Detroit man, 24, charged in boy's freeway shooting death

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — A 24-year-old Detroit man was charged Friday with fatally shooting a 3-year-old boy last week on the Southfield Freeway, with a police source saying the man shot into the car the child was riding in after the driver accidentally cut him off in traffic.

Derrick Devon Durham, 24, of Detroit, is charged with open murder and firearms violations in the death of 3-year-old Christian Miller.

Derrick Devon Durham, 24, is charged with open murder, discharge from a vehicle causing death, felon in possession of a firearm, and three counts of felony firearm, the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office said.

A preliminary examination has been scheduled for Feb. 13 before Judge Ronald Giles of 36th District Court.

Assistant Prosecutor Maria Miller said Durham was being arraigned Friday at the Detroit Detention Center, and that the hearing would not be open to the media.

"We were told that there wouldn't be an arraignment until at least (Saturday)," Miller said. "Then someone from Michigan State Police told us they had made special arrangements to arraign him at the DDC, and since that was a prison, there was no way to accommodate the media."

State Police Lt. Michael Shaw said Judge Giles ordered the arraignment to be held Friday.

”They usually do video arraignments from the DDC and the media can go to the courtroom, but the judge said he wanted the arraignment (Friday), so they complied with the judge,” Shaw said.

Detroit police Lt. James Moore, a supervisor at the detention center, said there have been several arraignments at the facility since 36th District Court, where Detroit arraignments are usually held, was closed Wednesday because of flooding caused by frozen pipes that burst.

"We extended the court the courtesy to allow them to use a room here," Moore said. "It was either that, or let these (defendants awaiting arraignment) go."

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

When told it was a possible First Amendment violation to bar public access to a court hearing, Moore said: "That's something you'd have to take up with the (36th District) chief judge."

Because 36th District Court was closed Friday due to flooding, The News was unable to contact Chief Judge Pro Tem Larry D. Williams Jr. for comment.

Earlier Friday, a police source told The Detroit News that the suspect told police he fired his pistol into the victim's car to retaliate for being cut off in traffic.

Durham surrendered Wednesday in the lobby of Public Safety Headquarters after investigators released to the media photos and video of the suspect's silver Mercedes, which he allegedly was driving on Jan. 24 when Christian "C.J." Miller was killed by a single bullet.

Michigan State Police, the lead agency investigating the shooting because it happened on a freeway, submitted a warrant request Friday to the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office seeking charges. 

C.J.'s godmother reportedly was taking him and her 3-year-old son to see "Sesame Street Live" at the Fox Theatre when at about 6:40 p.m. the godmother unknowingly cut off the suspect on the freeway, a police source told The News.

The source said the suspect told police he became enraged at being cut off, so he pulled alongside the vehicle and fired a single shot. The bullet struck C.J. between his shoulder blades. He was rushed to Children's Hospital, where he died the next day.

The suspect told investigators he didn't realize the child was in the car, the source said.

The source also told The News the suspect has two prior felony convictions — an assault and a drug conviction — and that he violated his probation or parole twice.

Former Detroit police chief Ralph Godbee told The News he had a hand in convincing the suspect to turn himself in. Godbee said a community member reached out to him and asked him to facilitate the surrender. 

Godbee accompanied the suspect and others to the police station Wednesday when a Detroit police deputy chief took the man into custody. A video of the handover was posted on social media.
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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN