Mom’s death part of violent weekend in Detroit

James David Dickson, Candice Williams, and Mark Hicks

Detroit — Leslie Gordon never imagined she’d lose her lively, fun-loving mother in a hail of bullets.

LaKisha Henry

Still reeling from losing her 35-year-old mother, one of seven fatalities during the weekend, Gordon also can’t comprehend the ongoing violence in the city.On Saturday afternoon, while driving in the 6500 block of Mansfield, LaKisha Henry was shot multiple times by a male suspect, police said, making her one of 21 victims during a weekend Detroit’s police Chief James Craig called the second most violent of the year.

“I just want them to put the guns down,” the 15-year-old said. “Find an alternate way to dispose of the problem. I’m pretty sure it’s not that serious …”

Weeks after police launched a grass-roots effort to fight crime and a minister reached out to criminals with an “urban peace treaty,” the burst of violence has left authorities and others asking why that hasn’t happened.

“We’re fighting our own progress,” Craig said during a news conference Monday on the east side during the opening of the 7th Precinct.

The city’s homicide total is 96, the same number recorded last year at this time, Craig said.

There are positives in the numbers, Craig said. Robberies, which he called “the one crime where suspects are opportunists,” are down year over year.

But city-wide, there’s been a disturbing number of shootings from vehicles, Craig said. In the 17 shootings this weekend, suspects shot from vehicles in seven of them, he said.

Two people were in custody in Henry’s shooting, and an Infiniti believed used in the shooting has been recovered, police said Monday.

Gordon, her only child, is not sure what sparked the incident but believes others are involved. “I’m looking forward to them finding the other people,” she said. “I just want answers.”

Violence against children has been another worry. Since Easter weekend, a child has been shot in Detroit four of the six weekends. This past weekend, a 9-year-old boy was injured after finding a gun on a front lawn.

It was just last month that Craig announced a grass-roots approach to fighting crime after three incidents involving a 6-month-old and a 3- and 4-year-old, and called on ministers to reach out to criminals in an “urban peace treaty.” The anti-crime activists and pastors who joined him called on criminals to cease their attacks.

“You cannot shoot this city up,” said Pastor Maurice Hardwick of Body of Believers Outreach Ministry. “You cannot kill our babies and get away with it. We’re asking you to stand down.”

In collaboration with Detroit City Councilwoman Mary Sheffield, Craig announced Monday the department will conduct a police academy for high school-age students to show them how the department works to fight crime. Sheffield said the academy starts mid-June.

Craig has called officer retention the department’s biggest issue. Sheffield said youth outreach efforts should help.

“As young people get exposure to the work of a Detroit police officer, some of them may decide this is something they want to do as a career,” Sheffield said.

Repeated rounds of violence can leave a community weary, said Carl S. Taylor, a professor in the Department of Sociology at Michigan State University who studies urban crime. As a result, the residents retreat into their homes, he said.

“If they can’t leave, they adjust to it,” he said.

Minister Malik Shabazz of the New Black Panther/Marcus Garvey Movement wants to push residents to actively help stem violence in their neighborhoods.

“All things considered we should be so afraid — not that we are afraid to a paralysis — but scared into action,” Shabazz said. He said the violence should propel residents to form block clubs, participate in neighborhood watch patrols and get to know their neighbors.

“We recognize that we deserve better,” he said. “When men stand up, boys who may be 15 or may be 50 sit down, zip their mouth and open up their ears, hearts and mind and learn how to become men. We need more men, especially black men, to get up stand up and take control of their community.”

Meanwhile, as activists demand action, the victims’ families are grappling with unexpected, devastating change.

The day before she was shot, Henry — who had been off work since a car accident last year — accepted a job offer at General Motors, her daughter said. “She was excited.”

Henry was “very giving and caring,” Gordon said — so much so, just before the shooting, Henry took her mother’s lawnmower to the shop for repairs. “She was very unique, you can’t really find too many people like her.”

Gordon had planned to shower Henry and her grandmother with attention this weekend during a family-friendly event at Joe Louis Arena. Now, she is seeking help with a funeral and clinging to memories.

“She was a very strong woman,” Gordon said. “She was the type of person you would never know was down or sad because she kept a smile on her face.”

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