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Detroit might to want to hold off on demanding 'Dateline' apology

Little Aiyana Stanley Jones was killed during a police raid. Are cameras again the "culprit?"
Little Aiyana Stanley Jones was killed during a police raid. Are cameras again the "culprit?"
Photo courtesy

Are the apologists and race-baiters ready to welcome back NBC’s Chris Hansen anytime soon?

You might recall that Detroit’s self-anointed “civic leaders” were up in arms (no pun intended) over the airing of an NBC Dateline piece last month, which they felt unfairly portrayed Detroit as a poverty-stricken, violent city.

“Where is the balance?” they cried. “What about all the great things happening in Detroit.” covered the uproar, including a requested meeting with NBC demanded by the Rev. Horace Sheffield, who was joined by Vickie Thomas, president of the Detroit Chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, and Bankole Thompson, senior editor of the Michigan Chronicle.

So, in the wake of the carnage over the past couple weeks, have Detroiters learned the dangers of trying to kill the messenger?

Of course not.

This past Sunday, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, along with Detroit Police Chief Warren Evans and Wayne County Sheriff Benny Napoleon, appeared on WDIV-TV's Flash Point. Worthy blamed a “no-snitch” culture among Detroit police officers as partly to blame for the failure of her office to successfully prosecute offenders.

Oh, no. Wait. It was the presence of camera crews from A & E’s First 48 that caused the shooting of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley Jones – camera crews that were present with the explicit permission of Evans, who seems to have a penchant for self-serving publicity.

What about the no-snitch culture of Detroit citizens themselves? It’s that very “code” that makes necessary the raids to catch suspected murderers like Chauncey Owens, 34, who was found at the house officers raided. Officers broke into one home of a duplex complex; Owens was found in the other.

Whatever becomes of the shootings of Aiyana – an investigation continues and the family hired attorney Geoffrey Fieger before the poor little girl’s body was cold – the desperate, hard facts of the state of Detroit are once again swept under the rug.

While murders in Detroit were up 11.8 percent in 2009, according to statistics released by the FBI, Detroit officials celebrated the 2-percent decline in overall violent crime. The emphasis on police conduct in the raid that resulted in Aiyana’s death is a typical Detroit smokescreen.

Forgotten in the hot political winds blown by the usual suspects is 17-year-old Je'Rean Blake. He’s the boy who was killed by Owens for allegedly looking at Owens the wrong way in an eastside liquor store parking lot.

With all due respect to Mitch Albom, who opined on Sunday that A & E had no business filming the raid, that is a minor skirmish in a much larger battle. Perhaps those cameras shouldn’t have been rolling. Talk to Chief Evans about that.

But, at the risk of piling on an already grieving family, didn’t anyone in that house know that Owens was hiding out there? People would like to know the answer to that question, as well as to why the family so quickly hired an attorney – first one, then Fieger . Were the facts so well established that they felt the need to hire Michigan’s most celebrated legal money machine even before funeral arrangements had been made?

The recent spate of murders, car-jackings, stabbings and the tragic death of Aiyana prompted the likes of Ron Scott and his Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality coalition to look for scapegoats beyond the citizens of Detroit. Surely, it’s the likes of the police, NBC and – now – A & E’s First 48 who are to blame for the bad press Detroit once again is receiving on a national scale.

"There's too much brutality, the way they treat innocent people," Teraesa Fuller of Detroit told The Detroit News. Fuller was addressing police conduct inside St. Peter's Episcopal Church, and was among about 30 Detroiters who turned out in support of Scott’s police brutality rantings.

Scott was joined by Dawud Walid, executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations' Michigan chapter. Walid has his own ax to grind with the investigation of FBI agents and Dearborn police following a raid last October in which Imam Luqman Ameen Abdullah was shot and killed.

Fuller’s contention that police mistreat innocent people may have merit. But the fact is, each and every time an innocent is killed, everyone but the true culprits seem to be called out for public excoriation. Where is that outrage the rest of the year? Where are the witnesses to the slayings? Where are the dime-droppers when a fugitive is hiding out next door?

You can read about Detroit’s homicide rate here.

You can read about the forgotten tragedy of Je'Rean Blake and his funeral here.

You can read about little Aiyana’s death in various stories here.

You can read about a 12-year-old Detroit boy, who is in critical condition after he was shot in the head during an argument between his mother and her boyfriend, here.

You can read about the arraignment of Jason Gibson, who is accused of killing Detroit Police Officer Brian Huff and wounding four other Detroit police officers, here.

You can read about a 6-year-old girl, who was shot in what police say may have been an incident of road rage, here.

And then – if you’re one of the “Why do they pick on Detroit?” apologists -- you can write a letter to Chris Hansen and NBC to apologize and ask that they hold off on that follow-up “balancing” piece you’ve been clamoring for.

You might want to let the gun smoke clear before any more cameras come looking for all that is good in Detroit.

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