Audio: Detroit police detail chase, crash, kids' deaths

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit— The 3-year-old girl was playing on the sidewalk, chewing green candy, when a speeding Camaro being pursued by police jumped the curb and struck her, knocking her into the street.

The car then slammed into her 6-year-old brother, who fell face-down onto the curb, according to detailed police reports obtained by The Detroit News.

The horror and chaos of the June 24 police chase that ended with the deaths of siblings Makiah Jackson, 3, and Michaelangelo Jackson, 6, are captured by dispatch audio and reports from the officers involved in the incident.

The officers claimed they informed dispatch they were terminating the chase, although there's no mention of it in the audio reviewed by The News.

Lorenzo Harris, a 29-year-old parole absconder, has been charged with two counts of second-degree murder, after police say his car struck the children while he fled officers who ordered him to pull over for allegedly brandishing a pistol. A gun was never recovered.

Harris also was charged with reckless driving causing impairment because he allegedly injured three other children: Darius Andrews Jr., 3, Isaiah Williams, 5, and Zyaire Gardner, 7.

Zyaire, whose lungs collapsed after being struck by the car, was the last of the three kids to be released from the hospital.

"He's doing a lot better now," said Zyaire's older brother, Demetrius Hill. "He was pretty bad off; his whole upper body was in a body cast. But it looks like he'll be OK."

Harris is scheduled for a preliminary examination Monday in 36th District Court. During the hearing to determine whether to bind the case over for trial, three officers are expected to testify from Detroit Police 5th Precinct Special Operations: Richard Billingslea, Steven Fultz and Hakeem Patterson, who occupied the cruiser involved in the chase.

The officers gave their versions of events in their reports. Their sometimes frantic communication with police dispatchers during the chase was also captured on audio.

'High priority'

Billingslea, Fultz and Patterson made up the Special Operations Scout 5-36 crew on the June 24 afternoon shift, patrolling the city's east side in a fully marked cruiser, which did not have a working video camera, wrote Billingslea, the driver.

"Crew was approaching the corner of Chatsworth and Munich," Billingslea wrote. "I observed a red Camaro ... with two occupants coming westbound on Munich traveling at a slow rate of speed. As (the car) drove by crew ... my partner (Fultz) immediately stated, 'He has a gun in his hand!'

"The red Camaro then took off at a high rate of speed. As I activated my lights and sirens, the (car) failed to stop," wrote Billingslea, who chased the car.

Officers in their reports estimated the Camaro sped up to 100 mph as it tore down Munich, eventually turning north on Nottingham Road.

"Once (the) crew approached north on E. Warren I lost sight of the vehicle and slowed down to terminate the chase," Billingslea wrote. "My partner (Fultz) tried to notify dispatch via department radio to advise we were terminating."

No mention of terminating the chase, which officials said lasted about 75 seconds, was found in the dispatch audio, and Detroit Police Chief James Craig said he was unaware of the audio's existence.

In the wake of the incident, Craig is reviewing the department's chase policy to see if it needs revamping. The officers involved are also being investigated by Internal Affairs, to determine whether they followed department policy. The investigation is ongoing, Craig said Friday.

Some criticized the police for failing to cut off the chase earlier. The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality said in a statement, "If it was wrong for the chased driver to drive recklessly, irresponsibility, and dangerously, it is equally reckless, dangerous and irresponsible for police to give chase in a highly populated residential neighborhood."

No pulse

June 24 was a balmy summer evening, with temperatures in the high 70s. Several children were playing on Nottingham, a street where modest homes share space with boarded-up structures and overgrown fields.

Makiah and Michaelangelo were among the kids milling on the sidewalk, as their family barbecued on the front porch of the home in the 5200 block of Nottingham.

Rose Scott, the kids' aunt, told The News the Camaro suddenly jumped the curb, hit a large boulder on the lawn, then struck her niece and nephew. The driver continued north, leaving tire marks in front lawns, before slamming into the wood porch of a vacant home and hitting Darius, Isaiah and Zyaire, who were playing in a driveway.

Billingslea's crew, still blocks away, spotted a plume of smoke. He drove up Nottingham to investigate. "I immediately observed two children lying on the side of the curb," he wrote. Several yards north, he saw the Camaro, "the driver exiting the vehicle."

Billingslea and Patterson chased the suspect through backyards and fields, eventually nabbing him on Maryland Street, four blocks away. The third crew member, Fultz, rendered first aid to the children, he wrote.

"One child ... was laying on her right side in the middle of the street ... and the second child was lying face down on the curb," Fultz wrote. "I then immediately exited the scout car (ordering medics), and ran to the child that was laying in the middle of the street, observing a broken leg and arm. I checked the child for a pulse and was unable to find one.

"I immediately performed CPR until (another scout car) made the scene. I then picked up the child and placed her in the rear seat while (the car drove to) St. John Hospital. I continued to perform CPR during the conveyance. I also observed a small piece of green candy in the child's mouth which I removed.

"When (the car) reached St. John Hospital I carried ... Makiah running to the E.R. and placed her on a table so doctors would be able to perform their duties," Fultz wrote. "The E.R. doctor immediately pronounced Makiah ... deceased and stated the child suffered from a broken neck."

Back near the crash scene, Harris refused to give his name to officers, so he was logged as "John Doe."

Among the items placed into evidence were Makiah's white, pink and blue shoes.

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