Detroit cop’s shooting a ‘sobering reminder’ of dangers

Francis X. Donnelly, and James David Dickson

Detroit — Responding to a domestic violence call Sunday night, two Detroit police officers pounded on the west-side apartment building door so someone would let them in.

Instead, they were greeted by a tenant with a gun, who promptly shot one of the officers in the head, said police. The officer’s partner returned fire and, in a fusillade of bullets, killed the tenant, James Edward Ray.

The injured officer, who wasn’t identified by police, was in critical condition at Oakwood Hospital in Dearborn on Monday night, said the hospital.

Police don’t know why Ray, 46, who wasn’t involved in the domestic violence call, shot the officer.

Surveillance video at the Oakman Apartments showed Ray loading his .380-caliber semiautomatic pistol as he walked from his apartment to the door, said Police Chief James Craig. Ray appeared to be walking with an unsteady gait, said Craig.

The officers were in uniform and driving a patrol car, said Craig. The chief said he believes Ray would have shot whoever was at the door.

A search of Ray’s apartment yielded a shotgun and .45 caliber pistol, said Craig. A Detroit News check of Michigan prison records didn’t show any history for Ray.

Police hope to talk to the man involved in the domestic violence call to see if he can shed any light about Ray’s actions, said Craig. The man had left his apartment by the time police arrived and remains at large, he said.

This is the eighth time since September that a Detroit police officer has been shot in the line of duty, said Craig.

“This is once again a sobering reminder of the dangers that our officers face each and every day,” he said.

Mayor Mike Duggan, who attended a news conference with Craig on Monday, echoed the chief’s sentiments.

“Every citizen owes a debt of gratitude (to the police),” said Duggan.

The injured officer, a 14-year veteran, underwent surgery, which left him with brain swelling, said Dr. James Wagner. He may need additional surgery, said the doctor.

The incident began Sunday night at 10:45 p.m. when police were called to the apartment complex in the 10000 block of Joy Road, said police. The caller was asked to keep the door propped open but had failed to do so, said police.

When Ray opened the door, he held the gun, pointing it at police, said Craig. He and the officer shot each other, both falling to the ground at the same time, said police.

The officer’s partner, who graduated from the police academy six months ago, took cover and began firing at Ray, said police. Ray was shot several times, said police.

Paramedics were on their way to the apartments before the shooting because the domestic violence call reported assault and battery, said police.

Detroit officers say they feel under siege in the barrage of gunfire they’ve recently faced.

Two Detroit officers from the 12th Precinct were shot Easter Sunday while investigating reports of a burglary.

Juwan Plummer, 19, feared the officers were about to break in and fired through the window, according to police. He was charged with intentional discharge of a firearm in a building causing serious injury, which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The officers were expected to recover.

Other shootings of police officers in the city include Sgt. Kenneth Steil, who died after being shot Sept. 17 in the shoulder while chasing an alleged carjacker.

On Nov. 23, Wayne State University police K-9 Officer Collin Rose was shot while investigating a string of car break-ins and died a day later.

Detroit police officers James Kisselburg and Ben Atkinson, of the 3rd Precinct Special Operations squad, were shot patrolling the city’s west side on March 15 when a man opened fire with a .38 revolver, striking Kisselburg in the neck and Atkinson in the ankle. Atkinson was shot twice in the chest as well, but he was wearing his bulletproof vest, Craig said.

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Twitter: @francisXdonnell

Staff Writer George Hunter contributed.