A sleeping 7-year-old girl was shot and killed when an officer’s gun went off while Detroit police were searching a duplex for a suspect in the slaying of a teenager, a police official said.
Assistant Chief Ralph Godbee said at a news conference Sunday that Aiyana Jones was hit in the neck by a single bullet and died at a hospital. Police said the girl was sleeping on a couch when she was shot.
“This is any parent’s worst nightmare. It also is any police officer’s worst nightmare,” Godbee said.
Godbee said officers with the department’s Special Response Team set off a flash grenade as they entered the apartment with their guns drawn about 12:40 a.m. Sunday with a warrant to look for a suspect in the Friday slaying of a 17-year-old boy.
The lead officer encountered a 46-year-old woman immediately inside the front room of the house and “some level of physical contact” ensued during which the officer’s gun went off, Godbee said. The officers had identified themselves as police, he said.
Charles Jones, Aiyana’s father, told the Detroit News the woman Godbee referred to was his mother and the child’s grandmother.
“They came into my house with a flash grenade and a bullet,” Jones said. “They say my mother resisted them, that she tried to take an officer’s gun. My mother had never been in handcuffs in her life. They killed my baby, and I want someone to tell the truth.”
Jones told the Detroit Free Press that after hearing the explosive and gunshot, he rushed into the room where his daughter had been sleeping. He said police forced him to lie on the ground, with his face in his daughter’s blood.
Godbee said the shooting was being investigated and all information was preliminary. The officer was put on paid administrative leave, he said. Police do not believe the gun was fired intentionally, he said.
“We cannot undo what occurred this morning,” Godbee said. “All we can do is to pledge an open and full investigation and to support Aiyana’s family in whatever way they may be willing to accept from us at this time.”
Jones said he was trying not to be angry but wanted the story to be told.
“This was a wrongful death,” he said.
The officers had a search warrant and were looking for a 34-year-old man suspected in the shooting death of 17-year-old Jarean Blake.
Blake, a student at Southeastern High School, was gunned down Friday by a liquor store in front of his girlfriend. Blake stumbled across the street, collapsed and died, police said.
Officers arrested the suspect during the search, Godbee said. Jones said the suspect wasn’t in his apartment but one upstairs that officers raided at the same time.
Godbee would not comment on newspaper reports that neighbors told police there were children in the house and showed them toys in the front yard.
“This is a tragedy of unspeakable magnitude to Aiyana’s parents, family and all those who loved her,” Godbee said. “It is a tragedy we also feel very deeply throughout the ranks of the Detroit Police Department.”
The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality called the girl’s death “the pain of pains” in a statement issued Sunday and questioned what protocols police used in the raid. The coalition held a candlelight vigil Sunday evening at the home where she was shot.