Killings by Cops on the Rise as Detroit DA Refuses to Prosecute

The Michigan Citizen, News Report, Diane Bukowski Posted: Aug 12, 2008

Four killed in July alone; Green candidate to challenge Worthy in November.

DETROIT — Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy appeared solo on the Aug. 5 primary election ballot, and families of children and men killed by the police during her tenure are asking why.

Two Democratic Party contenders, defense attorney Portia Roberson and Detroit Medical Center executive Maurice Morton, withdrew from the race in April.

Roberson, who cited the “changed political climate” in Detroit as the reason for her withdrawal on her website, later became chief assistant corporation counsel for the Detroit Medical Center, headed by former Wayne County Prosecutor Mike Duggan. Morton, previously deputy chief of drug operations under Duggan, moved to another position out of state, according to a fellow church member.

‘Worthy needs to go’

“Worthy needs to go,” said Rayfield Moore, Shelton Bell, Sr.’s next door neighbor. Bell’s only child, 16-year-old Shelton Bell, Jr. was the first of four men killed by law enforcement officers in Detroit this past July.

Moore was elated to learn that in November, Detroit criminal defense attorney Matthew Abel will run against Worthy on the Green Party ticket.

Worthy has not charged a single Detroit police officer with murder since — as an assistant prosecutor — she prosecuted Larry Nevers and Walter Budzyn for killing Malice Green in 1992. There have been dozens of killings during her tenure.

She did unsuccessfully prosecute Michigan State Trooper Jay Morningstar for the 2004 killing of Eric Williams, a homeless man, in Detroit’s Greektown.

“We must charge based on facts we can prove beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law,” Worthy said in a statement. “We do not have a quota system for charging police officers. Each case is evaluated on its own merits.”

The July killings are still under investigation, Worthy said.

She did not comment on the June 2 killing of 54-year-old Tommy Staples, Sr., a community mentor who regularly mediated when youth were stopped by the two officers who killed him. According to his autopsy report, Staples was shot two times in a front shoulder, two times in a back shoulder, once in a foot, and once in the top of the head. When his wife and son arrived at the scene, they found him under the officers’ car.

Worthy defends record

“In 2006 and 2007 we charged 36 Detroit Police Officers with felonies and misdemeanor offenses,” Worthy said. “Currently in 2008 we have charged officers with crimes. These cases reflect both on and off duty misconduct. The crimes range from felonies such as involuntary manslaughter, criminal sexual conduct, child sexual assault and domestic violence assault offenses.”

That is small comfort for Bell, Sr. His son, the father of a two-year-old boy and a six-month-old girl, was killed July 1 at a BP gas station at West Chicago and Schaefer by an off-duty Detroit police officer. The autopsy report shows that Bell, Jr. was shot ten times, five in the chest, three in the back, once in the head behind his right ear, and once in his left arm. None of the shots were at close range. Bell, Jr. had no intoxicants in his system according to the toxicology report.

The police department said that Bell, Jr. demanded the keys to the unidentified officer’s car. Police said the teenager had a gun, but his uncle said that an officer he knows told him that Bell never had a chance to pull it.

Videotape shows teen running away from cop

A blurry gas station videotape of the scene shows a figure running up to the officer’s car at the pump, then immediately running a good distance away towards the street, turning to face the officer and collapsing. Bell’s companion was later released without charges.

Bell, Sr. said he rode his bike to the scene and saw his son’s body directly behind the back of the officer’s car, not at the site shown in the videotape. He said the body lay there for five hours while police and coroner officials laughed and joked. Bell said the family plans to ask their pastors, the Rev. Jim Holley and the Rev. Keith Butler respectively, for assistance in obtaining justice for their nephew.

Bell, Sr. said his son had a “fascination with the streets” and was released from a youth detention facility only three weeks before he was killed. But he said that he was kind-hearted, and looked up to by the youth in the facility, many of whom attended his funeral at New Light Missionary Baptist Church.

DeAngelo, a friend of Bell, Jr’s., who asked that his last name not be used, said, “He was a good person who was trying to stay out of trouble, although he did get into it. He always talked to me and asked for guidance. It was just a tragedy. I don’t know why the officer to emptied his whole clip into him.”

