After hail of bullets, Detroit police, Pointes ask why

Tom Greenwood and Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

Detroit — Fear and panic were the emotions felt by five teenagers when their car was approached by a gunman on a desolate Detroit street Monday night.

When the suspect had finished firing, one girl was dead, three other teens were wounded and the question of why the teens — four from Grosse Pointe and one from Detroit — were on that street and why they were shot began to be asked by police, family and friends.

Demetrius Herndon, 16, told Fox 2 News that he was "scared" just before the gunman opened fire.

"I didn't know what to do," said Herndon, who was wounded in the shoulder but has since been released from the hospital.

"A man with a car, he rolled right past us, he stopped — not directly right in front of us. He got out of the car, he had a gun in his hand."

According to police, the suspect — who was described as a black male wearing camouflage and military fatigues — fired about 30 shots, wounding Herndon and two other teens. The shots also took the life of University Liggett School student Paige Stalker, 16.

Herndon told police that the group had stopped on Charlevoix, near Philip, to smoke marijuana. The area, located west of Alter and south of Mack, is a remote and desolate area scarred by vacant lots, abandoned homes and graffiti-marked buildings.

"He shot the girl in the head, shot Mia in the arm, shot me in my arm," said Herndon who was treated at the Grosse Pointe campus of Beaumont Hospital on Cadieux Road.

According to police, the shooter fled the area in a tan Cadillac.

Deputy Chief Renee Hall said the shell casings were all from one weapon.

"We don't believe there was an exchange of fire," Hall said. "Why this individual opened fire we do not know at this time."

On Tuesday, a University Liggett spokeswoman confirmed one of the school's students was killed, but declined to identify the victim.

Paige Stalker

"We can confirm that one of our students was fatally shot," Michelle Franzen Martin said in an email.

"As you can imagine, we are heartbroken over the death of one of our students, and our thoughts and prayers go out to her family and friends and to the entire Liggett community during this very difficult time."

Martin said the school, which is on winter holiday break, will offer grief support services to students when they return.

At this point police aren't sure of the motive behind the incident because they have reportedly received conflicting stories from the surviving teens.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig said there are a lot of unanswered questions. "That doesn't appear to be random; there appears to be a nexus to some other activity," he said.

"That certainly doesn't make it OK. A situation like that is always tragic. But there seems to be more to that story."

If it was drug-related, it doesn't come as a surprise to Detroit Lt. Charles Flanagan, who ran the Eastern District Special Operations squad for more than a decade, headed the Narcotics Section, and is commanding officer of the Vice Squad. He said suburbanites make up a large portion of the drug consumers on the city's east side.

That was the case in another incident on the city's east side in July 2012. Two teens from Westland, Jacob Kudla, 18, and Jourdan Bobbish, 17, went to a house to buy drugs and two men killed them and dumped their bodies in a field.

It took days for their bodies to be found. Both had been shot in the head.

About 100 people held a vigil Tuesday night near the clock tower at Grosse Pointe Woods City Hall in honor of Paige Stalker.

News of the shooting shocked Paige's peers.

"She was the last person I would ever think this would happen to," said Jennifer Kusch, 17, a student at Grosse Pointe North.

James Shelton, 16, who also attends Grosse Pointe North, had known Paige since middle school. "It's really hitting home," he said. "It could've been any of us. That could have been me."

Emily Stalker, who identified herself on Facebook as Paige's cousin, wrote a post saying: "Last night my 16-year-old cousin was shot and killed by a gunman in Detroit. Hold your loved ones close people."

Neighbors of the Stalker family in this close-knit but private community expressed shock and sadness over Paige's death but didn't have any details about what happened.

"She was always just so bright and mature," said one next-door neighbor who declined to give her name to respect the Stalker family privacy but broke down when recalling Paige's life and the shooting that took it. "She was a wonderful girl. It's just a shame. It's just a shock."

The next-door neighbor said she remembered how Paige took care of her little brother and that she had two sisters.

The area where the crime took place is a desolate neighborhood of open fields, litter and few homes near the border between the two cities. Across the street, there's an abandoned storefront, tagged with graffiti.

No one answered doors at nearby homes for comment.

(313) 222-2023

Detroit News Staff Writers George Hunter, Holly Fournier and Leonard N. Fleming contributed.