By now many of you have heard of the tragic shooting around 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley Jones. It’s beyond heartbreaking. It’s beyond shocking.. and sadly it underscores the disrespect and disregard far too many have for Black life. When word of this first came out, there were far too many who asked, ‘What did they do wrong?”, meaning that the family or even the little girl must’ve done something as opposed the police being dead wrong in their procedures. many were quick to point out that the police were looking for a suspect in the killing of a 17-year-old earlier that week and the family was supposedly harboring him.. Again, folks conditioned to immediately side with the boys in blue..
Of course we now know that the police entered the wrong resident, tussled with the girls grandma after they tossed flash grenades in the house and shot Aiyana ‘by accident’. Here’s something many don’t know. Most police departments are media savvy and deeply embedded in the corporate media machine. They allow camera crews to follow them and we are bombarded with numerous ‘reality Cop spin-off shows that result in us forever having a ‘soft spot’ for the police who take us on highly edited and somewhat scripted adventures through the sordid world of crime and vice.
The city of Detroit is one such department being profiled for reality TV -in this case 48 Hours and it was on that fatal night that Aiyana was killed that these dip shit cops with a camera crew in tow came busting into the wrong house, storm trooper style, tossing flash grenades and ‘shooting’ the girl-oops lemme rephrase.. the gun ‘accidently’ went off. What we all need to be asking is; ‘How much of their outlandish actions were attributed to them showing off and hamming it up for TV cameras?’ How much was their over the top approach attributed to them wanting to show LAPD, NYPD and every other city profiled on reality shows that Detroit PD was ’bout it bout it’?
I ain’t no expert in police work, but I covered enough of these stories and had enough police officers on my shows to understand a few things. First, officer safety is paramount. The goal is to come home at night, hence if you are not chasing down a suspect and you know he’s holed up in a unit that has children and other folks, you wait it out. You catch dude when he leaves the building. There’s all sorts of ways to flush someone out a resident that you have surrounded. However, the gung-ho shoot em up bang bang, Tea Party crowd that watches these types of reality cop shows would find thoughtful, methodic police work boring. So with TV crew on hand, and anxious producers needing some ‘action’ to satisfy the thirst of viewers, the police as was the case here in Detroit are gonna ham it up and perhaps break a few rules-end result a dead 7-year-old girl name Aiyana Stanley Jones.
Folks need to ponder on that for minute-serious ponder that…Was police work compromised by TV cameras. I been on TV sets before and I know the type of pressure producers can exert when looking for an angle or a result.I also know cops are human and while some are shy about the cameras, others play to it..Why a flash grenade in a house with innocent people? Let’s all pause and ask ourselves that for a second.
Second thing, folks need to understand that this isn’t the first time police have gone overboard when it comes to dealing with 7 year old girls. A couple of years ago in Pittsburgh, PA a mother Pamela Lawton was pulled over for what appeared to be a routine traffic stop. She was on her way to a Pee Wee league game with her two girls in the car age 7 and 8.
When the officer Eric Tatusko approached the car he had already drawn his gun on the mother and ordered her to put her hands up. As he approached the car, the mom, not knowing what was going on and why she was ordered to put her hands up was shaken and scared. She became more frightened when the officer went over to the passenger side where the girls where with the gun drawn. The whole ordeal caused Ms Lawton’s kids to cry frantically. The officer became annoyed when the girls would not stop. Bear in mind the mom still has her hands in the air.. Next Officer Tatusko pointed his 9mm gun at the 7 year old Joshalyn Lawton and threatened to shoot her if she didn’t stop crying.
When other officers arrived on the scene, they ordered Tatusko to withdraw his weapons. Then in an attempt to justify this egregious behavior, officers searched Pamela’s car ‘looking for weapons’. Of course they found nothing. Ms Lawton was cited her for having expired insurance and then hit with disorderly conduct charges for yelling at the officer. She spent an year in trial as the police did everything they could to spin the story.. Lawton thanks to the outrage and help of community members like X-Clan member Paradise Gray and rapper Jasiri X and their fellow members of the group One Hood who helped bring national attention to this story, was eventually found not guilty.
The Aiyana Jones tragedy, the Pamela Lawton case are coupled with a slew of cases including 3 officers entering a kindergarden class to put handcuffs on and arrest a 5 year old girl who was having a tantrum in Florida..Or the 94 pound, 10 year old in Martinville, Ind who was tasered by police .. There’s a long list and sadly what’s been missing is not only some sort of change in policy on how to deal with small children, but a lack of good cops stepping up and telling folks that these types of incidents are wrong. From what I been told; many are afraid to cross the blue line for fear of retaliation.. is this what are tax dollars are paying for?
