Chief credits outraged citizens after arrests in assault of woman outside shuttered Detroit church

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — Police officials Monday said outraged citizens provided information that led to the arrest of two men suspected in the Nov. 14 beating and sexual assault of a woman on her 63rd birthday outside a shuttered church.

"This is a crime that really shocked the city," Detroit police Chief James White said during a press conference outside the former Full Truth Fellowship of Christ Church on Joy Road on Detroit's west side.

"The victim was discovered in the early morning hours (outside the former church)," White said. "She was left here for dead, and today she’s still fighting for her life. We ask that you keep her in your prayers."

Elvin Shepard

Elvin Shepard, 44, has been charged with assault with intent to commit murder, while a second person of interest in the case is being held by police on an arson charge. Shepard's bond was set at $250,000.

While Shepard has not been charged with sexual assault, "the investigation continues," White said. "We are confident we have the two men who are responsible for this."

White added: "The community is outraged, and they’ve signaled that enough is enough. They mobilized with us ... and without community support we would not have been successful in quickly making this arrest. Thank you to the community for standing with us and getting these suspects off the streets.

"The community is fed up; they’re not going to tolerate this, and we're not going to tolerate this," White said. "We're not kidding around — we are going to relentlessly pursue those who victimize our community."

Community activist Malik Shabazz, who organized several marches and went door-to-door asking people if they knew anything about the woman's assault, was flanked Monday by members of the New Black Panther Party and the Detroit 300, a citizen group Shabazz cofounded in 2010 after the sexual assault of a 90-year-old woman.

"What's being done in Detroit is an example for the rest of this country where we can work together with our police department," said Shabazz. "When you rape and brutalize (the victim) on her birthday ... it is not just the police looking for you; it is the community."

Detroit Police Chief James White, second from right, announces on Monday, Nov. 29, 2021, the arrest of Elvin Shepard, 44, for assault with the intent to murder in connection with an attack and rape of a 63-year-old woman outside the shuttered Full Truth Fellowship of Christ Church on Joy Road. Police said they have another person of interest in the incident in custody on an arson case.

"The people, the press, the police, the politicians, the philanthropists and the preachers becomes an unbeatable coalition of love," Shabazz said.

Detroit Police Commissioner Martin Jones, a longtime Detroit 300 member, called on other residents to help police.

"This is not just just the responsibility of the police department; it's the responsibility of everyone who calls themselves a Detroiter," Jones said. "For somebody to do this right in front of  a church is reprehensible, it’s heinous, and it’s something we will not stand for in our community. We don’t have to settle for this."

(313) 222-2134

Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN