May 18, 2010 at 1:00 am

State to probe girl's slaying; lawyer disputes cops' account

Attorney Geoffrey Fieger questions the chain of events that led to Aiyana Jones' death. (Brandy Baker / The Detroit News)

Detroit -- A high-profile attorney hired by relatives of a slain 7-year-old girl is questioning the chain of events that ended when a police officer shot Aiyana Jones as she slept on her living room couch.

Michigan State Police have launched a probe into the incident, which happened at 12:40 a.m. Sunday after officers hunting a murder suspect threw a flash grenade through the living room window and onto the sleeping child as TV cameras rolled.

The incident was captured by a crew from the true crime cable television show "The First 48."

The incident has left the city, already reeling from a brutal two-week span of shooting deaths, searching for answers.

Civil rights advocates protested Monday and called for a federal probe into the slaying, while Mayor Dave Bing urged citizens to stand up against violence.

"This is a time for the community to come together," Bing said. "We just can't continue the massacre of our citizens."

Southfield attorney Geoffrey Fieger questioned preliminary police accounts stating that the girl was killed when a bullet pierced her neck after an officer entered the home.

Fieger, who plans to file a lawsuit this morning, said he saw video showing that a bullet was fired from outside the house, before police ever entered the flat on Lillibridge on the city's east side.

"It's not an accident," Fieger said. "It's not a mistake. There was no altercation. The pictures don't lie. It demonstrates conclusively, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what happened in this case."

Detroit Police gave a different account of the events leading up to the girl's death.

Assistant Chief Ralph Godbee said the officer who entered the home reportedly had physical contact with Aiyana's grandmother, Mertilla Jones, before his gun discharged a single round.

Godbee called on Fieger to share whatever footage he had with investigators.

"If Mr. Fieger has access to anything that would be evidence in this case, he should, as an officer of the court, get it immediately to the Michigan State Police," Godbee said in a written statement.

Godbee also expressed concern about the community's possible reaction to the shooting.

"We understand there are community confidence concerns surrounding an incident of this magnitude," Godbee said. "This is not about egos; this is about getting to the veracity of the truth."

Procedures reviewed

He said the department is reviewing police procedure, including the use of flash grenades.

The incendiary grenades, which emit a blinding flash of light and a loud pop to disorient suspects, are controversial.

The devices have been banned in some police departments, including New York's, in part because officers sometimes mistakenly think they're being fired at after a grenade is launched.

Also Monday, police presented the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office with a warrant for the 34-year-old man they say killed Southeastern High School student Jerean Blake outside a liquor store near the corner of Mack Avenue and St. Jean.

The suspect could be arraigned as early as today.

Federal probe urged

Community leaders are calling for a federal investigation.

"We think (U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder) should investigate this shooting and investigate what seems to be a policy that is leading to these kinds of confrontations," said Ron Scott, director of the Coalition Against Police Brutality.

Scott and about a dozen others protested Monday across the street from a groundbreaking for the Damon J. Keith Center for Civil Rights at Wayne State University. Scott called on Holder to open a federal civil rights investigation into the shooting. Holder, who spoke at the groundbreaking, did not comment.

Some have questioned whether officers were pressured to capture the 34-year-old murder suspect, who is believed responsible for shooting a 17-year-old high school student Friday, because of the presence of a film crew for "The First 48."

The show, which stresses the importance of homicide investigators to collar suspects in the first 48 hours after a crime, provides a timeline of events, from the crime until the capture.

The Rev. Charles Williams, pastor of Historic King Solomon Church, urged the Detroit Police Department to "immediately" end its relationship with the show, produced by the A&E Network.

"(The show) just feeds into the 'murder capital' perception and inhumane reputation of Detroit, which become a self-fulfilling prophecy," Williams said.

Police were poring over the film crew's footage Monday to see whether it had any evidentiary value, Godbee said.

'I yelled at them'

Christopher Cooper of the National Black Police Association, who was a Washington, D.C., police officer for 10 years, said the presence of the TV film crew likely didn't make a difference.

He blamed the tragedy on what he said is the increasing militarization of police forces.

"Aiyana Jones is dead because of a trend toward the militarization of police agencies," Cooper said. "They're purchasing tanks, and acting like they are in a war zone.

"I've been on that porch, executing search warrants in some of the most dangerous communities in the country, and I'm telling you, if I know there are children in that house, I'm prepared to abort the mission."

"When I realize there are children in that house, I do not throw any grenade."

There were toys strewn throughout the front yard of the two-family flat, and a relative said he told police there were children inside.

There were four children living there, along with six adults, relatives said.

"I yelled it at them; they didn't care," said Aiyana's cousin, Mark Robinson, who said he was sitting in front of the flat when police converged on the scene.

Detroit News Staff Writers Oralandar Brand-Williams, Christine MacDonald and Paul Egan contributed.

TV reporters approach Lakrystal Sanders, Aiyana's aunt, where the ... (David Coates / The Detroit News)
Detroit Assistant Police Chief Ralph Godbee addresses the press outside ... (Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)
Derek Grigsby and others protest the shooting at the groundbreaking of the ... (Clarence Tabb Jr. / The Detroit News)
Crystal Young, 37, of Detroit places flowers Monday amid the balloons and ... (Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)