Suspect arrested as 2-year-old girl 'barely alive'

Mark Hicks, Holly Fournier, and George Hunter

Oak Park — A 2-year-old girl was clinging to life Thursday as police arrested the man they say shot her after an argument over Kool-Aid.

Following a massive manhunt, Detroit Police captured Cleveland Smelley on Thursday in Oak Park, according to Detroit and Oak Park police.

Makanzee Oldham

"We had gotten a tip last night that he might be here," Detroit Assistant Chief Steve Dolunt said of a motel on Eight Mile near Greenfield. That tip prompted plainclothes officers to set up overnight surveillance on the hotel, which police asked media not to name.

On Thursday morning, Oak Park police received its own tip, according to that department's Lt. Marlon Benson. Uniformed officers converged upon the hotel to find the Detroit officers already in place.

Officials with both departments arrested Smelley, 31 of Oak Park, inside room 71D, an upstairs unit at the hotel. Officers found no weapon inside and the suspect was taken into custody without incident.

"It was business as usual," Benson said of the arrest. "We have a good relationship with the Detroit police."

Smelley is arrested in connection to the shooting of 2-year-old Makanzee Oldham in the head Wednesday during an incident involving the girl's father on the city's east side.

"I just heard it was a stupid argument over Kool-Aid," Dolunt said, blasting a culture of settling conflicts with violence. "You can agree to disagree."

The girl was identified Thursday by her great-uncle Michael Oldham, who told The Detroit News that the girl is "barely alive."

"She's still hanging on, but it's pretty critical," Oldham said. "The family is trying to hold it together."

Detroit police confirmed her status Thursday. Officials previously were told and released publicly that the girl had died.

"She is on life support," Officer Jennifer Moreno said. "She is still alive at an area hospital."

Makanzee, initially reported to be 3 years old, was shot around 7:40 p.m. Wednesday while sitting in a car with her father on the 16400 block of Fairmount, police said. She has "a birthday coming up” which contributed to the initial confusion about her age, Officer Dan Donakowski said Thursday morning.

Smelley, a neighbor of the girl's father, allegedly “went up to the vehicle they were sitting in and opened fire,” Moreno said Wednesday. The girl was struck but her father was uninjured. Two other children also were in the vehicle at the time and escaped unscathed, police said.

Smelley's arrest Thursday came after two other people persons of interest were taken into custody, according to police. Those individuals are not being identified because they have not yet been charged. Their alleged roles in the shooting were not released.

Dolunt on Thursday praised tipsters who helped police safely locate Smelley.

"We can't thank the public enough," he said.

Dolunt added that police initially released an older picture of Smelley, but followed up Thursday with a newer image that may have helped people recognize the fugitive.

Cleveland Smelley

Michigan Department of Corrections records show Smelley has been sentenced for assault with a dangerous weapon, assault with intent to do great bodily harm less than murder and felony firearms. He is "well-known" in Oak Park due to previous run-ins with law enforcement, according to Benson.

Children have increasingly become victims of shootings in Detroit, a development that has led Detroit police Chief James Craig, advocates against gun violence and pastors to call for a cease-fire.

On Saturday, a 15-year-old girl was shot on her porch on the 3200 block of Hazelwood. From March to May, a 6-month-old and a 3-year-old were fatally shot, and a 5-year-old found a gun in her grandparents’ home and fatally shot herself. In that period, a 4-year-old also was injured in a shooting.

“You've got kids killing kids, adults killing adults over dumb stuff," said Derrick Austin, a supporter of United Communities of America. The group recently sponsored a motorcade through Detroit to protest the shootings.

Dolunt on Thursday joined the chorus, urging a change from the city's violence-prone culture.

"You gotta have a license to drive a car but there's no one to teach you to be a parent," he said. "This (violence) is learned behavior."