Detroit cops seek tips to find 'urban terrorists'

Mike Martindale and Christine MacDonald
The Detroit News
Salvation Army Detroit Temple Corps members pray at the scene of Saturday night’s shooting.

Detroit— Decrying the no-snitch silence that descended over a west side neighborhood after a block party erupted in violence, leaving one dead and 11 others shot, Police Chief James Craig on Sunday pleaded with witnesses to come forward and identify the "urban terrorists."

The chief and detectives canvassed the area of Dexter and Webb looking for clues to the shooting that marred the start of summer in a barrage of gunshots Saturday. Police called the shooting retaliatory and labeled the shooters "cowardly thugs."

Craig said officers are seeking two men believed to have exchanged gunfire with the victim, 19-year-old Malik Jones.

But Craig said the "neighborhood is not talking" and urged witnesses to help them catch the two shooters. He said 47 shots were fired at the annual neighborhood basketball game, attended by families.

"We're making a passionate plea to the community to talk. They need to respond," Craig said. "They're fed up and we're fed up.

"As I have said time and again, the police cannot do this alone."

Craig said he didn't have statistics with him but believed the past weekend was one of the most violent weekends of the year in Detroit.

In a separate incidents, a 19-year-old woman was wounded by gunshot while walking on Monroe in Greektown on Saturday night, police said. And early Sunday morning, a would-be robber entered Pete's Grill and Coney Island at Outer Drive and Dequindre announcing a holdup. A cook in the restaurant shot the man several times, killing him.

The shootings extended to Sunday evening, injuring a woman and her 2-year old, innocent bystanders in neighborhood argument over dogs.

Jones, the homicide victim in the Dexter and Webb shootout, was killed three blocks from where he lived. Craig said Jones had been shot about a month ago in the neighborhood.

The other victims ranged in age from 19 to 47, Craig said, adding that seven are recovering at home and four remain in the hospital in stable condition.

Police say someone opened fire about 8:30 p.m. Saturday at a party on a basketball court where about 300 people were gathered.

Community activist Helen Moore, president of the Dexter Elmhurst Community Center, said the basketball game was not sponsored by the center, which owns the parking lot used as a basketball court.

Moore, who was not present, said the area often hosts community events. She said she was not aware of any notification that an event was planned there Saturday night.

"We are going to have a community meeting and encourage people to talk so this doesn't happen again," Moore said. "We can work with them and work with police for additional patrols."

Moore said the community center has been the target of vandals and thieves in recent years, including rooftop thefts of equipment and metal, which have affected the center's operations.

Jerome Thompson, 65, lived in the neighborhood most of his life, but said he recently moved to Warren because of break-ins and other crime.

"It's sad," he said, looking at the scene of Saturday's shooting. "I was raised on this court."

The neighborhood surrounding the run-down parking lot is filled with dilapidated, abandoned store fronts.

Craig stayed in the neighborhood talking with a handful of passers-by for about 20 minutes after the Sunday afternoon news conference. That included two teens, one bouncing a basketball, who walked down Dexter.

"Do you know who I am?" Craig asked them, before peppering them with questions and telling them the department needed their help to catch the shooter.

Another, who pedaled past the basketball courts on a bicycle, shouted out his appreciation to Craig for helping to make the city safer.

"You're doing a good job," the youth shouted out, to which Craig wearily replied, "Not today."

Jones was well-known and popular in the neighborhood, said Melissa Brown, a childhood friend who watched the Sunday news conference from a bus stop across Dexter.

"He loved to smile," Brown said. "Everybody out here loved Malik, and the police aren't going to find his killer."

She said witnesses likely won't come forward because they don't believe police will protect them. Brown said she's angry that officers didn't do a better job of monitoring the game. It has been an annual event for years, and police should have been better prepared, she said.

"The police should have been out there," Brown said. "You need to treat this area like you do downtown. None of these cops care about this neighborhood."

"It's been going on too long for them not to know."

Police said they had been in the area a few hours before the shooting, clearing the streets of cars, and that participants had cooperated.

"We had made our presence known, " said Capt. Nick Kyriacou, who said a preliminary investigation indicates someone was in pursuit of Jones, who "for whatever reason decided to conceal himself in a crowd" before the shooting.

"This (shooting incident) is an anomaly," Craig said. "Crime in general and violent crime specifically have both been trending down (here). At least, until recently.

"You have 12 people shot in one incident, and that is going to make the numbers go up."

The shooting came two days before Detroit's annual fireworks show, set for 10:06 p.m. Monday. The fireworks caps the city's four-day River Days festival.

Craig had pushed for a citywide curfew from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. for minors ages 17 and younger for four nights beginning Friday and ending Monday for River Days, but it was defeated by the Detroit City Council in a 4-3 vote Tuesday. The council narrowly favored a curfew for the fireworks show Monday that will run from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. and be limited to downtown.

Kyriacou said efforts were being made to arrange a community meeting "as soon as possible" this week to discuss the shooting.

"We want to bring all the stakeholders together — the neighborhood's residents, the people who were at the shooting, community groups — so we can get the people responsible," said Kyriacou. "We are not going to let them bring the community or the city down."

One person who plans to attend the community meeting is Garland Hardeman, a member of a neighborhood block group, who said numerous concerns need to be addressed.

"We have to get together," Hardeman said after talking briefly with Craig. "The neighborhood and police and everyone."

Police were passing out (800) SPEAK UP leaflets to residents and putting them in doorways with the hope of getting tips with information about those responsible for shooting.

Anyone with information can also call (313) 596-1616.

Associated Press contributed.