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Group Condemns ‘Irresponsible Detroit Police Rhetoric Defending Vigilantism’

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Police on the scene where a homeowner shot two trespassers on Dexter on Detroit's west side. (credit: Sandra McNeil/WWJ)

Police on the scene where a homeowner shot two trespassers on Dexter on Detroit’s west side. (credit: Sandra McNeil/WWJ)

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DETROIT (WWJ) – The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality is challenging what it’s calling the Detroit Police Department’s irresponsible rhetoric defending vigilantism.

“We are appalled at recent statements made by the Public Information Department of the Detroit Police Department and attributed to the Chief which separate which separate the so-called ‘good citizens’ from the ‘bad citizens,’ suggesting individuals that shoot someone in defense of their home will have the full support of the Detroit Police Department as ‘good Americans,'” said DCAPB spokesperson Ron Scott, in a statement.

“These kinds of incendiary and slanted statements only add to the sense of fear and promotion of violence that we are now experiencing in this city. Responsible law enforcement must be tempered with, and based on, a thorough investigation of the facts surrounding any incident before statements are made like these in a community already convulsing with pain,” Scott said.

There have been as many as a half-dozen incidents in recent weeks in which a metro Detroiter has opened fire on an intruder, and Detroit police say they’ll stand behind residents who use deadly force, if necessary, to defend their homes.

On March 25, Detroit Police Sgt. Michael Woody addressed the issue after a 50-year-old Detroit homeowner fatally shot two men who he alleged were trying to break in.

“We stand behind our citizens. We stand with them when it comes to protecting their homes, and their property, and their persons,” Woody said. “Whatever they need to do, we’re here with them. We’ve tried to warn the criminal element that we will no longer stand idly by.”

Woody said they’re “not telling everyone to run out, grab a gun, shoot first and ask questions later,” but they are encouraging responsible Detroiters who legally own guns to exercise their right to defend themselves.

The DCAPB, instead, is advocating for peace.

“It is not the time to have us turn against each other,” said Scott, who was expected to speak on the issue at the Detroit Police Commission Meeting on Thursday. “We need to proceed, as the Coalition has, to rebuild neighborhood connections through ‘Peace Zones’ rather than promote ‘Free Fire Zones.’ What if an individual deemed to be breaking into someone’s house is instead an adolescent girl standing on a doorstep asking for help at 2 a.m.; or a police officer responding to a call? Would that “good citizen” have a right to shoot them from behind his door?”

Scott’s comment about the “young girl” likely alludes to an incident in Dearborn Heights last year in which 19-year-old Renisha McBride was killed while knocking on doors after crashing her car in an unfamiliar neighborhood. The shooter in that case faces trial for murder.

The DCAPB’s statement comes just one week since Macomb County man was beaten nearly to death by an angry mob after stopping in a Detroit neighborhood to help a child he’d hit with his pickup truck.

Detroit Police James Craig, earlier this week, said that wasn’t a case of vigilantism, but instead a senseless, irrational, unfortunate, act by violent perpetrators. Five people, so far, have been charged in that case.

WWJ has a call out to Detroit police for a response to the DCAPB’s statement.

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