Detroit police officer charged in shooting of girl

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 04, 2011 8:48 PM
Detroit police officer charged in shooting of girl

DETROIT (Reuters) - A Detroit police officer was charged with involuntary manslaughter and careless discharge of a firearm on Tuesday over the 2010 shooting of a 7-year-old girl during a raid filmed by a reality TV show.

Joseph Weekley, 35, pleaded not guilty to the charges, linked to the shooting death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones during a raid in Detroit that was being filmed by the television series "The First 48."

The charges come over a year after Michigan state police launched an investigation of the shooting, which prompted widespread protests and questions over whether police had acted with excessive force to stage a show for the cameras.

The charges against Weekley, which carry a maximum of 17 years in prison, are the result of a grand jury indictment. Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee said police commissioners would review Weekley's status as an active-duty officer.

The director of photography for the show filming the raid was also charged with perjury. Prosecutors said Allison Howard, who had video footage that was crucial evidence in the case, had lied under oath in a hearing a week after the shooting.

At the time of the May 2010 raid, the Detroit Police Department's "Special Response Team" was searching for a suspect in connection with the fatal shooting of a 17-year-old high school student.

After midnight, the police unit broke into a duplex using a "flash bang" grenade. Weekley fired his weapon immediately on entering the house and shot and killed Aiyana, prosecutors said.

The Detroit Free Press, quoting police sources, had previously reported that Aiyana's grandmother, Mertila Jones, tried to grab Weekley's gun, which discharged. She has denied that account.

At the time, Chauncey Owens, 35, a friend of Aiyana's father, was hiding in an upstairs unit of the duplex, police said. Owens has since pleaded guilty to shooting Je'rean Blake at a bus stop in retaliation for a dirty look.

Prosecutors said the gun Owens used was supplied by Aiyana's father, Charles Jones, 26. Jones was charged with first degree murder in Blake's death on Tuesday along with other charges including perjury and being a felon in possession of a gun.

"Fiction writers couldn't bring us a story as crazy as this," said Roland Lawrence, a student at Wayne State University in Detroit, who organized a group, the Justice for Aiyana Jones Committee, to keep pressure on prosecutors.

"I'm kind of relieved that something has happened, because I've been haunted by this," Lawrence said.

(Editing by Cynthia Johnston)