Slain cop's sister 'horrified' at accused killer's release on bond

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — The sister of slain Detroit Police Sgt. Elaine Williams expressed outrage Monday after the man accused of killing Williams two years ago in an alleged domestic violence shooting was released on bond last week.

During a press conference in Detroit Public Safety Headquarters, Detroit police officials echoed the criticism of Wayne County Circuit Judge Lawrence Talon's decision to release murder suspect Eddie Ray-Jr. Johnson on a tether.

Roy Binon, left, father of Sgt. Elaine Williams, cries with his daughter Keisha Kemble, sister of Elaine Williams, after Detroit Police Chief James Craig spoke about the low bond that was given to the suspect connected to the homicide of Williams during a news conference on Monday, April 5, 2021.

Williams, a mother of two and a 14-year Detroit police veteran who worked in the Major Crimes Section, was killed June 2, 2019, in the Garden City home she shared with her domestic partner, Johnson.

Williams' 12-year-old son was home during the incident, in which she was shot five times, although Johnson reportedly removed his biological son from the home prior to the shooting.

Johnson, 35, was arrested and charged last year with first-degree murder and felony firearm. Like most first-degree murder defendants, he was remanded to the Wayne County Jail to await trial.

But on Thursday, Talon reduced the defendant’s bond from remand status to a $100,000/10% bond with a GPS tether and house arrest. 

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy released a statement Monday calling it "a ridiculously low bond for a first-degree murder case. It was inappropriate, and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office will be appealing the court’s bond decision.” 

Keisha Kemble, the victim's sister, said during Monday's press briefing that she and her family are "horrified by the judge's decision."

Kemble's voice cracked as she addressed the press with her and Williams' father, Roy Binon, at her side. He did not speak to reporters.

"Her life was worth more than any bail amount," Kemble said. "Our hearts are forever broken, and this decision has opened up a wound that hasn't healed.

Detroit Police officer Elaine Williams gets on ground level as she photographs teammate Shaday Jenkins during the Pictures of Hope program by photojournalist Linda Solomon on Saturday, September 26, 2015.

"I hope and pray that the judge would change his ruling and keep him where he belongs for killing my sister," she said. "He didn't have to look at my 5-year-old nephew and tell him his mother was dead, and watch the tears roll out of his eyes."

Neither Talon nor Johnson's attorney Ray Burkett returned phone calls seeking comment Monday, although police Chief James Craig said Johnson's release was for an unspecified medical condition. 

"I'm told (Johnson) was being treated medically in the Wayne County Jail, but whatever the reasons were, if that individual needed to be released for some higher-level care, that should be done — as long as he's taken right back to jail," the chief said.

"A compassionate release for medical reasons, then directed him home on GPS tether? Unreal," Craig said. "I’ve been doing this job a long time. … I don’t recall a time when a murder suspect, a defendant awaiting trial, was released on a tether."

Johnson's release comes as Wayne County court officials are weighing bond reform and other changes, following a lawsuit filed last year by the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan against 36th District Court magistrates.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig reacts during a news conference about the low bond that was given to the suspect connected to the homicide of Sgt. Elaine Williams on Monday, April 5, 2021, at Detroit Public Safety Headquarters.

The lawsuit claims the cash bail system is unconstitutional and discriminates against poor people "by locking them up because they cannot afford to pay while allowing those who have money to go free."

Craig said he supports bail reform for misdemeanors and some nonviolent felonies, "but never for people with histories of violence. It's so annoying, and there's no real accountability."

Craig and other law enforcement officials have long complained about allegedly violent criminals being released with no or low bond, although the chief said Monday a minority of judges and magistrates are making those decisions. 

Last month, two suspects were freed from jail without having to post bond after they allegedly pointed a gun at Detroit officers before leading them on a high-speed chase that ended when the car plowed into a police cruiser.

"This is a conversation that we’re having weekly, when we talk about crime and suspects being released into our community who have a history of violence," Craig said. "When will it stop?"

Detroit police Lt. Donna McCord, who worked with Williams, said during Monday's press conference that she and her co-workers were "offended" at the judge's decision.

"Elaine was an advocate for those who couldn’t advocate for themselves," she said. "Did the judge take into account the emotional effects of his decision on Elaine's sons? What message does it send to other victims who are already afraid to come forward?"

Pastor Maurice Hardwick of Power Ministries Church, who is known as "Pastor Mo," called Williams "a lively, bright spirit."

"I met her in the field; she worked with misguided youth. ...  She was the one who defends and protects others," he said. "Who protects her? I'm upset today. A compassionate release? Well, where is the compassion for her family? Where the compassion for her children? Where is it?"

ghunter@detroitnews.com

(313) 222-2134

Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN