Family of Dearborn shooting victim speaks out

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News

More than a week after her death, Janet Wilson’s relatives still are struggling to understand why police say she fled from security and officers outside Fairlane Town Center in Dearborn.

But one fact they cannot accept: that an officer resorted to fatally shooting the Detroiter.

“Are they trying to tell the world that the way you handle an unarmed person is by killing them?” said Cassie Bass, a niece. “Is that what they’re trying to get us to believe? There are too many other options, too many other techniques.”

Bass, other relatives and supporters are demanding answers in the death of the 31-year-old they described as a “joyous and happy spirit.” They have sought legal counsel and are turning to the public through GoFundMe for help with a funeral.

Wilson’s shooting was the second recent fatal shooting of an African-American involving a Dearborn police officer.

Kevin Matthews, 35, an unarmed black man, was shot Dec. 23 by a Dearborn police officer. Friends and family have described Matthews as harmless and suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. Dearborn police say he went for an officer’s gun before he was fatally shot on Whitcomb on Detroit’s west side.

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

“I will respect the outcome of both investigations (the Fairlane incident and the shooting in Detroit) when they’re finished,” Haddad said.

Witnesses told investigators Wilson had seemed “distraught” and incapacitated at Fairlane on Jan. 27.

Michigan State Police said she later appeared to have tried to hit a security guard and a vehicle outside with a Chevrolet HHR, refused to stop for Dearborn police who tried to pull her over then almost struck an officer while speeding away. An officer pulled out a weapon and shot at her, state police said.

The Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office determined her death from multiple gunshots a homicide.

Haddad asked Michigan State Police to investigate the incident. The probe isn’t complete, First Lt. Michael Shaw said.

Wilson’s relatives spoke out Wednesday at the Dearborn police headquarters, calling for justice and asking for answers in Wilson’s death.

“I respect the family’s right to hold a press conference and say what they feel they need to say,” Haddad said Thursday.

Relatives contend Wilson still was coping with the deaths of her father and boyfriend in 2015. The day after the shooting happened to be her father’s birthday, they said. “She was mourning,” Cassie Bass said. “There were so many circumstances against her at the time.”

Wilson’s family acknowledge she had mental issues but could live independently and had recently earned her chauffeur’s license. “She always talked about goals she needed to accomplish and she acted on them,” Talia Bass said.

(313) 222-2117

Detroit News Staff Writer George Hunter contributed.