A Wayne County judge rebuked a 20-year-old man as lacking a “moral compass” and sentenced him to a lengthy prison term for shooting and killing a Detroit teen over a pair of Air Jordan sneakers.
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Kenny sentenced Dante Tyrell Ford, 20, to 28-50 years for second-degree murder plus two years for felony firearms in the shooting death of 17-year-old Grosse Pointe Woods resident Corey Harris-Thomas. The teen was trying to sell Ford a pair of Air Jordan sneakers for $160 in June when he was shot to death.
“(Ford) took the life of someone almost the same age and over what? A pair of Air Jordan Nikes,” Kenny said Thursday. “The devastation that wreaked on the victim’s family and the long lasting impact it’s having on Mr. Ford is ridiculous.”
Ford pleaded guilty to the teen’s death last month.
Authorities say the shooting occurred after Harris-Thomas and a friend met up with Ford around 1:30 p.m. June 6 in the area of Birwood and Fenkell in Detroit, where Harris-Thomas had previously arranged to sell the Air Jordan shoes.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said it was the second time that day Ford held up a teenager for the popular and expensive sneakers, which can range from $160 to $400 for a new pair.
Ford got into the rear passenger area of the SUV the teen and his friend were in and the three drove around two blocks to Fenkell and Pinehurst, where Ford pulled out a weapon and shot Harris-Thomas in the arm.
The teen’s 24-year-old friend then pulled a weapon and fired. Ford then fired his gun again, fatally wounding Harris-Thomas, causing the teen to fall out of the vehicle, which hit a fence near Fenkell and Pinehurst Street.
The victim’s parents spoke at the sentencing as Ford stood before the judge a few feet away.
Deidra Harris-Thomas said her son was kind, loving and a great friend to many.
“Every day that I wake up, I go to his room. I haven’t changed it,” she said. “It breaks my heart. It breaks my heart that he can’t be a big brother (anymore). His older sisters are torn up and they are struggling. We’re empty. We have to move forward for our other children. It’s hard. It’s really hard.”
The victim’s father, Corey Thomas, said “it hurts every day.”
Ford did not speak but his defense attorney, Cliff Woodards II, said part of the problem is that many young people are “immersed in a culture of get money now ... the hustle aspect” and that led his client to “go and hustle” Corey Harris-Thomas.
“Dante didn’t have the intent to kill,” Woodards said. “Dante bears the responsibility of (Harris-Thomas’ death).”
Kenny said: “While I agree there are far too many young people throughout the country who have this same view ... the fact of the matter is that you can’t walk away from the notion that it does boil down to individual responsibility and Mr. Ford knew what he was doing was wrong.”
After Ford’s sentencing, Deidra Harris-Thomas said she accepts the court’s decision on sentencing but that “judgment will come through God.”
The mother said a persistent gun culture and parents doing a poor job of raising their children is partly to blame for the gun violence that claimed her son’s life.
Harris-Thomas urged parents to monitor their children’s online activity, especially sales of items through popular websites that connect sellers and buyers. She said she had warned her son against selling gym shoes.
Harris-Thomas said her son was trying to get money together to take his girlfriend on a date but he didn’t need the money because she and her husband provided for their children.
Before handing out Ford’s punishment, Kenny told the victim’s parents he couldn’t “begin to imagine the heartache that the Thomas family is going through.”
Ford, who also was wounded, fled the scene, the prosecutor’s office said. The teen’s friend, who remained at the scene, called police, who arrived and found Harris-Thomas’ body in the street. His friend was taken to a hospital for treatment.
Ford was charged with felony murder, armed robbery, assault with intent to murder, felon in possession of a firearm and felony firearm.
Ford also has been charged in a separate incident involving Air Jordan shoes. He is accused of meeting a 16-year-old in the area of Birwood and Midland to buy a pair of Air Jordan shoes from him. Ford allegedly robbed the teenager at gunpoint and fled.