffrey Fieger questioned preliminary police accounts stating that the girl was killed when a bullet pierced her neck after an officer entered the home. Fieger, who plans to file a lawsuit this morning, said he saw video showing that a bullet was fired from outside the house, before police ever entered the flat on Lillibridge on the city’s east side.
“It’s not an accident,” Fieger said. “It’s not a mistake. There was no altercation. The pictures don’t lie. It demonstrates conclusively, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what happened in this case.”
This case should concern us for two reasons.
The idea that police officers and other law enforcement officials can enter our homes (WITHOUT the notification of who they are and what they are there for) should raise the ire of any die-hard fan of the Constitution. The idea that you and your family could be disrupted from your daily or nightly routines by masked and armed officers who kick down your door and force everyone in the home to the floor.
No-knock warrants have been known to cause confusion and the death of innocent victims in the chaos of the raids. The Kathryn Johnston case in Atlanta is a great example of officers, relying on tips from a shady witness, who recklessly killed the 92-year-old woman and tried to cover up the incident.
In the Detroit News’ article, the National Black Police Association’ Christopher Cooper criticized what he called the “militarization” of law enforcement.
“Aiyana Jones is dead because of a trend toward the militarization of police agencies,” Cooper said. “They’re purchasing tanks, and acting like they are in a war zone.
“I’ve been on that porch, executing search warrants in some of the most dangerous communities in the country, and I’m telling you, if I know there are children in that house, I’m prepared to abort the mission.”
“When I realize there are children in that house, I do not throw any grenade.”
While these warrants have been widely criticized, the courts have eased the regulations on these warrants. With the Supreme Court swinging further to the right as each ruling is publicized, the further relaxation on the fourth amendment and other protections our Constitution grants us is imminent.
I want to touch on another aspect that I haven’t heard or seen many people discuss with the Aiyana Jones case. Our own community often times fails to look inward at itself when it comes to the cause and affect of living in crime-infested and drug-ridden neighborhoods.
The reality of the dangers many black children face in their own neighborhood should be enough for our “community” to come to grips with what our children have to face on a daily basis. Our children shouldn’t have to face the threat of being killed during a police raid. Our children shouldn’t face the threat of being a victim of a drive-by shooting while walking home from school. Our children should not have to grow up in a neighborhood where they feel the only thing to aspire to is being a drug dealer.
Let’s not forget the situation that brought us here: the senseless murder of a teenager. Accused killer Chauncey Owens, who was accused of killing a high school student, was charged with first-degree murder and using a firearm in the commission of a crime. The victim, Je’Rean Blake, was a 17-year-old high school senior. He was shot outside a convenience store after an encounter with Owens. His family threw another twist into the bizarre tale of the death of Aiyana: that her own father, Charles Jones, was involved in the killing of Jerean.
“He’s just as guilty as him in there,” said Blake’s cousin, Yvonne Johnson, as she pointed to the courthouse. “(Charles Jones) was the driver. He’s the one who need to be facing charges, too.”
This story indicates that Aiyana’s father was questioned in connection to the shooting.
Also, Local 4 has learned that Jones father, Charles Jones, who was also questioned in connection with Blake’s death and had been placed at the scene of the crime, according to police, was involved in an altercation in Harper Woods Tuesday evening. Three teenagers filed police reports against Charles Jones, claiming that he waved a weapon at them and threatened them at Eastland Mall Tuesday. The teens said Charles Jones approached them because they were wearing T-shirts remembering Blake. The teens told police that Charles Jones made crude remarks and revealed that he was carrying a weapon.
Both Owens and Charles Jones have extensive criminal pasts. In 1995, Owens was charged with breaking and entering and faced charges for escaping from prison. In 2005, he was charged with unlawfully driving an automobile. Jones was charged in 2001 with two counts of unarmed robbery. In 2004, Jones was charged with fleeing and eluding police while driving a stolen vehicle. The charged were later dropped. Jones never actually spent time in jail, and instead cut a deal with prosecutors and was placed on probation.
The police department did not ruin your life. You ruined your life by endangering your daughter’s life and eventually contributing to her death. To add fuel to the fire, this story at Black Voices paints an all-too-familiar picture of Aiyana Jones’ living situation and the neighborhood in which she resided in.
Although the child’s death has gripped the city with cries of injustice and police abuse, and spawned loud protests and even lawsuits before the girl could be laid to rest, people who live near the home paint a different picture of Aiyana’s family.Groups of loitering men, loud music and grimacing stares characterized the atmosphere around the home, neighbors say. Many were intimidated by shady crowds and remained wary of the company they kept. But now, in spite of the tragedy, an unexpected calm has surfaced.
Willy Fletcher, 30, has been living on the block for five years and said he had never seen Aiyana’s grandmother, Mertilla Jones (in the video below), on the street before. Mertilla is alleged to have struggled with police inside the home, causing the gun of Officer Joseph Weekley, a 14-year police veteran, to fire when the Detroit Special Response Team raided the house early Sunday, police officials say. “The first time I seen her was on the news,” he said, adding that a suspicious crowd typically used the home as a hangout.
Neighbors said the residents of Aiyana’s house were all relatives living in the two-family flat. They say the family has lived there for about two years and Chauncey Owens, the man police were looking for when the stray bullet hit Jones, was known for terrorizing the neighborhood. “Soon as they moved over here, you didn’t even want to sit outside anymore,” said one neighbor, who chose not to give his name to Black Voices. “If he [Owens] said something to you, you just let it go, because you already know how he is.”
It gets more grim from here:
Neighbors on the street say Aiyana’s house was always congested in the front and rowdy, with loud cars idling in the street. Another resident, who also chose anonymity, said, “Since the media is here they aren’t out like that anymore I guess because [their] boys are gone.”
“People were scared to come outside, nobody comes outside,” said a 30-year-old resident who also chose not to give his name to Black Voices. Ironically, he said, calm came to the block after Aiyana was killed: “The only day we were able to sit outside was that day, because they all left.”
Too often in our community, we like to point our fingers at The Man for causing strife and unfairly targeting black men and boys. When are we going to start pointing fingers at the criminals who continue to make life hell for us and our children? When are we going to decide that our children have the right to live in safe neighborhoods? When are we going to decide that our children do not deserve to be subjected to police raids and gunfire? When are we going to decide to take back our streets, our homes and our livelihood?
The death of Aiyana Jones is a tragedy that could have been avoided on both fronts. The police who raided the home should have used caution and restraint and should have taken proper protocol for raiding homes where children live. Aiyana Jones’ father could have avoided having his life ruined if he had put his daughter’s livelihood first instead of contributing to her death.