Hundreds mourn slain Detroit police officer, 'an American hero'

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — Rasheen McClain collected comic books as a child and grew to become a real-life superhero, his friends, family and coworkers said Friday at his funeral.

"His mother got sick (in 2014), and that's when I really saw the kind of man my sister raised," McClain's aunt Judy Washington said. "He tended to her every need. Over time, she became completely dependent on him, and he was always there for her."

Detroit Councilwoman Brenda Jones hugs a Detroit police officer during the funeral at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit on Friday.

Hundreds of police officers from across the country were joined by civilians Friday at McClain's funeral at Greater Grace Temple in Detroit. Police Chief James Craig posthumously promoted him from corporal to sergeant, and he was buried in his Detroit police uniform, adorned with three sergeant's chevrons on his sleeves.

When Craig announced at the funeral he had promoted McClain, the congregants gave the slain officer a standing ovation.

"(McClain) served the Detroit Police Department with dedication and valor for 16 years, and, yes, he was an American hero who will never be forgotten and will be forever loved," Craig said.

McClain, 46, was killed Nov. 20 while investigating a home invasion on Detroit's west side. He led a team of officers into a house where a gunman armed with an SKS semi-automatic rifle was hiding. As the group descended the basement stairs, authorities say 28-year-old JuJuan Parks ambushed the officers, firing two shots.

One of the rounds struck McClain in the neck; he died hours later in Sinai-Grace Hospital, making him the 228th Detroit police officer killed in the line of duty, according to department historian Jeffrey Lemaux. 

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, Craig said. Batoum-Bisse is still recovering from sustaining major tissue damage and a shattered ankle bone, he said.

Parks, who was on parole after serving eight years for an assault, was charged Thursday with multiple crimes, including first-degree premeditated murder/first-degree murder of a police officer, three counts of assault with intent to murder, resisting and obstructing a police officer causing death.

Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, sitting in for Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, whom he said was out of town, ordered flags to be flown at half-staff Friday "to honor his legacy of service and sacrifice."

LaDonna Russell, McClain's coworker at the 12th Precinct, said he was always eager to help fellow officers.

"Today, we say goodbye to a true gem; a son, a husband, a stepfather, a brother, a friend — but most importantly, a faithful servant to the city of Detroit," Russell said, her voice cracking.

Police officers line up to pay respects to fallen Detroit officer Rasheen McClain before his funeral Friday, Dec. 6, 2019.

"I called him 'Machine' because of his passion for dancing; he was a dancing machine," Russell said. "He loved helping others, and giving advice. In over 16-plus years of knowing Rasheen, we were blessed to watch him grow into a great man.

"On that life-changing night (when McClain was killed), Rasheen did the best he could," Russell said. "Being the natural-born leader he was, he showed great bravery. Only God knows why he was chosen to leave us so soon, and I'm not going to question that. But our hearts are broken. We are angry, disappointed, and deeply sad that he is no longer with us."

During his remarks at Friday's funeral, Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan addressed McClain’s family: “I just want you to know how deeply the entire Detroit community is mourning. This whole city is grieving with you today.

"He may be gone physically, but he's still there watching over those officers in the 12th Precinct," Duggan said.

McClain was born in January 1973 and grew up in the Brightmoor neighborhood in northwest Detroit. In addition to collecting comic books, he collected watches, according to the funeral program. 

In 2004, McClain graduated from the Detroit Police Academy. He served two tours of duty at the department's Training Center, Western and Northwestern districts, and the 10th Precinct. He was transferred to his final command, the 12th Precinct, in 2009.

McClain moonlighted for the department's Secondary Employment program, working at Home Depot. He also volunteered for extra shifts.

Survivors include his wife of 10 years, Heidi; stepsons Michael and Jeremy Herwarth; stepdaughter Jaclyn Herwarth; granddaughters Sierra and Sophia; grandson Aiden; and his mother, Sylvia McClain, who was too sick to attend the funeral, according to her sister.

"To (McClain's) family, you can take solace in the fact that he spent his life doing what he loved: Protecting the citizens of Detroit," Craig said. "Sgt. McClain is, and will always be, the very best of Detroit's finest."

Pastor Spencer Ellis of the Citadel of Praise church in Detroit, who delivered the eulogy during Friday's service, also addressed McClain's family, telling them it'll be tough dealing with the death, particularly during the holidays.

"I can’t promise you it won’t hurt," Ellis said. "But I can stand up here today and promise you: God will help you get through it."