I’m not opposed to every bit of police reform that’s been suggested over the past few months (no-knock raids, for example, should be largely curtailed in my opinion), but one Detroit-area anti-policing organization has jumped the shark with its opposition to police pursuing a suspect in a quadruple shooting. Detroit Will Breathe co-founder Tristan Taylor says that a high speed pursuit of the suspect back on July 23rd never should have happen, and according to The Detroit News he used that incident as well as two other officer involved shootings in Detroit this month to demand the firing of police chief James Craig on Tuesday.
Video footage released by police shows officers approach a blue Mercury Grand Marquis, which makes a U-turn and speeds away. While Detroit police policy bans high-speed chases in most instances, they’re allowed when violent suspects are involved.
The footage shows officers tailing the car as it lurches through side streets and jumps onto the sidewalk several times, narrowly missing pedestrians before crashing into a tree. Three men get out of the car and run in different directions, with officers at their heels, the video shows.
One of the men is seen in the video with a pistol in his left hand. As he runs, he turns, raises the gun and appears to point it at an officer before the officer fires a single, fatal shot that hit the suspect in his torso, Craig said.
During Tuesday’s press conference, Taylor said police should have never initiated the chase. He was asked whether police should have let a homicide suspect go free, and he replied: “Yes, I am saying that. There are other opportunities to apprehend them.”
Sure, there might be other opportunities to apprehend a murder suspect, but there might also be other opportunities for that suspect to flee again. There’s also the possibility that the murder suspect might commit more acts of violence before police can take him into custody. It’s a fundamentally unserious suggestion, but Taylor’s criticism of the pursuit was just one of several bizarre complaints Detroit Will Breathe members leveled against the city’s police force during its press conference yesterday.
Lloyd Simpson, one of the group’s organizers, began Tuesday’s press conference by reading a statement in which he lambasted three officer-involved shootings in the past two-and-a-half weeks, and called for Craig to be fired.
On July 10, Hakim Littleton fired a pistol at an officer’s head from about a foot away, seconds before police returned fire, killing him, in a confrontation captured on police body camera video.
Video of a July 23 incident also was released by police, showing an unnamed suspect brandishing a pistol seconds before officers fatally shot him.
That’s right. They’re actually slamming police for shooting a suspect who had actually shot at a cop from a foot away. In fact, Simpson and Taylor accused those officers of “executing” Littleton.
“In two of the cases, the victims shot by the police were on the ground when they were shot,” Simpson said. “Edited body cam footage clearly shows the young man (in the July 23 incident) never having been in position to fire the weapon.”
A TV reporter pointed out that the videos released by police do not support Simpson’s claim that police initially shot the suspects while they were on the ground, and asked Detroit Will Breathe co-founder Tristan Taylor whether his group had a responsibility to put out accurate information.
“Absolutely, and we can only do that when facts are given,” he said. Taylor walked back Simpson’s comments and stipulated that Littleton was standing when he was first shot, but said he was disturbed that officers continued firing rounds after Littleton fell to the ground.
“That’s the thing that we find most disturbing about his shooting was the fact that the last shot was point-blank to the head,” he said. “… we call these murders, especially someone who’s shot point-blank to the head, an execution. They are the victims of police brutality.”
You can watch the bodycam video of the Hakim Littleton incident released by the Detroit police for yourself here:
Officers were arresting another individual on a drug warrant when Littleton walked up to officers, pulled a pistol out of his pocket, and fired a shot at an officer’s head (thankfully missing his target). Seconds later, officers return fire, killing Littleton.
The shooting was the subject of all kinds of rumors on social media, with some claiming that Littleton had been unarmed when he was shot. Hundreds gathered at the site of the shooting, and officers were eventually forced to use tear gas after projectiles were thrown at the cops on scene. Weeks later, you still have activists like Detroit Will Breathe completely misrepresenting what happened in order to try to portray police as cold-blooded killers.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig is having none of it.
Craig said it’s “ridiculous” to call the shooting an execution.
“That’s an example of taking what actually happens and creating a false narrative,” he said. “The officer who responded put his own life in danger to mitigate the threat to other officers.”
As for the pursuit of the suspect in the quadruple shooting, James was even more outspoken in his defense of officers.
Craig responded: “What do we say to the families of the four shooting victims, one who succumbed to his injuries? Their lives matter, too. We’re not going to let a violent suspect go free so he can possibly do harm to other people.
“I’ve been in law enforcement longer than (Taylor) has been alive,” the chief said. “Some of the things he’s saying clearly show he doesn’t know what he’s talking about. If he thinks he can do a better job than me, and keep the people of Detroit safer, I’d like to hear his suggestions.”
I don’t think Detroit Will Breathe actually has any serious suggestions. Their website is full of “demands” ranging from “defunding and demilitarizing the police” to “make Detroit a Sanctuary City” to “release all non-violent offenses,” but nothing that would actually help the city combat the drug and gang violence that’s surged in recent months. If the group had their way, police would be handcuffed while violent criminals would be empowered. That might lead to fewer arrests, but it most certainly won’t result in safer streets.