A high-speed police chase that ended in the deaths of two children last week would never have happened if Detroit cops obeyed three commands by a supervisor to stop the pursuit in the busy neighborhood, city leaders are acknowledging.
More troubling questions have surfaced: Did police even have a reason to pull over the Chevy Camero and did they push the fleeing car into the children? Officers said they pursued the car because they saw a gun. But no weapon was found after the speeding Camero plunged into a group of children playing outside their homes at Nottingham and Frankfurt.
Some witnesses said the police car slammed into the Camero, causing it to lose control and hit the children. But officers said they were about a block away when the siblings, Makiah Jackson, 3, and Michaelangelo Jackson, 6, were hit and killed, and three of their friends, ages 3, 5 and 7, were injured.
Police said the squad car did not have a working dash cam.
The driver, Lorenzo Harris, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.
The officers, who are under an internal investigation, appeared to violate the city’s policy on high-speed pursuits, which “shall be discontinued when, in the judgment of the primary unit, there is a clear and present danger to the public, which outweighs the need for immediate apprehension of the violator.”
The handling of the chase has drawn widespread criticism and calls for action against the three special-operations officers who were in the squad car.
“It’s clear that police are responsible for these senseless killings and should be held accountable to the greatest extent of the law,” said Rashad Robinson, executive director of ColorOfChange.org, an advocacy group for racial equality. “There was no need to drive down a residential street where children are playing at such dangerous speeds.”
Robinson and others want an outside investigation because of Detroit’s history of covering up for its own officers.
“Independent oversight and officer discipline are critical for transforming a culture of policing that favors secrecy, violence and impunity over transparency and public accountability,” Robinson said. “These families deserve a fair and impartial investigation into the inhumane killing of their children and aggressive policing practices that disproportionately harm black families.”
Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.