Worries arise in Detroit after riot in Baltimore

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — Concern Thursday about the fatal shooting of a suspect by a federal agent turned to a discussion about rioting in Baltimore and how Detroit police might handle a similar situation.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig says his officers are trained and equipped to deal with civil unrest.

At a meeting of the Detroit Police Board of Commissioners, some members of the civilian oversight panel were concerned the discontent seen after armed robbery suspect Terrance Kellom's shooting could escalate.

"I sit on the advisory board for Comerica Bank, and I'm getting asked: 'What is the plan if something like Baltimore happens in Detroit?' " Commissioner Eva Garza Dewaelsche said. "Corporations downtown want to know."

Assistant Police Chief Steve Dolunt said there is a strategy mapped out. "An evacuation plan would go through Homeland Security," he said. "We have plans in place if there's a problem."

After the meeting, Detroit Police Chief James Craig told The Detroit News: "There has always been a plan in place to address civil unrest and the potential for unrest. People got a snapshot this week of how we would respond to problems: We talk to community leaders, we work with them, but if someone commits a crime, we'll take appropriate action.

"I'm not going to publicly say how we'll stage up if we anticipate unrest, but we continually train and make sure our officers have proper equipment. That's not just something we're doing now; we do that on a regular basis."

Officials involved with local tourism and philanthropic efforts agree that turbulence in the streets has the potential to harm business as well as other areas in Detroit.

Pursuing a preventative strategy "is very forward thinking and very proactive," said Robert Thornton, a senior program officer at the Skillman Foundation. "What happens in Baltimore can happen in any community if the stakeholders are not responsive to challenges that face the community. I think it can very much happen here, I just happen to think that there are a number of people in the community that are beginning to come together to ensure that it does not."

Bill Bohde, senior vice president of sales and marketing at the Detroit Metro Convention & Visitors Bureau, said Thursday night his group isn't currently engaged with city authorities about a specific strategy but "will be prepared if anything were to occur."

"Right now we are very optimistic about what is going on in Detroit," Bohde said.

After U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Officer Mitchell Quinn on Monday shot and killed Kellom, 20, a group the next night protested the shooting, spilling into the street, blocking traffic and cussing at officers who were monitoring the protest.

"They came real close to crossing the line and getting arrested," Craig said Thursday after the video of the protest surfaced.

Immediately after Kellom was shot during a raid in a home in the 9500 block of Evergreen, Dolunt responded to the scene, and said the crowd that gathered outside the house was on the verge of getting violent.

"The last person they wanted to see was me, because I'm Caucasian," Dolunt said. "I understand that, which is why I called the chief to come to the scene."

Quinn was part of the Detroit Fugitive Apprehension Team, multi-jurisdictional task force of city, surburban and federal officers. They had an arrest warrant for Kellom, who was wanted for the armed robbery of a pizza delivery man. Craig said he lunged at agents with a hammer before he was shot.

"A lot of citizens feel uncomfortable with these task forces because they feel like they're white invading armies," Dolunt said. "Most of the federal agents are Caucasian." Quinn is black.

Dolunt called Craig, who responded to the scene and immediately spoke with Kellom's family, before addressing neighbors.

Commission Chairman Willie Bell complained the police board isn't being included in responses to the Kellom shooting.

Although the City Charter mandates the 11-member board oversee the police department, its powers were usurped when Kevyn Orr was appointed emergency manager. When he left, he issued Order 42, which transitioned power over the police department to Mayor Mike Duggan.

"When you hear the hue and cry across the country for more police oversight, I'm frustrated that we're still being kept out of the process," Bell said. "We want to be involved in the public safety of Detroit."

Bell and Ron Scott, director of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, lambasted ICE officials for not talking to the public about the incident, although ICE Special Agent in Charge Rebecca Adducci did address a crowd during a community meeting Wednesday.

"People thought DPD was involved, because ICE isn't making any statements," Bell said.

The shooting is being investigated by Detroit Police and the Department of Homeland Security Office of the Inspector General. A Homeland Security spokesperson could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Dolunt said investigators have gotten statements from every officer who was present, except Quinn.

While most of the protests of the shooting have been peaceful, a shaky 3:05 video emerged Thursday of Tuesday's protest.

A line of squad cars is seen moving slowly down the street, as members of the crowd yell, "Shoot! Shoot!" At one point, one man, clad in a T-shirt with the number 32 on the back, appears to pantomime striking the police cruiser.

After a few seconds, the crowd backs away, allowing the squad car, driven by a female corporal, to pass. Members of the crowd cheer, raising their arms and chanting "hands up!"

Another police car approaches, but is halted when a man walks into the street. "He got a hammer!" people yell as the man turns around, lifts his shirt, and says, "My back (is) right here."

One man is heard yelling: "Don't get close to that car! You've got to know the law." Another man replies: "My back (is) right here. They (the police) don't know the law."

Craig said local community leaders were instrumental in calming things down.

"They did a good job of defusing things," he said.

"We will facilitate a peaceful protest, and we even give a little," Craig said. "Even though we don't want them in the street, because it impedes traffic, we've been allowing that, as long as cars can safely pass. We've been very compromising.

"But the other night, they got close to going to jail."


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