A 7-year-old girl was shot and killed at a home in Detroit early Sunday when a police officer’s gun discharged during a search for a man suspected in the shooting death of a local teenage boy, police said.
Detroit Police Assistant Chief Ralph Godbee said an officer executing a search warrant with the department’s Special Response Team was engaged in a scuffle with a 46-year-old woman when the officer’s gun discharged and struck Aiyana Stanley Jones, 7, in the “head-neck area.” She was pronounced dead at St. John’s Hospital.
“This is any parent’s worst nightmare,” Godbee said at a news conference today. “It’s also every police officer’s nightmare. Today this nightmare is all too real.”
Godbee said the team of officers went to the home in east Detroit to search for a 34-year-old man they suspect is responsible for the death of 17-year-old Jarean Blake, who was gunned down on Friday in front of his girlfriend.
Because of the “ruthless nature” of Blake’s murder, Godbee said officers approached the home search as “high risk,” prompting them to use a “flash bang,” which flashes a bright light and causes a large noise, to disorient those inside the home. Godbee said the team identified themselves as police officers before entering.
According to preliminary information, the flash grenade did not stop a woman inside, reportedly Aiyana’s grandmother, from struggling with an officer in the front room of the home.
Godbee said a full investigation is underway with regard to what happened inside the home, but he said it appears the officer and the woman had “some level of physical contact” before the officer’s weapon discharged and shot Aiyana, who was laying on a couch.
“This is a tragedy of unspeakable magnitude to Aiyana’s parents, her family… all those who loved her and quite frankly to the city of Detroit,” Godbee said. “Our deepest and most heartfelt condolences go out to the family. It is a tragedy we also feel very deeply through the ranks of the Detroit police department, especially our Special Response Team members, who are taking this extremely hard.”
Godbee also said police are not yet categorizing the shooting as accidental, although he said “we don’t believe the gun was discharged intentionally.”
The officer involved in the incident is suspended with pay as Detroit police launch an investigation.
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