Crowd protests fatal police shooting in Dearborn

Mark Hicks, and James David Dickson

Dearborn — Chanting “no justice, no peace” and hoisting signs with messages such as “Black Lives Matter,” more than 100 demonstrators strode through Dearborn on Monday night, protesting the death last month of a Detroit man who was shot by a Dearborn police officer.

Bundled against the frigid air, they marched past traffic and raised their voices alongside drumbeats to protest the death of Kevin Matthews as well as police practices they believe have contributed to other such deaths.

“When police are in the wrong, they want to cover it up every time,” said Kim Turrentine, a Detroiter who joined the throng.

Shouting slogans and carrying flags while forcing officers to divert traffic on busy Michigan Avenue, many who marched to the Dearborn Police Department said they hoped to spark change and called for fair treatment for every citizen, regardless of background.

“That’s the ultimate goal: We want justice for all,” said Curtis Bundles of Inkster, who is active with an area arm of the National Action Network.

Joining demonstrators outside the police department Monday night, the Rev. Charles Williams II called for a boycott of businesses in Dearborn — “No justice, no dollars” — until the matter is resolved. Matthews’ relatives, including his mother, Valerie Johnson, stressed his innocence.

Others in the crowd also were adamant that authorities thoroughly probe the incident.

“I think that we all can agree that when a police officer shoots someone ... it needs to be investigated,” Joe McGuire of Dearborn said while toting a handmade cardboard sign that read: “Authority without accountability is injustice.”

Williams, president of the Michigan chapter of the National Action Network and pastor of Historic King Solomon Baptist Church on Detroit’s west side, said before Monday’s protest that the event would “be in the vein of the action in Chicago, also on Michigan Avenue” in response to the officer-involved shooting of LaQuan McDonald.

The Chicago protests clogged the city’s best-known shopping hub, the Magnificent Mile, at various points in late 2015, including on Black Friday.

“In the civil rights movement, they endured dogs and water hoses,” Williams said. “We’ll have to endure cold and low temperatures.”

The death of Matthews, 35, by a Dearborn police officer on Dec. 23 has been controversial. While Matthews’ friends and family describe him as harmless and suffering from paranoid schizophrenia, Dearborn police claim he was going for an officer’s gun before he was fatally shot near the Dearborn-Detroit border.

The officer has been placed on paid administrative leave, Dearborn police said, and the Detroit Police Department is investigating the case.

There have been a number of vigils and protests in Matthews’ honor since.

Williams said that while he has faith in Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, who will decide whether charges should be brought against the officer, he hopes Worthy “gets everything she needs” from the police to make the case.

“This is not something that’s going to go away,” Williams said.

The anonymity of the officer, whose name still has not been released, was a concern to Williams, especially contrasted to what has become known about Matthews since his death.

“(Detroit Police Chief James Craig) has spoken to (Matthews’) misdemeanor background; we’ve seen pictures of him in the papers,” Williams said, “but we don’t even know the name of the officer involved. It’s unfair.”

While Dearborn police say they do not wear body cameras, Williams said Matthews’ supporters are hoping there is audio or dashboard camera footage of the incident.

Turrentine and other protesters questioned the officer’s motives, given how relatives described Matthews.

“Why did you have to shoot him?” she said. “You already know he’s harmless. Did you shoot him because you were tired of him?”

Relations between police and protesters have been respectful. Organizers of a Matthews-focused protest the day after Christmas had a brief private meeting with Police Chief Ron Haddad.

Activists who spoke out Monday hoped the outcry would not be in vain.

“We have no choice but to raise our voice,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations’ Michigan chapter. “The time of being silent is over.”