Detroit police vow crackdown after east side shootings
Detroit – — After a 24-hour period in which three incidents of gunfire on or near the city’s east side in one of the city’s most violent ZIP codes left a teen dead and six others wounded, Detroit’s police chief has vowed to step up efforts to crack down on gang activity and stop the bloodshed.
“The neighborhood has been under siege by these gang members, and it’s going to stop,” Craig said Thursday.
Gang violence has persisted in the city, despite Craig’s ongoing crime crackdown — drawing the ire of activists, community residents and investigators who are pushing for stronger measures to combat violence.
There have been several recent efforts to quash gang activity on the east side, home to several organizations that include the 7 Mile Bloods, the Hustle Boyz, and the Hab Squad, which police say is named after Ihab Maslamani, who was convicted in 2009 after kidnapping and killing a man he abducted from an Eastpointe sandwich shop.
His move to crack down on gangs came after east-side shootings of seven people in less than 24 hours Wednesday and Thursday. On Wednesday night, Aundrea Marie Garland was slain and three others were wounded on the 16600 block of Edmore. Police in Detroit and Harper Woods are investigating whether there’s a connection between those shootings and a shooting at nearby Eastland mall on Wednesday afternoon that injured two people, including a member of the 7 Mile Bloods. Detroit police also are investigating whether a third shooting early Thursday on East State Fair, in which a 38-year-old man was hurt, is related.
Craig, who visited the Edmore crime scene Thursday, called the shooting gang-related and vowed to apprehend those involved.
“We’re going to put forth every ounce of effort to figure out who did this,” Craig told gathered reporters. “Because we know the streets are talking.”
The latest initiative under Operation Restore Order, a series of high-profile raids that started with the Colony Arms Apartments in January, was scheduled Thursday for the 8th Precinct on the city’s west side, but after the quadruple shooting onEdmore,deployment was switched to the 9th Precinct, where the shootings occurred, and renamed “Operation Aundrea Garland” in honor of the woman who died, Craig said.
“There’s been a dispute with gangs in that area, and our effort in the next few days will be to dismantle these gangs,” Craig said at Thursday’s meeting of the Board of Police Commissioners.
The violence on Edmore confirmed Margaret Garland’s worst fears. Long protective of her only daughter, whom she rarely let her go outside and interact in a neighborhood where gunshots are common, Garland wrestled with the knowledge that Aundrea died in front of her best friend’s home several blocks away where she had spent the past two nights.
“They killed my baby,” Margaret Garland said as she hugged a neighbor, tears streaming while she clutched framed pictures of her daughter. “These boys that did this, I don’t know who they are, but I hope they go to hell for what they did.”
It’s believed that a semi-automatic rifle — possibly an AK-47 — was used in the Eastland and Edmore shootings. Harper Woods police reportedly found about 30 casings in the parking lot of Eastland after the afternoon shooting.
“We can’t confirm there’s a connection either way,” Harper Woods Police Chief Jim Burke said Thursday, but his department is actively working with authorities to determine possible links.
News of the shooting and alleged gang ties aren’t shocking to the Rev. Malik Shabazz, a community activist who said east side crime is common.
The Edmore shooting is in the 48205 ZIP code, which has been tagged as having more shootings and deaths than any other ZIP code in the city.
“There’s a gang problem in this city,” Shabazz said. “They have rivalries with other gangs. They shoot people, they kill people… sometimes they beat and rob people.”
Their presence has persisted because of a lack of job opportunities and other issues in the city, he said. “When people don’t feel they have a future, they don’t have any hope. They will resort to criminal activity.”
Quelling that will be a challenge. Detroit’s gangs generally aren’t as well organized as gangs in Chicago or Los Angeles, which presents a difficulty for police. Craig, who worked for many years as a police officer in LA, has said Detroit’s gangs don’t have strong hierarchies, which make it tougher to negotiate truces and cease-fire agreements with leaders. Detroit’s gang members don’t follow orders as readily as they do in other cities.
In July, Detroit Police launched “Operation 7 Mile Cruise,” a series of raids that targeted two east-side gangs that were involved in six retaliation shootings in a period of two weeks. And last year, an initiative, funded by a $1.5 million federal grant, involving Detroit Police, Wayne County prosecutors, Michigan State Police, Michigan Department of Corrections and U.S. Attorney's Detroit office, targeted gangs on the city’s east side.
