People pay respects to fallen Detroit Police Officer Loren Courts
People trickled in and out of Greater Grace Temple in Detroit on Saturday afternoon to pay their respects and mourn the loss of Detroit Police Officer Loren Courts, who was shot and killed while on duty earlier this month.
Sheriff's deputies from Livingston County stood on the sidewalk. A young man sat on a bench with his head in his hands. A white and blue floral arrangement was delivered inside.
Some of Courts’ extended family members embraced outside the church as they reunited for the kind of occasion that always seems to bring the big family together.
“Can you tell we’re all related?” asked Ruth Littleton as they put on their masks and accompanied each other inside the church to pay their respects to a man who they say was caring, loving, and always offering to help.
About fifteen minutes later as they exited the church, the mood was more somber.
“We just come together in moments like this and it’s hard to accept,” said Littleton, taking a deep breath as she processed the grief. She and Courts are related through her grandfather’s side of the family. “Right now I just feel so full because this is so unnecessary.”
Littleton described her slain family member as a God-fearing man and the people gathered outside and inside the church were a testament to how people cared about him.
“He was a son, a father, a husband, a cousin … he was loved,” said the 83-year-old lifelong Detroit resident.
“At this point I trust God to keep the family lifted up and to keep the city of Detroit protected.”
At various points in the afternoon, groups of retired police officers, family members, and even a motorcycle club gathered outside.
The visitation hours spanned most of the day and will continue on Sunday, as the slain officers' loved ones prepare to lay him to rest on Monday, less than two weeks since the 40-year-old police officer responded to a 911 call on Detroit's west side and was fatally shot.
The loss of a family member to gun violence, is unfortunately part of the territory, according to Dwayne Stubbs, another relative of Courts who sat on a bench off to the side of the entrance, resting with his cane.
“I feel just like anybody else when something happen to your relatives or your kinfolk,” said Stubbs. “Don't want to be here, you know, under these circumstances. But ... we as a family, we are very supportive.”
The 78-year-old has lost several family members to gun violence in recent years, including a nephew, a niece, and his grandson. According to him, Courts was one of the responding officers after his grandson was shot. The loss is difficult, he says.
“It weighs heavy on your heart,” he said. “But what you gonna do? Pray to the lord and try to protect the ones that are close to you.”
Not everyone there knew Courts directly. One woman came with her brother, a Detroit police officer.
“You can’t explain it,” said the 70-year-old Pontiac resident, who asked to be identified by her first name, Jeanne, as she described the feeling of worrying about the safety of family members serving in the police department. “You’re sort of on edge whenever the phone rings.”
Anytime she hears news that a police officer has been injured or killed, Jeanne said she immediately calls her brother to make sure he’s safe. She had the same reflex last week as soon as reports emerged that an officer had been killed.
“I’m nervous until I hear the police officer’s name, and then I’m sorry it’s their family, but I’m glad it’s not mine,” said Jeanne.