'We've had far too many of these': Detroit mourns slain police officer

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — Rasheen McClain's body-worn camera captured the final seconds of his life as he led a team of fellow Detroit police officers into the basement of a house on the city's west side, where a man armed with a rifle lay in wait.

The 28-year-old suspect, whom police say has a history of violence and was on parole after serving eight years in prison for an assault, ambushed the four officers as they descended the basement stairs, police Chief James Craig said.

The suspect fired two shots from an SKS semi-automatic carbine rifle. One of the rounds struck McClain in the neck. He died Wednesday night in Sinai-Grace Hospital, making him the 228th Detroit police officer killed in the line of duty.

Detroit Police Officer Rasheen McClain was killed on duty Wednesday, Nov. 20, 2019.

The suspect's second shot hit McClain's partner, Phillippe Batoum-Bisse, in the left ankle. He was listed in temporary serious condition Thursday.

Police officers shot the suspect in the arm as he tried to flee, Craig said. He's also listed in temporary serious condition.

"This is a heartbreaking day for the brave men and women of the Detroit Police Department," Craig said Thursday at a press conference at Public Safety Headquarters.

Mayor Mike Duggan added: "We’ve had far too many of these, and each one gets even more painful."

Craig described what he saw when he reviewed the body-cam video from McClain, a 16-year Detroit police veteran and married father of two stepchildren.

McClain, 46, and his partner in the 12th Precinct, Batoum-Bisse, arrived at a home near Wyoming and Chippewa about 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, about eight minutes after they received a call to investigate a report of a home invasion in progress, the chief said.

When the officers pulled up to the scene, they spotted a resident running out of the house; that person told them a man armed with a rifle had forced his way into the home and was hiding inside, Craig said.

Police chief James Craig holds a photo of the "assault-type weapon" used during the shooting death of a Detroit police officer.

More'A tragic day': 1 officer killed, another wounded on Detroit's west side

"It's no surprise that when (McClain) arrived at the scene, he took charge," said Craig, adding McClain was known throughout the police department as a leader. "He requested additional officers to respond, and he also requested a supervisor to the scene."

When a backup unit arrived, Craig said McClain decided to go into the house, although he didn't want to kick in the door, so he obtained a key from a resident and "entered the home stealthily," the chief said.

"Officer McClain quickly developed a plan: Once the other officers came, they'd go in, clear the location, and try to apprehend a dangerous suspect.

"The officers learned this location had been shot up two weeks earlier, and there was a notion that (the suspect) had a dispute with his girlfriend, and the reason he shot up the house two weeks prior is because a relative of the girlfriend wouldn't let him inside." 

McClain, Batoum-Bisse, a military veteran with two-and-a-half years on the police force, and two other officers walked into the house and searched the upper level, where the lights were shut off, Craig said. They found nothing on the top floor.

"All four officers moved down the stairs to the basement," Craig said. "Looking at the body camera, I could see the suspect as they got about halfway down the stairs. The suspect came from the left and quickly fired twice."

McClain and Batoum-Bisse were hit. "The two rear officers backed out to get a tactical advantage," Craig said. "No shots were returned by any of the officers at this time.

"(The suspect) ran (out of the basement) and as he came out with his rifle, two officers engaged the suspect. One of the officers was armed with a shotgun, and the other had his department-issued .40 caliber pistol; we believe one round from the shotgun struck the suspect.

"But he continued to evade the officers. He literally ran about a block before he was finally apprehended."

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan speaks to the media Thursday about two officers who were shot while responding to a home invasion on Detroit’s west side.

Duggan pointed out that police on the scene not only rendered aid to the fallen officers but also helped the suspect.

"Think about what our officers did," the mayor said. "They got Officer McClain and Officer Batoum-Bisse into an ambulance and to the hospital, but after two firefights, they also got the suspect to the hospital. That's the ultimate standard of professionalism. Even in that environment, the suspect's rights were upheld."

Craig said the suspect, whose criminal career started at age 14 when he was convicted of home invasion, was experienced with weapons and tactics, although he said the man was not in the military.

"Given the manner in which this was carried, it's clear (the suspect) had some type of tactical training," Craig said. "It was also very clear this suspect was trying to bait the officers. He also wanted suicide by cop.

"He had a plan. He purposely left the lights on in the basement only ... because it was easier for him in the lightness to identify his targets."

Craig said after the suspect's initial arrest as a teenager, he committed "a series of violent crimes. He was paroled in March from his prison sentence.

"It was a weapons charge and assault with intent to do great bodily harm," Craig said. "He was only given 1-10 years and served eight years. We're going to do a deeper dive into his background, but he was on active parole and (because of the shooting), he has been violated."

Retired Detroit Police Officer Jeffrey Lemaux, who operates the Detroit Police museum, adds McClain’s name to the Fallen Officer kiosk at Public Safety Headquarters.

The Officer Collin Rose Memorial Foundation, named after the Wayne State University police officer who was killed in 2016, has started a Facebook fundraising page to help raise money for McClain's family.

Officers throughout the department mourned McClain's death, with many of them changing their Facebook profile pictures to a photo of a Detroit police badge wrapped in a black memorial band.

"With immeasurable sadness, the men and women of the Detroit Police Department are mourning the loss of another dedicated officer who gave his life in the service of this community," Detroit Police Officers Association President Craig Miller said in a statement.

"The members of the Detroit Police Officers Association will continue to strive to follow in his footsteps and to be worthy of his sacrifice."

During its meeting on Thursday, the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners passed a resolution honoring McClain.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy also sent out a release expressing her condolences.

“This is a stark reminder of what police officers in Detroit, Wayne County, and across this country face every minute of every day," she said. "They sign up to do this. They run into danger to protect us.

"We must never forget this and should not need a horrible tragedy to remind us."