Cop on trial after girl, 7, dies as TV crew films
DETROIT (AP) — Police accompanied by a reality TV crew fired a stun grenade through a window as they raided a Detroit home in search of a murder suspect. A gunshot then went off inside, fatally striking a 7-year-old girl in the head while she slept on a couch.
Now three years later, Officer Joseph Weekley goes on trial in the death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones. Jury selection starts Wednesday.
Weekley, charged with involuntary manslaughter, is accused of acting with gross negligence when he didn't prevent his gun from firing during the chaos that followed use of a "flash-bang" device.
The shooting shocked Detroit. Cooperation between police and the reality show, "The First 48," was banned in the aftermath, and the chief soon resigned at the mayor's request when it was revealed that he was working on plans for another TV show.
But beyond the city, there was little, if any, impact on the hunger for real-life police drama on the small screen. "Cops," in its 25th year, still is on the air, moving from Fox to Spike TV this fall. "The First 48" has been on A&E Networks since 2004.
"They're fascinating and compelling," said Robert Thompson, director of the Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture at Syracuse University.
"Everyone has built into them an inherent interest in encounters with police," he said. "We know how our adrenaline gets going when we see that flashing light behind us when we're going too fast on the highway. ... Every now and again an incident happens, but it isn't enough to trump the momentum this genre has."
The loud, smoky device used in the Detroit raid is intended to startle and confuse people as officers swarm a scene. But some critics of the police department's tactics believe it was used in the fatal raid simply to satisfy a crew from "The First 48," a show that focuses on the crucial early stages of homicide investigations.
Weekley's trial could reveal how the TV crew's presence influenced decisions that May 2010 night.
"This was essentially a military assault on a private dwelling," said Ron Scott, spokesman for a watchdog group, Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality. "I think the administration of the police department wanted to show Detroit was tough on crime and show something exciting for television.
"Police work is not television, and television work is not police work," he said. "The two combined to make it a horrific night."
Officers hunting for a suspect in the murder of a 17-year-old boy staked out a home that night on Lillibridge Street. Weekley was first through the door when the grenade went off during the midnight raid.
Police have said his gun accidentally discharged after he confronted or collided with Aiyana's grandmother. A bullet struck and killed Aiyana, one of four children inside.
Then-Police Chief Warren Evans apologized for the girl's death, telling her family, "I will never be able to put myself in your shoes." He promised a "painful self-examination" by the department but never explained why a stun grenade was necessary.
After that, officials declined to speak publicly about the raid because of a civil lawsuit and investigations that led to charges against Weekley.
Defense attorney Steve Fishman declined to comment ahead of the trial. But in court filings, he has knocked Wayne County prosecutors for trying to turn Weekley into a criminal. The maximum penalty for involuntary manslaughter is 15 years in prison.
Weekley "had nothing to do with the planning of the raid and was merely a police officer assigned to a certain position ... by a superior officer," Fishman said in the filings.
He said his client shouldn't be held responsible for the "ineptitude of the officer assigned to deploy" the stun grenade. The jury will see a demonstration of the device away from the courthouse.
Mayor Dave Bing banned reality TV crews from tagging along with police after Aiyana's death. Evans was forced out as chief two months after the shooting, partly because he was involved in planning a different reality show starring himself.
A&E declined to comment on whether Aiyana's death led to any changes in how "The First 48" crews do their job. A videographer, Allison Howard, is charged with perjury and withholding video crucial to the investigation. Her trial is set for June 24.
The Rev. Horace Sheffield III handled Aiyana's funeral and repeatedly has demanded a full accounting by police. He plans to attend the officer's trial.
"If those cameras had not been there, what would the outcome have been?" Sheffield said. "That's the important question to ask. It's a situation that cries out for justice."
Accused hacker pleads guilty to US charges
Fourth Estate Cooperative Staff
Washington, United States (4E) – Hacker Jeremy Hammond on Tuesday pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges for hacking global intelligence firm Stratfor in December 2011.
The United States Justice Department said that Hammond, who belonged to a loosely organized group of hackers, is also accused of breaching the FBI's computer network. He has also confessed about his involvement in other digital intrusions into the Arizona Department of Public Safety and the FBI Virtual Academy among other government networks.
Four more people, believed to be the members of Anonymous, Lulz Security and other international hacking groups, have also been indicted last year.
“While he billed himself as fighting for an anarchist cause, in reality, Jeremy Hammond caused personal and financial chaos for individuals whose identities and money he took and for companies whose businesses he decided he didn't like,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a statement after the plea.
“He was nothing more than a repeat offender cybercriminal who thought that because of his computer savvy he was above the law that binds and protects all of us,” Bharara added in a statement in the federal court.
Freeport Mayor Calls for "New Full-Blown Police Strategy" Following City's First Homicide
by Matt Mershon
FREEPORT - Newly elected mayor Jim Gitz stands defiant after a grizzly homicide at a Freeport gas station become's the Pretzel City's first murder of 2013. Gitz says he's not going to let Freeport become the state's new "problem child," an apparent nudge at the city's big neighbor to the east.
Blood splatter stained the parking lot outside the scene of the murder, 833 S. Galena Avenue. The 30 year-old victim was a clerk inside the South Galena Avenue Convenience Store. Just before 11:00 PM police were called to gas station for reports of a shooting. When they arrived on scene they found the victim suffering from an apparent bullet wound. He died while emergency medical personnel were on the way to the scene.
Freeport Police Chief Jerry Whitmore says, "at this point a motive is not clear," however a sign posted on the store's front door suggested there was an on-going dispute with specific customers - unclear if it had anything to do with Monday night's shooting.
Police and Mayor Gitz held a news conference on Tuesday to address the limited details surrounding the murder investigation, but most of the conference was dedicated to discussing how the city will try to combat future crime.
"This type of violence is not going to be tolerated in the city of Freeport," claimed Mayor Gitz.
A community policing effort is the most recent initiative of the Freeport Police department - one that started this week - just before Monday night's murder. The effort involves bicycle-bound officers patrolling specific areas in the city that have a heavy concentration of police calls to the area.
Monday night's murder occurred in the city's third ward, home of Ald. Ronnie Bush, who says he's been waiting a long time for community policing to come back.
"We had community policing before and it was very effective," said Bush.
"Since that went away things had gotten a little worse than what it was before and I think going to community policing would help that situation out a lot."
Mayor Gitz talked about budget cuts to the city's police department, understanding that was the reason to get rid of community policing in the first place. But Gitz said, despite tight budgets, you cannot forgo the city's safety.
"I know that Freeport cannot grow and cannot prosper if we don't have safe neighborhoods, we don't have an effective police department and we don't put our resources in the right spot," said Gitz.
But the big problem police say they face is an uncooperative community when it comes to investigating crime. Chief Whitmore says idea of "snitching" is something that needs to be combated.
"This isn't graffiti, this isn't litter, this is a man's life," said Whitmore. "It's about telling the truth and telling what you know, and I think everybody owes it to everybody in this community to say what they know."
Gitz says he takes the murder personally as it occurred under his watch as mayor, and he says he promises a new "full-blown police strategy" within 30 days to help further combat crime in the Freeport.