Other police killings include:

- On July 14, police killed a man they claim emerged from a house at Indiandale and 14th streets, pointing a gun at them. They alleged that he and three others were involved in an earlier drive-by shooting and carjacking. They said they arrested the three others, and tracked the fourth man with a dog to the house where they killed him.

- On July 18, 35-year-old Robert Hill, backpack strapped on, rode his bicycle to an apartment building at Appoline and Buena Vista. Hill and his bicycle were rammed by a police car into another vehicle. The officers claimed that Hill pulled a gun, and when they ordered him to put it down, he pointed it at them and they shot him to death.

- On July 20, at 4:30 a.m., an off-duty Wayne County Deputy Sheriff shot two men, killing one, who allegedly began firing their guns into a southwest side party the sheriff was at. According to published reports, Victor Akrawi, owner of the house, said that the two men wore masks and that when he removed the mask on the dead man, who was from Clinton Township, he did not know who he was. No one at the party was hurt.

-On Dec. 26 last year, Rose Cobb was shot to death outside a CVS pharmacy on East Jefferson as she sat in her car, waiting for her husband, Detroit police Sgt. David Cobb, to come out of the store. Vincent Smothers, a self-admitted hit man, later confessed to the killing, saying that Cobb hired him to kill his wife, and that Cobb’s girl-friend’s son, Marzell Shawn Black was also involved. Black has also been charged, but Worthy refused to press charges against Cobb, despite police officials’ contention that they had enough evidence to charge him.

Worthy said, “We cannot comment on this matter due to an ongoing investigation regarding the death of Rose Cobb.”

Earlier cases

It is not uncommon, however, for the prosecutor’s office to claim an investigation is ongoing when it is actually over.

Police records showed that the case against officer Eugene Williams, who was moonlighting off-duty as store security when he shot 16-year-old Brandon Martell Moore in the back at the Bel-Aire mall in November, 2006, was closed in January, 2007. However, Worthy’s office continued to claim long afterwards that the investigation was ongoing.

Moore’s father, John Moore, Sr., said, “The investigation into my son’s case was incompetent and a decision was made too quickly. Williams had already shot his own wife and slammed a little boy at Cody High School into the wall. How can you pay someone to represent the people when they allow cops to get away with shooting us? Pretty soon, we’re going to start shooting back, and there’s going to be an all-out war.”

Williams also killed two other men previously while off-duty.

Worthy later refused to prosecute officers in the 2007 deaths of Jevon Royall, 30, outside his apartment complex on 12th and Euclid, and Artrell Dickerson, 18, outside the Cantrell funeral home, despite abundant eyewitness testimony that the killings were unprovoked.

Worthy refused to prosecute killer cop Eugene Brown

In March, the families of the three men killed by Officer Eugene Brown in 1994, 1996 and 1998 confronted Worthy’s representative James Gonzalez, chief of the homicide unit, with the recently-released results of the Shoulders Report investigation into Brown’s conduct. The Report recommended that Brown be charged in the killings. Gonzalez said their office had had the report all along.

In response to the families’ demands for charges, Worthy’s office issued this statement: “Under the previous two administrations, there were investigations into the shootings that involved former (sic) Detroit police officer Eugene Brown. All of these investigations resulted in no charges being brought against him. Since taking office, there has been no new evidence submitted to Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy by any attorney or civilian.”

Arnetta Grable, Sr., mother of Lamar Grable, killed by Brown in 1996, later told Gonzalez that all his office needed to do was look at the civil trial transcripts in her son’s case, which showed conclusively that his killing was unjustified. The Grable family won a $6 million award in the case after both state appeals and the state Supreme Court upheld the verdict. The family of Darren Miller, killed in 1999, reached a $3 million settlement.

(See next week’s Michigan Citizen for details on Abel and further analysis of Worthy’s tenure.)

Related Articles:

Waters Calls for Federal Investigation into Police Killings

El Salvador: Answers Demanded in Killing of Youth Leader

Black Men to Patrol Philadelphia's Deadly Streets




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