Message from vigil for Detroit officer McClain: Slayings have 'to stop'

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Detroit — As hundreds bowed their heads in prayer Monday during a vigil to honor slain Detroit Police Officer Rasheen McClain, they recalled the ultimate sacrifice he made for the city and duty he loved.

But many also reflected on how his death underscored the danger and risks that law enforcement personnel routinely face to protect others.

Detroit police officer Devon Leonard, left, relights the candle held by fellow officer Derrick Daniel, right, at a vigil for officer Rasheen McClain at the Detroit Police Department's seventh precinct in Detroit, Monday night.

“These women and men in blue put their lives on the line for the job,” said Stevetta Johnson, a longtime resident of the neighborhood where McClain was fatally shot last week.

The sentiment anchored the emotional ceremony that drew many police colleagues, residents and public officials to the headquarters for Detroit Police Department’s 12th Precinct, where McClain worked.

Some speakers noted the 16-year veteran becoming the city's 228th officer to be killed in the line of duty following other police slayings across the country in recent years.

“We are living through an unprecedented era right now of danger, violence and threats against police officers,” U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider told the crowd. "It’s unprecedented, and it has to stop.”

A report of a home invasion Wednesday brought McClain and his partner, Phillippe Batoum-Bisse, to a home on Wyoming.

The relative of a 16-year-old girl living there told the officers her ex-boyfriend, who had been paroled in March after spending eight years in prison for assault, had entered the house and was armed, authorities reported.

McClain led his partner and two other officers called in as backup into the house, police have said.

After checking the top two floors, the officers were heading to the basement when the 28-year-old suspect fired two shots from a Russian-made SKS semi-automatic carbine rifle, according to investigators.

McClain was struck in the neck and died at Sinai-Grace Hospital. His partner was shot in the ankle and survived.

Those who worked closely with McClain remember the 46-year-old married father of two stepchildren as a fearless leader.

“He was a hero,” Officer Linze Shriner said through tears.

“My life depended on it when I worked with him every day," said Shriner, who worked with him for about two years and helped organize the vigil. "I will be forever thankful … to have the privilege to work in the scout car with him.”

For others in law enforcement, the loss was especially acute, said City Councilman Roy McCalister Jr., a retired police officer.

“When you lose a family member, you lose your heart,” he said.

The incident left "a hole in our hearts" and showed why the public should respect his law enforcement colleagues, U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, said while standing near a balloon shaped like a patrol car. "We must support our police."

Amid flickering candles, scores of police officers, chaplains and others in uniform joined McClain’s colleagues to sing “Amazing Grace."

As traffic passed on Seven Mile, they paused to release black, blue, white and orange balloons into the night sky. 

Among the mourners who lingered afterward was community activist Pastor Maurice Hardwick, known as Pastor Mo. To him, the event was an important way to commemorate the service of a policeman who set an example.

“That was somebody’s husband, brother, father, son,” he said. “This is a good officer — one who honored his job and the Constitution.”

Services for McClain are scheduled for next week.

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

Meanwhile, police investigators have sent a warrant request to Wayne County Prosecutor's Office seeking murder charges against the suspect, but prosecutors returned it for more work. 

Authorities have described the man as a suspect in other shootings in the city, including a fatal one, in the days before the Wyoming incident.