Killing spree suspect was informant freed by feds
Detroit — Federal authorities ensured Kenyel Brown stayed out of prison, despite multiple probation violations, before he allegedly went on a crime spree that left six people dead.
A federal law enforcement agency requested Brown remain free, even after he continually failed drug tests, didn't appear for mandated meetings with drug counselors and was arrested for drunken driving while on probation for a federal weapons charge.
“Our court released Mr. Brown at the behest of a federal law enforcement agency," U.S. District Court spokesman David Ashenfelter said in an email Tuesday. "We cannot elaborate further at this time.”
It was unclear Tuesday which federal agency requested that Brown remain free. At one point, Brown was cooperating with the government by "providing information concerning his knowledge of others who Mr. Brown believed to be involved with criminal behavior in the neighborhood where Mr. Brown resided," his attorney, Mike Rataj, wrote in a November 2015 sentencing memo for the weapons charge.
Rataj said Tuesday: "I wasn't aware he was violent. This is a shame."
Detroit police Chief James Craig said Tuesday that he was "furious" that Brown was not put in prison after several probation violations, some as recently as last year.
"I’m appalled and deeply troubled that six lives are gone after he was given opportunity after opportunity," the chief said. "He continued to engage in criminal behavior and nothing was done.
"Someone needs to explain to the families of (Brown's) victims why this guy was allowed to stay out of prison. I understand the need for informants, but was the information he provided worth six lives?"
Court records show Brown, 40, was given multiple plea deals and other chances before he allegedly went on a recent violent crime spree that ended Monday in an Oak Park backyard, where he shot himself in the head as police closed on him.
Police say in the past month, Brown committed six homicides in three cities, a nonfatal shooting and two carjackings. He was listed in critical condition Tuesday.
Brown has an extensive criminal history that goes back to 1997, when he was convicted of assault with a dangerous weapon. In 1999, he was convicted of fleeing a police officer, and in a separate case, attempting to illegally use a Taser.
From 1997 to 2000, Brown entered plea deals in six cases, court records show.
In 2001, Brown was again convicted of fleeing a police officer and was sentenced to prison as a habitual fourth offender. He was paroled in 2010 and discharged from parole the next year, Michigan Department of Corrections spokeswoman Holly Kramer said.
Court records show in June 2014, Brown was arrested in Detroit with a stolen 9 mm pistol — his third offense involving a firearm. He gave police several alias names, including that of his deceased brother Javon Brown, and told the arresting officers: "The only reason I have the (gun) is it's crazy out here," according to court records.
Brown was charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm and was about to be sentenced to a minimum of 15 years in prison under the Armed Career Criminal Act, when in June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled part of the act unconstitutional.
The Armed Career Criminal Act was enacted in 1984 to impose tougher sentences for defendants who were convicted three times or more for "violent" felonies. Under the act, possession of a firearm was considered a violent crime, a clause the High Court struck down.
The Supreme Court decision changed Brown's guidelines from 15 years to life in prison to 15-21 months. He cut a deal in August 2015, pleading guilty to being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Prior to sentencing, Rataj, Brown's appointed attorney, pleaded to the federal court for leniency, asking that his client be sentenced to the minimum 15 months.
"Mr. Brown is tired of the 'street life,' and is truly motivated to turn his life around so he can be a productive member of society and a better role model for his children," Rataj wrote.
In December 2015, U.S. District Judge Bernard Friedman sentenced Brown to 21 months, to be followed by two years of supervised release. Court records show Brown was released in February 2017 — after serving only 14 months in federal prison — and sent to a residential re-entry center, where he was to serve 180 days.
His supervised release was revoked in May 2017, and he was sentenced to 15 months in prison, to be followed by 21 months of supervised release. It's unclear from court records why the release was revoked — but by July 2017, he was out of prison and placed on supervised release again.
During his supervised release, Brown violated his probation multiple times, court records show:
- A warrant was issued for Brown in July 2018 after he was arrested in Lincoln Park for drunken driving.
- Brown tested positive for cocaine and marijuana five times between September and November 2018.
- In January 2019, Brown tested positive for cocaine, opiates and benzodiazepines.
- According to a Sept. 6, 2019, federal probation report, Brown "failed to comply with the substance abuse program ... (he) missed his scheduled treatment session on October 2, 2018. On November 2, 2018, the therapist reported that (Brown) has not contacted her to schedule any treatment sessions and has not returned any attempt to contact him."
- Brown missed four scheduled drug tests from December 2018-February 2019.
- On Feb. 22, 2019, a warrant was issued for Brown's arrest, and he was arrested a month later for the previous probation violations — but in May 2019, he was again released on a $10,000 unsecured bond. He was sent to the Sacred Heart inpatient drug treatment program in Madison Heights, and he stayed for 21 days.
- Brown was released from Sacred Heart on June 12, 2019. Two weeks later, he was arrested in Hazel Park after police found him asleep inside his car with a blood-alcohol level of 0.137; Michigan's legal limit is 0.08. He also had a suspended license. He was sentenced to 72 days in the Oakland County Jail on Sept. 5, 2019.
Police say Brown's recent crime spree started Jan. 8 when he fatally shot a man in River Rouge. On Feb. 2, police say Brown committed a triple shooting — a double homicide and a reported non-fatal shooting.
In that incident, the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office identified the deceased as Dorian Patterson, 48, and Kimberly Green, 52. Both died of multiple gunshot wounds.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy charged Brown on Feb. 4 with two counts of first-degree murder as well as assault with intent to murder in connection with the alleged Feb. 2 incident.
"The defendant entered a house on the 500 block of Beechwood in River Rouge where he shot three people, killing two," the prosecutor's office said in a news release.
On Feb. 18, police say Brown fatally shot a man in Highland Park. Three days later, Brown allegedly fatally shot a 41-year-old man on Detroit's east side.
Police say Brown carjacked two vehicles within 19 minutes of each other on Feb. 21. The next day, police say Brown fatally shot a 36-year-old man during an argument about drugs.
On Monday, Brown was spotted in an adult bookstore on Eight Mile in Detroit, police said. The clerk, who had kicked Brown out of the store a week earlier for smoking crack, recognized him from media reports and called police.
Brown was later found in Oak Park. As officers moved in on him, police say he shot himself in the head.
"You want to talk about crime prevention? With (Brown's) criminal history, it looks like six murders could have been prevented," Craig said. "This is one example of where the criminal justice system is broken."