On this day in 1972, three young African-American men, Hayward Brown, John Boyd and Mark Bethune, get tangled up with city police officers in an incident that will become arguably the most sensational in local history. They, reportedly, had vowed to fight drug running in their neighborhood and had targeted a house that was under surveillance by the police department’s controversial “Stop The Robberies, Enjoy Safe Streets” (STRESS) decoy unit.
A police chase ensues and rather than following the dealers, STRESS officers pursue the young men and shootout goes down. Four police officers are wounded.
Brown, Boyd and Bethune elude the cops and an interstate manhunt takes place for several weeks. In January 1973, Brown, 18, will be arrested after a federally-funded birth control clinic near Wayne State University is firebombed. Bethune, 21, and Boyd, 24, will die in separate shootouts with police in Atlanta, Georgia in February 1973. The series of events will become a cause célèbre and compel city officials, namely newly-elected Mayor Coleman A. Young, to eliminate the STRESS initiative, which by 1974 had resulted in 20 civilian deaths by city police bullets in 30 months.
Ken Coleman, the author of On this Day: African-American Life in Detroit, is a native Detroiter and former news reporter. He served on the Detroit Charter Revision Commission. He lives in Detroit with his wife, Kim Trent, and their son, Jackson Coleman.