The Detroit Crime Commission last year estimated there were 2,500 confirmed gang members in Detroit, meaning one out of every 280 residents is connected to a gang.
Erick Barnes, director of intelligence analysis and a criminal justice professor at the University of Detroit Mercy, said it’s not unusual for economically depressed areas to become “crime magnets” that draw gangs. “It runs in cycles,” he said. “Gang activity is indicative of other social conditions. ... It rises and falls.”
That sort of activity appears to be spreading.
Blood stains visible
On Edmore,blood stains were still visible Thursday morning on the grass and walkway of two homes where shots rang out about 11 p.m. Wednesday, and a lone gym shoe remained from one of the male victims. The shooting was just blocks from Eastland mall, where two people were shot in the parking lot of the center on Vernier in Harper Woods on Wednesday afternoon.
At the Garland home Thursday, neighbors streamed in to rally around and console crying relatives, abhorring the violence that has engulfed their east-side neighborhood.
Garland recalled how her daughter tried calming her fears about the danger that seemed to lurk, particularly with Wednesday’s mall shooting. In a cruel twist, Garland said she heard the gunshots “but we hear gunshots all the time.”
“I was telling her to stay away from the mall because there was a shooting yesterday, and she said, ‘Mom, you’re paranoid, it’s all right, calm down,’ ” Garland said of their conversation. “I said, ‘Be home tomorrow.’ She was talking about how she wanted to do her hair, and that was the last time I talked to my daughter.”
Her mother said Aundrea was just a few credits shy of graduating and was supposed to go shopping to buy school outfits. At least 20 minutes after she heard the gunfire, a knock on the door from the mother of Aundrea’s best friend revealed the worst: her daughter had been shot.
Detroit police said that a late ’90s model red Saturn pulled up and a male exited and “began firing into the house and struck four of the people,” said Detroit police Sgt. Michael Woody.
Two of the people shot remain in critical condition and another remains in serious condition at area hospitals. All three wounded in the shooting are males.
The red Saturn also was described by witnesses as in the area of a shooting of a 38-year-old man in the 16900 block of East State Fair about 2:30 a.m. Thursday, Woody said. The car was found abandoned and burned in the 11700 block of Laing about eight hours later, he said. It was confiscated and processed.
While the investigation of the crime is early, he said, “we do have reason to believe that it is gang-related.”
Plea for information
Craig said police know the gangs involved in the Edmore shooting and “that we’re going to disrupt and dismantle the gangs. We’re going to do it ethically.”
“We believe that folks in this neighborhood know more than what they are saying,” Craig said. “Everyone in the gang is going to feel the touch, ethically, legally, constitutionally, of the Detroit Police Department.”
The chief, who spoke with Garland and her other children, said details are still emerging but that he implored residents to talk to investigators. Anyone with information can anonymously call Detroit police or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-Speak-Up.
“Their daughter was a good young lady set to graduate from high school when these cowards decided to do what they did,” he said.
A family member of three of the male victims who lived across the street said the trouble began earlier Wednesday when someone in a green or blue car drove by during the day inquiring who the boys were talking to Aundrea Garland and her best friend.
Cierra Taylor, 24, said her cousins Johnta Garner, 20 and Andre Buford, 19, and her brother, David Dunbar, 20, later walked over to race in the street after the girls invited them. A few minutes later the shooting happened, she said, as the red Saturn headed west down Edmore.
Taylor said Garner is in the worst shape. She and her sister rushed them in two cars to the hospital.
Jacqueline, the mother of Aundrea’s best friend who declined to give her last name, said she had just told her daughter she had 10 more minutes outside before she had to come in for the night. Then shots were fired.
“When I got out here, I saw the young man laying out here (pointing to her front porch), and I saw Aundrea laying over there,” said Jacqueline, motioning to the neighbor’s front lawn where Aundrea bled to death. “I guess they were trying to run.”
Jacqueline said she got on the ground with Aundrea, talking to her to keep her conscious until the authorities arrived.
“She was saying that her leg was burning and call her mom and tell her that she loved her. And tell my best friend that I love her. And that’s all she said.”