Below is the link to the interview we did with organizer and author Adrienne Maree who attended the vigil for Aiyana and wrote the moving piece below
there is no justice for aiyana
by Adrienne Maree
there is no justice. not for aiyana stanley jones.
there is punishment, and perhaps accountability. someone to point towards, many people, a trail of blame, stories, mistakes and tears.
but there is no justice.
i’m just home from a vigil for aiyana. i don’t like to go to these things because they make me feel too raw and hopeless. my partner, however, knew that we had to go and make sure aiyana’s story was told. so here it is: she was alive yesterday, 7 years old. she went to bed on a couch in a first floor room with her grandmother last night. in the wee hours of the morning, cops raided her house. a man outside the house shouted that there were kids inside. a man on the second floor of the house was a suspect in the murder of a 17-year-old last Friday.
the police threw a “flash bang” through the front window. it blinded everyone inside; it lit aiyana on fire.
the news reported a tussle with the grandmother, during which the firearm discharged. everyone in the family says there was no tussle, that the grandmother was throwing herself over the baby when aiyana was shot in the head.
what do you call the blinded, terrified groping of a grandmother who knows her grandchildren are in the room, blasted from safety and sleep into chaos and danger, whose granddaughter is on fire? how do you comfort a man like aiyana’s father, which was forced to lie face down in his daughter’s blood by the same police officers who killed her?
the police shot and killed aiyana. they shot her in the forehead. her family saw her brain on the couch. by accident, perhaps. which doesn’t even matter to a 7-year-old. you don’t get let off any hooks for your intentions in this case, officer.
apparently a crew from the television show 48 Hours were with the police during the raid. i can’t help but wonder what their footage shows, and if filming for the show had anything to do with the drastic tactics and fatal timing – flash bombing a home in the middle of the night when the women and children are most likely to be home and sleeping.
standing on the sidewalk with over 100 black people, some shell-shocked, some sharing bits and pieces of the tragic gossip, some railing against the mayor, some staring at each other or holding each other in quiet sadness…i only saw the children. they were running, kicking, punching each other. playing. they were all 7 to me, however big or small. they were all potentially aiyana. yesterday she was with them, today she is martyred for no cause.
several members of imam luqman’s family were present, in prayer as we approached the house, present in solidarity with the particular grief of losing a loved one to violence at the hands of authority figures.
as we left the crowd, a man walked past us – more literally was dragged past us, barely able to walk, wailing in grief. his voice ripped through the southern twilight on the street, the realest voice there. i had spent the whole day around beautiful, vibrant children – little boys who ran circles around me and kicked everything because they were ninjas, and then grabbed my hands gently and easily to cross the sidewalk. and then i held a 2-day-old baby, totally fresh, just barely opening his eyes to say hello. what is more valuable than our children? this man, stumbling down the sidewalk weeping – this is how it feels when society offers up our babies as human sacrifices in pursuit of an unattainable justice.
i wanted to hold him. i wanted to say it would be ok, that there would be justice for aiyana. but i don’t believe, right now, there is any real justice for the violent deaths of our youth.
every thread i pick up in the story leads to more impossible questions.
why are police officers legally able to use military tactics on a house with children in it on a sunday morning…or any morning, on any house, with anyone in it?
why do the grieving faces of people on this street look so unsurprised?
and when 17-year-old Jerean Blake was killed Friday, wasn’t that equally devastating? did we do enough as a community at that moment?
do we know how to keep our children safe?
can we admit that we don’t know anything about how to be the kind of society where this could never happen?
to step back from the immediate events is to see what happens in communities who internalize the corporate military worldview that some people are expendable. the way we function as an economy that places profit first is that it’s normal for people in uniform to throw bombs into the home of civilians and shoot children.
an economy that valued people first could never justify those tactics.
i think of the children in my life – those blessed and loved and safe, and those who will never really be safe because of how the world sees them. the way aiyana died, the last minutes of her life – that is terrorism. to know that that kind of terror and pain can happen to a child in this time – IS happening to children, funded by our tax dollars, right now, in iraq, afghanistan, palestine, arizona, and here in detroit – is to understand that as things stand, there is no justice. nothing will make it right, nothing will take away the pain, nothing will heal us – and anyway, there is no time to heal. not for aiyana.
detroit police, at the behest of the detroit city government, are on the offensive in this war against our community. this is national in scope – international really. we cannot keep half-healing from the wounds inflicted on us – we have to fundamentally shift the way we participate in our lives and in the creation of our local economies and societies. we have to demand that police fundamentally shift how they are allowed to function in our communities – they must be disarmed, we must demand they focus their training on the humanity of communities, unlearning these tactics of creating devastation from a safe distance.
we have to make today’s events impossible – that is the only way to regain our humanity. then, maybe, we can use the word justice.