Barricaded gunman situation ends peacefully

James David Dickson
The Detroit News
Members of the Detroit Police Department's Special Response Team prepare a vehicle to approach the home of a suspected barricaded gunman.

An hours-long Detroit police standoff with a barricaded gunman on the city's east side ended with the man's peaceful arrest -- and with Police Chief James Craig making a plea for better services for the mentally ill.

The incident, on the 6000 block of Kensington, began Sunday afternoon, about 3 p.m., when the 39-year-old suspect's dog ran into a neighbor's yard, said Police Chief James Craig.

As a "show of gratitude," the man walked back over to his neighbor's home and offered an "expensive watch," which was accepted.

Two hours later, though, he allegedly returned, not with another gift but with a gun, and demanded the watch back, and was given it.

The neighbor then called 911. Police from the 5th precinct arrived to find the suspect at his door, and saw "the same weapon described by he neighbor."

Officers retreated, but noted that a woman, later identified as the suspect's girlfriend, was inside.

The woman "managed to exit" the house, and is believed to have taken the dog with her, though it was still missing as of 9 a.m. The suspect then broke out several windows at the home.

Police called for backup, and a barricaded gunman situation was declared by 1:40 a.m., when negotiations began. Snipers, negotiators, the entire special response team, the tactical response unit, Detroit Police Department command and even a car from traffic enforcement would appear at the scene in the hours to come.

The suspect's family told police he hadn't slept or taken his medication since Thursday, but had drank alcohol and taken narcotics during that time. The suspect's file, however, indicated he was prohibited from owning or possessing guns due to his mental illness, which Craig did not detail.

Police also believe the man was grieving the loss of his mother, but couldn't say how long ago she died.

During the night the man fired a single round from inside the house, but no one was hit, police said. Police fired tear gas into the house but it failed to get the man to exit. Craig attributed that to the broken windows.

"This was an isolated incident," Craig said, but one that spoke to a larger problem that police confront daily. He mentioned a statistic that some 70 percent of inmates in Wayne County Jail have mental health issues. Wayne County Jail officials agree with that number, spokeswoman Kelly Miner said, who added that only 22 percent receive treatment. When inmates receiving mental health treatment are added with inmates addicted to drugs, that number is at about 70 percent. 

"We're criminalizing mental illness," Craig said, in what he admitted was a "personal statement."

"If a person is suffering from mental illness and they're not being treated, invariably what happens is they commit a criminal act, and so they are arrested," Craig said.

"As a society, we are failing" the mentally ill, Craig said.

The suspect will face felonious assault charges for the both the incident with his neighbor and for the shot fired at responding officers, Craig said.

Craig said he spoke with the suspect briefly after his arrest. The man wasn't happy about being arrested, but did go along peacefully.

"Hopefully we can get him some help," Craig said.