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Tribune News Service
Tribune News Service
Kayla Ruble

How Detroit police tracked shooting spree, nabbed 19-year-old suspect

DETROIT — The city's police department is still searching for answers as to why a 19-year-old man would allegedly randomly shoot four people in the city early Sunday morning, killing three.

During a Monday news conference, Detroit Police Chief James White described a 24-hour effort to track down the suspect by Detroit police and other law enforcement agencies, including the Michigan State Police and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

White said the police force “worked tirelessly” to track the shootings, which officials said essentially equated to an “an active shooter that was moving around the community.”

Detroit police Commander Michael McGinnis, whose team is leading the investigation, said the first victim was attacked around 4:45 a.m. Sunday near 7 Mile and Wyoming. McGinnis said the assailant fired multiple shots at the victim in what appeared to be an unprovoked incident.

At one point, the assailant reportedly walked away and returned to fire more shots, McGinnis said. The victim did not survive and was not identified by Detroit police.

But no one reported incident, Mayor Mike Duggan noted at the news conference.

About 30 minutes later, the shooter attacked again, roughly three blocks from the first killing. After a neighbor saw the victim, the neighbor made the first 911 call about the string of shootings, according to police.

According to McGinnis, when police arrived on the scene they found a woman on the sidewalk with gunshot wounds. She did not survive.

The investigator said they had not been able to identify the woman as of Monday afternoon and described her as a Black woman in her 40s from the area around Margarita and Wyoming roads.

While officers were responding to the victim on the sidewalk, a witness told police about a 28-year-old man who had been shot. Then police said they heard another round of shots coming from the east, coming from the 19800 block of Livernois. This victim did not survive.

The final shooting occurred just a few blocks away from there at 7:10 a.m., when a man in his 80s was out walking his dog. The shooter shot at him and the dog, striking the man in the leg, according to police. Neighbors responded quickly, secured his wounds and got him to the hospital, where he survived.

Detroit police officials said at a Monday news conference that mental illness may have been a factor. The suspect was finally arrested Sunday night after an extensive manhunt.

When it became evident that the shootings appeared to be connected, White said the department activated its real-time crime center, mobile command post and crime analysts, while reaching out to partners with Project Green Light — the city's business surveillance camera system — to get surveillance information.

Police got insight on the suspect, White said. After police released a photograph and details to the public about the suspect, someone who knew the suspect called in a tip that led to an arrest.

“All of that working together helped us to quickly identify our suspect,” said White. “We are early in the investigation, but we are confident, we are confident, that the suspect we have in custody is in fact our suspect in these cases.”

The department nailed down a connection between the four shootings using evidence recovered from the scenes, the police chief said. The bullet casings found at each site were 9mm casings and were eventually confirmed to have been fired from the same gun, White said.

The efforts by law enforcement and members of the community helped in potentially staving off more violence, he said. The efforts showed the department's commitment.

“We are not kidding around about crime,” White said. “We’re not going to allow our community to be victimized.”

Duggan commended the police department for its work, saying he was at the command center in person on Sunday as the response was underway.

“Yesterday was the Detroit Police Department at its finest,” he said.

“The shootings touched the hearts of everyone in the city," he continued. "Innocent people going about their lives in a neighborhood on a Sunday morning and shot for no reason other than they were at the wrong place at the wrong time.”

City Council member Coleman A. Young II highlighted the concerns of gun violence in the community and vowed to work with the mayor to address the issue.

“We have to do something about the issue of guns in our community, about the issue of violence in our community,” he said.

“Once we get back to work at City Council we are willing to work with the mayor … on what we can do to stop gun violence in the city.”

Among the initiatives on which Duggan is awaiting council action is a proposed $7.5 million expansion of the city's ShotSpotter system along with a $1.5 million renewal of the existing system software. Officers have removed 257 guns off the streets since they started with the initial $1.5 million contract, according to Detroit Police Department data given to the council in early June.

Gail Fulton, the city council liaison to Duggan's office, said at the time the issue was placed on a council committee's agenda by mistake and requested more time for community engagement.

ShotSpotter is an aerial gunfire detection system that received approval in 2020 for a four-year, $1.5 million contract. The sound system software detects and alerts police of gunfire and is making a return in the city as part of a federal crackdown on violence.

The city deployed the system from California-based SST in the first quarter of 2021 over six square miles in the Eighth and Ninth police precincts. The proposed expansion would move the system into other council districts but not throughout the entire city.

“Yesterday’s tragic shootings and killings were yet another unfortunate reminder that the City of Detroit has a real problem with gun violence,” Detroit City Council President Mary Sheffield said in a Monday statement.

“Instead (of) examining hypotheticals of using yet another unproven reactionary tool to try to prevent gun violence, my office and I will remain vigilant on addressing the root causes and taking a more proactive approach to ending gun violence in our community.

"However, in this moment we should all be focused on the victims and providing support to their families and showing our appreciation to the Detroit Police Department and our law enforcement partners as well as the suspect’s family for ending this recent reign of terror.”


(Detroit News staff writer Jennifer Chambers contributed to this report.)


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