Police in Detroit, Michigan say several people are in custody after occupants of two cars opened fire on police officers who were investigating the vehicles Thursday night.
Thankfully, the Detroit Free Press reports that none of the officers were struck by the gunshots, but it was still a dangerous situation for the officers.
At about 9 p.m. Thursday, police said officers were initially fired upon at West McNichols and Forrer. An undercover police car in the auto theft section had been investigating a White Dodge Charger and a grey Jeep Grand Cherokee when the occupants of both vehicles began shooting — and then drove off.
Officers were not hit — nor did they fire back.
The officers and other responding units checked the area and located the suspect vehicles on the 15800 block of Robson. There, officers confronted a face-off with the armed suspects until the arrests were made. One of the cars under investigation had improper plates.
The Free Press report indicates that four suspects were taken into custody, but other media outlets, including Newsweek, are reporting that as many as six suspects are now in custody in the attack, with four individuals arrested inside the suspect vehicles and two other individuals taken into custody a short time later in a nearby home.
Authorities haven’t released any details about the suspects who were taken into custody, nor have they said whether this was an ambush of officers or a crime of opportunity, but we should learn more details about the case in the coming days.
Detroit is one of many cities across the country struggling to quell a spike in violence, and the violent crime rate in the city was already the highest in the nation in 2019.
Police chief James Craig attributed the high violent crime rate largely to two factors: More illegal guns on the street and people not knowing how to handle disputes.
And, Craig said, things have gotten worse on both fronts this year; as of Monday homicides were up 23% over the same period in 2019, while nonfatal shootings were up 50%. All crime is down 12%, driven by a 23% drop in property crimes.
“A lot of our violence is argument-based,” Craig said. “We’ve seen significant increases in that. It was up last year, but it’s gotten worse this year, with a lot of stress related to COVID.”
Craig said more illegal guns on the street also has resulted in more violent crimes.
“I’m not talking about people who purchase guns legally and have a legal license to carry,” Craig said. “Those aren’t the people causing the problems. It’s illegal guns.”
Detroit police officers arrest between 85-130 people weekly for illegally carrying guns, but Craig said they often end up back on the street with no bond. Often, the cases are pleaded down, resulting in probation.
“When there’s no certainty for punishment for illegally carrying a gun, people continue carrying — and a lot of these people carrying guns illegally commit violent crimes,” Craig said.
In other words, the way to reduce violent crime in Detroit isn’t to try to curtail legal gun ownership, but to ensure that there are actual consequences for violent crimes.
With the arrests on Thursday, this makes at least seven people that have been accused of shooting at officers in Detroit this month. I’m guessing that the suspects taken into custody for shooting at cops on Thursday night aren’t going to be quickly released to the streets, though the potential for a plea bargain remains high.