DETROIT (WWJ) – Detroit Police Chief James Craig says the tragic death of a young officer in a car crash should not have happened — and they’re trying to figure out why it did.
Along with an investigation into the crash tself, Craig said Wednesday that an internal probe has been launched into a training exercise being conducted by the DPD’s Police Integrity Unit at the time that Officer Darren Weathers was killed.
Craig said an initial investigation showed that speed was a factor when Weathers apparently lost control of an unmarked patrol car along Michigan Avenue, crashed into another vehicle and then went airborne, crashing into a brick wall that severed the car in half.
Weathers was rushed to a local hospital where he died of his injuries.
The chief initially told the media that Weathers died while taking part in a “surveillance training” exercise. Craig revised that information Wednesday, however, telling reporters that while Weathers’ was assigned to the unit involved in a training exercise at the time of Tuesday’s crash, it is possible that Weathers was on his way to meet up with the team for training.
“I want you to be sensitive that the investigation isn’t at all complete,” the chief stressed. He told WWJ’s Charlie Langton: “We ask for the patience of the media, and not to rush to judgement.”
One thing Craig wants to make abundantly clear is that, he said, the DPD did not and does not at any time sanction any training that takes place in “an uncontrolled environment” — such as the busy lanes of Michigan Ave.
“We shouldn’t train in an uncontrolled environment; certainly not on public streets,” Craig said. “…The work is already high risk, and some of our training is high risk; but when we conduct high risk training, we always do it in a controlled environment.”
If that’s the case, what was Weathers doing when the crash occurred? At this time, Craig said he doesn’t know for sure.
The chief noted that surveillance training is typically not high-speed; and if such an exercise on busy streets was assigned by anyone within the department…”We’ll be taking a deeper look at that,” Craig said, “and we want to make sure that it was isolated to this time.”
The chief called Officers Weathers “a hero” and “one of the best DPD ever had.” The 25-year-old, on the force for less than two years, was credited with saving the life of his partner who was shot while responding to a domestic violence call last spring.
While Wednesday’s news conference was broadcast via Facebook Live, the fallen officer’s mother joined the chat, defending Weathers.
“You’re not going to say it’s my son’s fault,” Chonita Hunt wrote, adding that she believes people “are just looking for someone to blame.”
In response, many others in the chat offered their condolences.
In a tweet, Gov. Rick Snyder said it’s hard to accept the loss of another member of the Michigan law enforcement community. “My thoughts and prayers are with Darren Weathers’ colleagues at @, his family & friends as they mourn the loss of this brave and selfless young man,” Snyder said.
Officer Weathers’ death follows the fatal shooting of DPD Officer Glenn Doss, only three weeks ago.