Former Detroit police chief convinced suspect in 3-year-old's killing to surrender

Michigan State Police Lt. Michael Shaw speaks to the news media on Wednesday about the shooting death of a 3-year-old boy on the Southfield Freeway after the suspect turned himself in to police.

Detroit — The city's former police chief said Wednesday he helped convince the man suspected of killing a 3-year-old boy last week to turn himself in to authorities.

Former Detroit top cop and current Detroit Public Schools Community District police chief Ralph Godbee said he was contacted by a community member, who told him the suspect wanted to turn himself in, but wanted to ensure his safety.

Explaining why he got involved, Godbee referenced the fatal shooting of a 7-year-old girl during a police raid aimed at finding a murder suspect in May 2010.

Ralph Godbee

"I was in charge when Aiyana Stanley-Jones was killed, so I know how it can be tragic if officers have to go into a house to catch someone," Godbee said.

"I had the family bring the young man to my house, and we talked," said Godbee, a longtime minister. "I told him he was making the right decision, and that if he turned himself in, there'd be no forceful action by police.

"I then called (Detroit police Chief James Craig), and then took (the suspect) down to headquarters to turn himself in," Godbee said. "His family was anxious for him to do the right thing."

The 24-year-old man suspected in last week's fatal shooting of 3-year-old Christian "C.J." Miller on the Southfield Freeway was with family when he showed up in the lobby of Detroit Public Safety Headquarters about 1:15 p.m., said Michigan State Police Lt. Michael Shaw at a news conference.

Godbee said a video of the suspect turning himself in was posted on Facebook by the man who first reached out to him, Fuqua Bey, who he said was a Moorish minister.

The nearly 9-minute video opens with a group standing in the police station parking lot. Godbee then leads the group into the police station, where they're met by Detroit Deputy Chief Marlon Wilson and a plainclothes officer, who pats down the suspect before taking him away.

Bey then spoke to the camera: "(We're) making sure we get the (victim's) family some closure to this situation," he said. "We got the opportunity to have the young man come down here and step into the cuffs of the Detroit police, so this will hopefully officially end the manhunt."

Bey then asked Godbee if he wanted to say anything. The former chief replied, "I just want to thank Minister Fuqua. This is why the community working with police makes so much sense ... for this brother to trust me enough to make that connection, and for us to be able to end this situation with hopefully no more harm to our community — that’s what this is all about.

"It’s bittersweet," Godbee says in the video. "We hate to have to meet this way, but his is the way community and police are supposed to work together."

Shaw said a "traffic-related incident" prompted the shooting, although he stressed during the news conference he couldn't provide many details because he didn't want to taint the case.

"The time to talk about all this will be in front of a judge and jury," he said. Shaw said he wanted to make it clear that the driver of the victim's vehicle, C.J.'s godmother, had no culpability in the incident.

"That's why I didn't want to call it 'road rage,' because that makes it sound like it was two people arguing," Shaw said. "(C.J.'s godmother) did nothing wrong."

Shaw said after police released photos and video of the sedan thought to be involved in the shooting, the suspect, who police said is not connected to the victim's family, felt the pressure to surrender.

The suspect's vehicle, taken from video, is believed to be a 2014-2016 Mercedes

"Tipsters started calling in," Shaw said. "On (Tuesday) Michigan State Police executed a search warrant in Detroit, with help from (Detroit police, the FBI, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and U.S. Marshals) and recovered the vehicle.

"Once we recovered the vehicle, we were able to put everything together," Shaw said. "We knew who the suspect was. We beat the bushes to try to find this individual.

"There's no doubt in my mind that when this individual turned himself in ... the media attention made him decide to come to us ... rather than us waking him up at 3 in the morning and shaking him out of his bunk," Shaw said.

Craig added, "Detroit really stepped up. I'd also like to thank the family who made sure the suspect came in without incident."

Godbee told The Detroit News the way the case worked out "highlights the police-community relations in Detroit.

"I actually know the family of the victim, so it's strange how karma works," Godbee said. "For me, this was an opportunity to help heal the city after a terrible tragedy."

Shaw said he expects to soon turn over a warrant request to Wayne County Prosecutor's Office for charges against the suspect. The lieutenant said the suspect "has had contact with law enforcement" but said he couldn't elaborate on his criminal history.

The suspect's arrest came a day after Michigan State Police recovered the silver, four-door Mercedes believed to have been used in the shooting, and two days after Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan, Craig, and Michigan State Police — who are handling the case — asked for the public's help locating both. 

On Thursday evening, Christian and his family were traveling northbound on M-39 between Joy and Plymouth roads on their way to see Sesame Street Live at the Fox Theatre. Shaw said the family likely was going to get off on the I-96 exchange and take that downtown.

Around 7 p.m., a vehicle pulled alongside and a person inside started shooting, wounding Miller and requiring an hours-long closure of the northbound freeway, as investigators searched for evidence.

Christian Miller, 3, was shot and killed on the Southfield Freeway in Detroit on January 24, 2019.

C.J. was transported to Children's Hospital, but died the next day. 

Shaw said the incident shows there's too much aggression on the roads.

"We've got some real knuckleheads driving out there on the freeways," he said. "That's why we always tell people: If you're involved in an incident with somebody, it's best to get off the freeway, because you don't know what kind of person you're dealing with.

"The worst part of all is, (C.J.'s godmother) did nothing wrong," Shaw said. "She's trying to catch Oscar the Grouch at the Fox Theatre, and because some coward wants to use a firearm, a 3-year-old is dead.

"He could've been president of the United States, but we'll never know because some coward shot at a car."
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