Mom of girl shot to death: ‘My baby deserves justice’

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Bullet holes in the dining room window, bloodstains on the family car, and a mother’s tears were reminders Monday morning of a shooting hours earlier that left a 7-year-old girl dead and her 8-year-old friend hospitalized.

Kiana Johnson, mother of Chanell Berry, 7, hugs her brother, Chanell’s uncle Dominique Johnson outside of the home where shooting occurred.

Chanell Berry and Ellen Garjo were playing with their Christmas presents about 8:30 p.m. Sunday when someone opened fire on their house. Chanell, who would have celebrated her 8th birthday Jan. 4, was killed; Ellen also was shot, but is expected to recover.

“My baby deserves justice,” Chanell’s mother, Kiana Johnson, said through tears as she addressed reporters outside her home Monday. She gestured toward the bullet holes. “Do you see they shot through my window?

“My daughter, my baby; she was an innocent child ... she loved everything about life — and now I’m sitting here wondering if my baby’s killer is going to be brought to justice.”

Sharonda Benson, the 23-year-old woman police named Sunday as a person of interest in the shooting, turned herself in to the Detroit Police 6th precinct about 3 a.m., Sgt. Cassandra Lewis said.

Lewis added a man believed to be connected to the shooting was arrested. Police reports identify him as a 22-year-old man who was arrested while riding in the backseat of a taxicab on Joy Road near Evergreen.

The shooting happened in the 16800 block of Steel, near McNichols and the Lodge freeway, following an argument, Assistant Detroit Police Chief Steve Dolunt said.

“This started over some family drama,” he said. “There was a family gathering, the new girlfriend confronted the old one, and said, ‘I’ll be back.’

“A few minutes later, shots were fired, and we’ve got a 7-year-old girl dead.”

According to police reports of the incident, Benson was at the house about two hours before the shooting.

Chanell Berry.

“(Witness) stated that Benson was waiting outside the location ... when they all pulled up to the residence,” the report said. “After (an argument), Benson left but stated ... ‘(Expletive), I’m gonna get you! Believe that!’ (A witness) said that the two women had been beefing in recent months about their affection for (Chanell’s father).”

Johnson said she was upstairs when she heard the shots. “(Chanell) wasn't allegedly targeted; all I know when I came downstairs my baby and another child, was on the floor, literally,” she said.

The family didn’t wait for an ambulance, putting the children into their Ford 500 and rushing them to Sinai-Grace Hospital. Bloodstains were smeared on the rear passenger’s side bumper Monday morning.

Chanell was pronounced dead at 8:40 p.m. Sunday, the police report said.

When police arrived, they found the front door open. A pink bag with children's roller skates inside was sitting on the floor.

Bullet holes in the front window of the home. The shooting happened in the 16800 block of Steel, near McNichols and the Lodge freeway.

“Before we could make it (past) the dining room we were met by (an aunt), who was crying hysterically saying ‘They shot the babies!’ She stated that she ... along with her sisters ... and brother ... were all upstairs when they heard gunshots.

“All of them got down on (the) floor until (the shots) stopped, (then) they all ran from the upstairs to the lower floor and discovered the two minors laying on the dining room floor with gunshot wounds,” the police report said.

At a press conference Monday morning, Detroit Police Chief James Craig called the shooting "tragic, senseless," and something that never should have happened.

An autopsy is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon, according to a Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office spokesman.

Chanell’s uncle, Dominique Johnson, said he was at the house earlier, playing with the children.

“And then I left and when I came home, I came home to this stuff,” he said. “I was here playing with the kids with their Christmas toys and now this."

Dolunt was visibly upset Sunday, shortly after arriving at the crime scene.

“These kids were playing with their Christmas gifts and some (expletive) fires into their house? I’m furious. Who would shoot into a house knowing there were kids in there? If they’re a parent themselves, what does that tell you?”

“This wasn’t drug related, or gang related,” Dolunt said. “This was senseless.”

Family members have started a GoFundMe page to help with funeral costs. By early Monday afternoon, the effort had raised $200.

(313) 222-2134

Daniel Mears and James Dickson contributed.