Detroit murders down in ’15 despite bloody December

George Hunter
The Detroit News

For the third straight year, homicides in Detroit are expected to be down, according to unofficial police statistics.

Preliminary figures through 8:30 p.m. Thursday showed there were 295 people killed in the city in 2015, compared to 300 the previous year, when Detroit recorded the fewest number of homicides since 1967. Police are expected to release the final count next week.

The reduction comes despite a year-end spike in killings. There were 38 homicides in December — 18 in the final two weeks — making it the year’s deadliest month. February saw the year’s fewest homicides, 15.

Most homicides are either targeted hits or spur-of-the-moment crimes that are unpreventable, but there have been efforts that have helped keep the numbers down, Sgt. Cassandra Lewis said.

“Our detectives are diligently working, even on non-fatal shootings,” she said. “Non-fatals often lead to fatals if they go unsolved. We’ve also had serious efforts to get unlicensed guns off the street, including traffic enforcement officers confiscating illegal guns.”

Some of this year’s victims made headlines, with recent cases including 7-year-old Chanell Berry, who police say was killed after a family argument; bass player Anthony Tolson, gunned down in a Christmas Eve carjacking; and 59-year-old Detroit firefighter David Madrigal, who on Dec. 21 was found dead from blunt force trauma inside his northwest-side home

But most of the casualties in 2015, including 45-year-old automobile painter David Gergel, died in relative obscurity.

Gergel was gunned down in broad daylight Sept. 6 after police say he had words with a motorist who was blocking the street on the city’s southwest side. Police released a photograph of a black late-model Cadillac thought to be the shooters’ car, but the victim’s sister, Rene Cizio, said there’s been no break in the case.

“We’ve passed out a lot of fliers and talked to a lot of people, but we’ve gotten no tips at all,” she said. “We’re sill hopeful someone will come forward eventually.”

Other 2015 killings include:

■The Jan. 17 slaying of Eugene Landyon, 20, who was fatally shot around 9:55 p.m. outside a Sunoco gas station near Plymouth and Wyoming. He was trying to prevent a carjacking when the suspect fired one shot.

■Jacqueline Lewis on Feb. 2 fatally shot her husband, Cornell Lewis, at their home in the 18200 block of Fenton. Her 8-year-old daughter was also injured in the attack. Lewis was convicted in November of manslaughter and sentenced to up to 15 years in prison.

■Patrick Jones Jr. , 19, was killed March 12 while he walked to a bus stop on Patton to catch a ride to his job in Redford Township.

■The bodies of 9-year-old Stephen Berry and 13-year-old Stoni Blair were found March 24 inside a freezer in an apartment in the Martin Luther King homes. Their mother, Mitchelle Blair, pleaded guilty to first-degree murder, and was sentenced to life in prison.

■A 20-year-old man was killed during a June 20 block party, one of 10 shot at the gathering. Although there were reportedly more than 400 people at the party, no one came forward to provide information to police.

■A Dearborn police officer fatally shot 35-year-old Kevin Matthews during a reported struggle Dec. 23 in the backyard of a home on the west side. The officer followed Matthews, who was seen walking in Dearborn while wanted for a larceny, into Detroit. The officer, who has been placed on leave while the incident is investigated, claims Matthews reached for his service pistol. The death was ruled a homicide by medical examiners, but whether it will be handled as a criminal homicide is up to prosecutors after the police investigation wraps up.

As of 5 p.m. Thursday, the year’s final killing was a 17-year-old boy who was fatally shot Thursday morning on the city’s west side.

Dearborn police pulled over a tan Chevrolet Tahoe near Wyoming and Tireman on a speeding violation at about 1:20 a.m., Dearborn police intern Hussein Abdallah said. He was driving his companion to the hospital after the shooting.

Police rendered first aid and called for an ambulance. The ambulance arrived, along with Detroit police, who took over the case. The boy died from his injuries, Lewis said.

(313) 222-2134

Staff Writer James David Dickson contributed.