Woman, security guard killed on first day on job at Detroit senior center
Detroit — Security guard Kenneth Hall showed up for his first day on the job at an east side senior center Tuesday. It would soon become his last in a tragic turn of events.
Hall, 50, was one of two people killed Tuesday night at the Philip Sims Senior Housing center at 800 Dickerson. The other was Bernice Clark, a 66-year-old resident of the home, according to the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office.
“This is insanity,” Detroit Police Chief James Craig said Wednesday. “This was a random act of violence by someone who was a career criminal, who lived there. He was their neighbor.”
The suspect, James Fleming, fled the scene, and police are trying to track him down, Craig said.
The double homicide took place at 9:35 p.m. after a 30-year-old woman met the suspect at the center, police said.
Craig said police believe the suspect and the 30-year-old were using cocaine in Fleming’s apartment when he made an unwanted pass at her. The two struggled with a knife, and the suspect may have been nicked during the struggle. The woman fled the building, and Fleming allegedly chased her, Craig said.
Police believe that’s when the suspect retrieved the weapon he would later use. That’s also when the security guard called 911.
Police accused Fleming of shooting the security guard, who was in the doorway, with a .38 caliber handgun, and then the resident.
“As many as 10” shots were fired, Craig said.
Craig said Hall was unarmed and working his first shift at the center. Clark "wasn’t even looking in the direction” of the suspect when she was shot, Craig said
Hall died of a gunshot wound to the chest while Clark died of multiple gunshot wounds, according to the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office.
The management staff at the senior living complex said the two were killed “at the hands of an unstable person.”
“The well-being of our seniors is that a top priority, which is why we do have preventative measures in place and will continue to update them regularly,” a statement from Phillip Sims Management Team said. “We have doubled our courtesy patrol shifts until further notice.”
The building has a locked entryway, locked main office and a gated parking lot.
“All staff members have been and will continue to be available to the families of both innocent persons to help them through this extremely difficult time,” officials said.
Management said there will be a grief counseling available to all residents and a prayer following a Thanksgiving luncheon for their 130 residents being held on Monday.
Anyone wishing to send condolences to the victims' families or donations to the luncheon can send them to the center.
Deborah Jordan, who moved into the complex last December, said she heard two gunshots Tuesday night.
“They sounded awfully close, and my husband and I debated if they were gunshots,” said Jordan, 55. “I went to the bathroom and 10 minutes later I came back to the living room, looked out the window and there were police cars and the man's body laying (sic) on the sidewalk."
“He laid there for several hours before the coroner came to get his body," she added. "It was his first day, and the devil came and took him."
Fleming allegedly drove away in a dark-blue 2001 Chrysler Town and Country with a Tennessee license plate of 2E58Y0. Police also are searching for a woman as a person of interest, who was seen driving the vehicle at 9:05 a.m. Wednesday on the 7000 block of Mack Avenue.
The woman is described as wearing black and white sneakers, tan pants, a black coat with fur around the hood and a beaded black hat.
“Do yourself a favor and turn yourself in,” Craig said.
There is no surveillance video available, he said.
Fleming is listed on the Michigan Public Sex Offender Registry, which is the result of an April 1988 conviction for first-degree criminal sexual conduct. Fleming is listed as a tier 3 offender, which means he has to verify his address four times a year. That last happened on Nov. 1.
Fleming is between 6-foot-5 and 6-foot-7, thin, with light skin and short hair. He wore all black and carried a handgun. He should be considered armed and dangerous, police say. Anyone with information should contact the Detroit Police Department or Crime Stoppers of Michigan at 1-800-SPEAK-UP.