Detroit man charged in death of ex-Ranger outside bar

Holly Fournier and Christine Ferretti
The Detroit News

Highland Park — A Detroit man was formally charged Monday in the fatal weekend shooting of an off-duty Highland Park reserve police officer who was an Iraq War veteran, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office said.

Walter Jennings, 35, has been charged with first-degree murder, felon in possession of a firearm and second-degree felony firearm. He was arraigned in 36th District Court and remanded to the Wayne County Jail. He is scheduled to return to court Feb. 17 for a probable cause hearing before Judge Shannon Holmes.

Jennings allegedly shot Roderick Jones, 33, around 1 a.m. Saturday outside the Opyum Bar on the 24500 block of Eight Mile near Telegraph, according to the prosecutor’s office.

Jones was working security at the bar and told the defendant prior to the shooting that he would have to leave the business. He was shot multiple times, according to the prosecutor’s office. Jones was taken to a local hospital where he later died.

On Sunday, five people were in custody in connection with the shooting.

Jones, the father of four sons, was a former U.S. Army Ranger who held specialized tactical expertise and served in Iraq.

His family was stunned at the senseless loss, said Jones’ younger sister, Candice Jones, 31.

“He was a good person. What happened, it wasn’t right,” she said. “It’s sad for him to lose his life over something so small that could have been avoided. Now, the people who did it, they might go to jail and lose their life.”

Highland Park Police Chief Kevin Coney reflected Sunday on Jones’ service to the department for nearly three years. The force is composed of 40 full-time officers and about 45 volunteer reserves.

An avid weightlifter, Jones was soft-spoken, punctual and dedicated, Coney said.

“The whole time I’ve known him, he was an upstanding officer. There was no time that I called on him when he wasn’t present,” Coney said Sunday. “He was dedicated to what he did. He was a man of his word. If he said he was going to be there, he’s going to be there.”

By late Monday morning, an online fundraising campaign to support Jones’ family had raised more than $1,900. Daniel Pearce, a former reserve officer for Highland Park, set up the page. He said the law enforcement alumni behind it hope to raise a minimum of $50,000.

The goal, he said, would be to aid relatives in covering final expenses and to provide at least a year of wages to allow Jones’ former wife to care for the children. The group hopes it can gain enough money to help offset educational costs for the boys, he said.

“We can focus on this. That way, the family doesn’t have to,” Pearce said.

For Candice Jones, it’s important people remember her brother.

“He was a good man. He loved his family, he loved his friends,” she said. “There’s nothing that he wouldn’t do for anybody. If you asked for help for anything, he’d be right there.”

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Staff Writer Candice Williams contributed.