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Detroit chief: After months at home, tensions spark wave of weekend violence

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — "Tremendous tension" over being forced to stay at home in response to the COVID-19 virus emergency contributed to a bloody weekend in Detroit that ended with four people killed and 25 others shot, the city's police chief said Monday.

From Friday to Sunday in Detroit, there were five double shootings, a triple shooting, and a "mass shooting" at a party in which five people were shot, police Chief James Craig said Monday during a press conference at Public Safety Headquarters.

Police Chief James Craig

While Craig said the stay-at-home order imposed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has fueled "resentment" and "tension" that's partly responsible for a 7.5% increase in violent crimes in 2020 over last year, he said the order has also helped curb property crime in Detroit, which is down 16% compared to the same period in 2019.

Most of this weekend's shootings were sparked by arguments, including a dispute over a parking space, Craig said. 

"Of the fatal shooting incidents, two were arguments between (people who knew each other)," Craig said. "One was narcotic-related, and one additional we're not certain, but we believe it may have been a robbery."

Among the victims were a 37-year-old man, and his 9- and 10-year-old daughters, who were shot Sunday while reportedly lighting fireworks in the 19700 block of Plainview on Detroit's west side. 

The man and his eldest child are in critical condition, while the younger daughter was released from the hospital, Craig said.

"Just a senseless violent act," Craig said. "We have an understanding of what may have transpired, but we don't want to discuss it now. The last thing I want to do is undermine our (investigation)."

A man and two young girls were shot while lighting off fireworks Sunday in the 19700 block of Plainview on Detroit's west side

There have been 134 homicides in Detroit this year as of Monday, up 32.7% from the 101 killings during the same period last year, according to DPD statistics. Nonfatal shootings are up 55%, from 276 last year to 427 in 2020.

The chief pointed out there's also been increased violence recently in large cities like Chicago, New York and Los Angeles, and said a lot of it is related to frustration over stay-at-home orders in response to the coronavirus.

"There's a trend," he said. "I began to really start thinking about what is going on. We predicted early on ... that because of COVID and certainly the stay-at-home (order), that there would be tremendous tension, tremendous stress, and what we’re seeing manifesting are these argument-based, senseless shootings among people who are acquainted and attending block parties."

Violence cropped up at fo parties during the weekend — two each on the city's east and west sides — the chief said. 

"When you look at these multiple shooting incidents emanating out of house parties, it begs the question: Why did it need to happen?" Craig said. 

"It’s got to stop," he said. "That’s not the way we should settle disputes."

Anyone with information about any of the incidents is asked to call Detroit police at (313) 596-5848 or Crime Stoppers at (800) SPEAK-UP.

ghunter@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2134

Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN