Man to be tried in fatal shooting of Detroit cop

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit police officer Ron Cadez described a chaotic scene Tuesday as he and other cops chased a man wanted for shooting into a gas station parking lot the night of Sept. 12.

The suspect was 21-year-old Marquise Cromer. Police received a tip he had been seen in the Coney Time restaurant on East Seven Mile near Hayes, so Cadez and his partner rushed to the scene.

Cadez, a patrol officer assigned to the 9th Precinct, said he arrived, spotted Cromer standing at a bus stop and ordered him to halt. Instead, Cromer bolted across Hayes. Cadez ran after him, but he said the suspect had a large lead.

As Cadez ran, he said he heard a single blast from a sawed-off shotgun. “I see my sergeant drop to the ground,” he said.

Kenneth “Shark” Steil, a 20-year Detroit police veteran, had been shot. He died five days later from a gunshot wound in his right shoulder. Cromer will stand trial for Steil’s murder, Judge Deborah Langston ruled after a preliminary examination Tuesday in 36th District Court.

During the hearing, Cromer stuck out his tongue, rolled his eyes and laughed, prompting a courtroom deputy to order him to stop.

Cadez was one of two witnesses called during Tuesday’s hearing on the first-degree murder charges in Frank Murphy Hall of Justice. The other was Detroit Police Officer Stephen Heid, who was assigned to Steil’s 9th Precinct Special Operations unit.

In an earlier hearing Tuesday, Cromer was bound over for trial on carjacking charges. Prosecutors say he shot a man at a Hamtramck car wash while trying to steal his SUV the day before the alleged violent encounter with Steil.

During the murder hearing, Heid said his crew arrived on the scene, saw Cromer running and chased him. He said Steil took cover behind a concrete wall, which was tagged with the graffiti message “R.I.P.”

Then, both Heid and Cadez testified they heard a blast. Cadez said he recognized it as a gunshot, although Heid initially thought a tire had blown out.

Steil fell to the ground, but continued doing police work even after being peppered with pellets from the 10-inch long, 20-gauge shotgun, Cadez said.

“I observed my sergeant still on the ground, pointing his gun toward the gas station,” he said. “I looked at him (and) observed him get up. He said, ‘I’m hit.’”

Cromer, now 22, continued running, although Heid, who hadn’t noticed Steil fall, said he finally caught up with the suspect and ordered him to the ground. Cromer refused, he said.

“He was screaming wildly,” he said. “It was very high-pitched; almost like a female.”

When Heid got close, he said Cromer, “threw himself to the ground and tucked his hands under him.” Heid said he feared Cromer was reaching for another gun.

“He refused to show me his hands, so I struck him with a fist in the right rib area,” Heid said. After that didn’t prompt Cromer to comply, Heid said he punched him in the stomach, after which he said Cromer presented his hands.

“He was still screaming ... like a girl,” Heid said. Cromer shook his head and then laughed out loud. It was the second time he laughed during the hearing. A deputy leaned in and whispered an apparent order to be quiet.

Cromer, dressed in a drab Wayne County Jail jumpsuit, was subdued for the rest of the proceedings, staring down at his tan shower shoes.

Heid testified when the officers tried to put Cromer into a scout car, he continued struggling. “He was being very combative,” Heid said.

Heid said he patted down the suspect and found on him 18 20-gauge shotgun shells. Then, he said, he found out Steil had been shot.

“During the commotion between me and the defendant, my microphone had been knocked out so I couldn’t hear the radio,” he said, adding he later heard “there had been shots fired and an officer was down. I remember somebody yelled, ‘Shark got hit.’”

Cadez said he drove Steil to St. John Hospital, where he initially was listed in temporary serious condition.

After five days, Steil was expected to be released from the hospital — his family had a “welcome home” banner waiting at home — when on Sept. 17 he developed a blood clot and died.

The night Steil was shot, police had been alerted to be on the lookout for Cromer, after he allegedly went to his father’s home in the 2100 block of Dickerson on Detroit’s east side the day before, Sept. 11, and argued with his parents.

Cromer allegedly shot his 62-year-old father in the foot with the shotgun, and then pointed the gun at his stepmother, before running out of the house and driving away in a van.

After leaving his father’s house, Cromer allegedly drove to a car wash in the 11500 block of Conant and tried to carjack a 23-year-old Hamtramck man, ordering the victim out of his vehicle, then shooting him in the stomach.

The alleged victim of the car wash shooting, Abuhamra Elhady, testified during Tuesday’s first hearing on carjacking charges he was vacuuming his 2016 Ram when Cromer approached him and asked for a ride.

“He pulled out a gun and said ... ‘get the (expletive) out,’” Elhady said. “I was already turning to get out … that’s when I got shot … in my lower abdomen and upper right thigh.”

After Elhady’s testimony, the judge bound Cromer over for trial on carjacking charges.

Cromer, who also laughed when Heid identified him in the courtroom, has been a problem since his arrest, authorities say. He was scheduled for arraignment in 36th District Court in September when two days in a row, he refused to appear.

He threw urine on his jailers and refused to leave his cell, Langston said at the time. District Magistrate Charles Anderson III continued the arraignment without Cromer, but with his attorney present. A not-guilty plea was entered on Cromer’s behalf.

Cromer is scheduled to appear for a May 16 arraignment on information in Wayne Circuit Court.

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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN