Cop who killed suspect was involved in 1998 shooting

George Hunter
The Detroit News

The Detroit police officer who killed a carjacking suspect earlier this month was involved in a 1998 shooting that was among the cases that led the police department into 13 years of federal oversight.

The officer, whose name is not being released by The Detroit News because he hasn’t been charged with a crime, fatally shot 19-year-old Raynard Burton on Feb. 13, after Burton was spotted inside a stolen car on Detroit’s west side. Burton had carjacked the vehicle two days earlier, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said.

Craig said the officer, a 22-year Detroit police veteran assigned to the 10th Precinct Special Operations unit, chased Burton on foot. They ran into the backyard of a vacant house at 4255 Webb, where Craig said Burton struggled with the cop. The officer fired one shot, striking Burton in the lower right torso, Craig said.

The officer has been placed on restricted duty while the incident is being investigated. Detroit police forwarded the results of their investigation Tuesday to Wayne County prosecutors. The matter is under review, Assistant Prosecutor Maria Miller said Wednesday. Detroit Police and Michigan State Police also are investigating the incident.

It’s not the first time the officer was involved in a shooting. In a 1998 case, he was off duty when he wounded Detroit resident Johnny Larry Crenshaw outside a bank on the city’s west side. The officer was cleared of criminal wrongdoing and was not disciplined by the police department. He had been reprimanded three years earlier for shooting a pigeon with his service pistol, according to police records, as reported by The Detroit News in 2000.

Detroit Police 2nd Deputy Chief Michael Woody said Wednesday that investigators looking into the officer’s recent incident will probe the earlier shooting.

“Each case is investigated on its own merit,” Woody said. “If there are any factors that are of concern (in the earlier shooting), they will be brought to the forefront and addressed.”

After the Feb. 13 shooting, the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality released a statement demanding the police department suspend the officer, identify the officer’s name and race, and release his disciplinary record. The coalition also demanded police officials give the officer a drug test, and release dash-cam footage leading up to the shooting.

Craig said the footage doesn’t show anything relevant, adding that 10th Precinct officers have not yet been equipped with body cameras. Craig also revealed the officer, like Burton, is African-American.

Detroit Police Officers Association President Mark Diaz said it’s a mistake to read anything into the officer’s earlier incident.

“If an officer is involved in multiple shootings, that doesn’t mean they were necessarily bad shootings,” Diaz said. “If they were investigated and deemed justified by professional standards, it doesn’t mean there’s a heightened risk that the officer will be involved in another shooting. Every case has to be looked at individually.”

In the 1998 case, the officer claimed he shot Crenshaw because he was trying to rob a fellow Detroit cop, who also was off duty. Crenshaw claimed in a lawsuit he was counting money and not paying attention when he mistakenly tried to enter a vehicle he thought was his girlfriend’s.

After the shooting, the police department was criticized by community activists because police officials waited nearly a year before forwarding a warrant request to prosecutors. Former Wayne County Prosecutor John O’Hair also lambasted the police department because officers were unable to locate a witness to the shooting, while Crenshaw’s attorney was able to find her easily.

“If (Crenshaw’s) defense attorney could find her, the Detroit Police Department should have been able to,” O’Hair said during a court hearing in Crenshaw’s lawsuit.

The city settled Crenshaw’s suit with a six-figure payout, his attorney David Robinson said Wednesday.

Prosecutors investigated the Crenshaw shooting and exonerated the officer. But the way the police department handled that shooting and several others was sharply criticized, prompting former Mayor Dennis Archer in 2000 to ask the U.S. Department of Justice to review the string of police shootings.

After a 30-month probe, the DOJ filed a federal civil rights complaint, alleging Detroit cops used excessive force, illegally detained witnesses, and detained prisoners in deplorable conditions.

The police department settled the federal complaint in 2003 by signing consent decrees that included major revisions to the police department’s policies on the use of force, arrest and detention of witnesses, training and officer discipline.

After 13 years, the federal government determined last year the police department had satisfied the terms of the agreement by overhauling its policies.

When he signed the order in March 2016 ending the consent judgment, U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn wrote: “After more than a decade of reform efforts under the Consent Judgment, the DPD’s use of force practices have fundamentally improved.”

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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN