Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Geoffrey Fieger and the Death of Aiyana Jones

First, let me get a couple things out in the open. My comments in this article are my opinion, which are protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution, and are not fact. Second, I have a very strong bias against Mr. Fieger. Third, I have had and still do have family members that have served with the Detroit Police Department, so I do tend to be defensive with regards to the men and women in blue, though I don't make up excuses for them.

In case you haven't heard, a seven year old little girl, Aiyana Jones, was accidentally killed by a Detroit Police Officer this past weekend. If you haven't already heard of this incident, click here. The gist of the story is that DPD's S.R.T. (as the S.W.A.T. team is known here) went to the house to arrest a suspect in the murder of a high school student on Friday of last week. After the Police fired a flash bang into the house, some thing occurred that led to the discharge of an officer's weapon, killing the little girl. The facts in this case are what's in dispute, and I'm going to give my opinion on what probably happened.

Pretty much standard operating procedure for any S.W.A.T. team entering a building to arrest a suspect is to use flash bang grenades just prior to entering a home, office, or room in which the suspect may be located. The grenade, if you're not familiar with them, explodes with a great deal of light, noise, smoke and a concussive force that will stun anyone in a certain proximity to the grenade when it detonates. Beyond that, it's generally harmless. In most movies and television shows, these are usually thrown into a room, then the team goes rushing in.

Given Sunday's situation, where the team was going to have to break open a door in order to gain entry into the house, they had to put it through a window. The window is key to this whole thing, and ultimately leave Mr. Fieger with a good deal of egg on his face, which I frankly think he deserves. The window in question had a double pane of glass. The reason this is significant is that unless the officer throwing the flash bang at the window was a Major League Baseball pitcher, it's very unlikely that the grenade would have penetrated both panes of glass, and still gotten into the room on the other side in an effective manner.

Now, I'm not disputing that a flash bang was put through the window. No, not at all. I'd be a fool to say that given the circular hole that's been shown on the evening news. What I am saying is that the grenade was put through the window using an alternate delivery method. There are several different delivery methods: hand, grenade launcher, and rifle. We can rule out hand delivery in this case since the window's glass would have made it ineffective. So we're left to grenade launcher and rifle. I'm not sure which was used, but the concept of both are fairly straight-forward. A rifle or rifle-like device is used to propel the flash bang at a significantly higher speed than a person can throw it, and it penetrated the window easily.

What Mr. Fieger claims to have seen on this video tap that he can't produce is an officer firing into the house, supposedly after a smoke bomb was set off in the house. A smoke bomb wouldn't help a tactical unit like S.R.T. when trying to breach a door and secure a suspect; it would be counter productive because the suspect could easily slip out a door or window using the smoke as cover. What Mr. Fieger probably saw, but couldn't grasp, is an officer using a rifle fired flash bang which emits smoke in addition to its other effects. It crashed through the window and appeared to Mr. Fieger and possibly the camera man or woman that recorded the footage that an officer had fired a normal bullet into the house.

Mr. Fieger is probably also incapable of denoting the difference between a flash bang and the sound of a gun shot. Though it wouldn't take a flash bang long to go off, there would have been a noticeable delay between the time that it was put through the window and when it actually exploded. Given the notice, smoke, and flash that it generates, it is easy to assume for the uninitiated and uninformed that someone subsequently fired their rifle in through the window rather than the flash bang detonating. Mr. Fieger may be a worldly lawyer, but he doesn't strike me as the sort that would have any experience at all with Police or military tactics and tools, and therefore has no qualifications to say that a smoke bomb was thrown through the window and then an officer fired into the house killing the little girl from outside.

It is my further belief, that the little girl's grandmother, responding to the sound of the window breaking, probably stumbled into the room just before the flash bang went off, temporarily blinding her and certainly stunning her. It is my belief that during that time, the S.R.T. breached the door, and the woman either accidentally or intentionally interfered with the officers entering the home, pushing or pulling against a raised rifle causing it to accidentally discharge.

Given the early morning time of the incident, the shock and fear caused by the breaking window, the stunning effect of the flash bang, and the general confusion after the little girl was shot, I'm sure that the average civilian would be extremely confused and uncertain as to exactly what happened. In fact, I'd be willing to bet that they were in quite an impressionable state when Mr. Fieger spoke with them. As I stated before, I'm extremely biased against Mr. Fieger, and it's my opinion that he's a very sleazy lawyer, so I have no qualms in saying that I believe that he probably massaged the details of the family's recollections into something that he could use to slander the men and women of the Detroit Police Department and sue them.

I think the death of the girl was a tragic accident, but I can't sit here idly and not speak up against what I see as a frivolous lawsuit filed by a lawyer I believe is a grand-standing opportunist that in my opinion doesn't hold any more respect or concern for the family than any other predator. He sees an opportunity to potentially make a few dollars, either through a settlement or a anti-Police biased court, and doesn't care for the truth or whose lives' and careers he may ruin in the process. In my opinion.

In my opinion, if Mr. Fieger really wanted to help the family, he'd be trying to set up a fund to make sure that she gets buried, and possibly donate his services to the defense of the suspect, Aiyana's uncle, instead of making this an issue about money. And make no mistake, the reason he's claiming that a shot was fired from outside, and making a huge fuss over this is indeed about money rather than justice. He was no where to be found when Officer Huff was shot and killed a couple weeks ago.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Detroit Police Officer Slain, 4 Others Wounded
I take this loss personally.
Not because I knew this officer or his family, but because he sacrificed his life for me.
I take this loss personally.
Not because I am a citizen of Detroit, but because I am the son of former Detroit Police officer, and the brother of a current one.
I take this loss personally.
Not because he had to respond to a call that resulted in his death, but because he chose to.
I take this loss personally because Police officers put their lives on the line daily for us and ours, and never expect a thank you.

There has been a lot of controversy, here in Detroit if no where else, about a major news network claiming that Detroit is more violent than Beirut or some war zones around the world. It was a gross exaggeration considering that there are many other cities in this country alone that are far worse. Take Los Angeles, for example; you can't go a day without hearing about someone getting shot or killed, and it's gotten to the point that it's not even news worthy there any more. But because Detroit has long had a reputation for being a dangerous city, Detroit becomes the butt of jokes, snide remarks, and ignorant comments.

That's not to say that the city is a paradise. There are tragic accidents, such as the one near my home that took the life of a two year old girl on Thursday due to the complete negligence and stupidity of her father. And there's today's shooting that resulted in the death of one of Detroit's finest.

It's strange that while I mourn the loss of this stranger, I am angry not just at his killer, but at Mayor Dave Bing who apologized to the officer's widow. Why does this anger me? A police officer, especially one that went through Detroit's Police Academy, is trained to know and understand that they may be injured or killed in the line of duty. Rookie or veteran, they each take to the streets to do their job saving our lives, and each of them make sacrifices in terms of time they spend with their families, their career (some may be well paid, but there are certainly higher paying less dangerous jobs that they could have pursued), and potentially their lives.

You don't apologize for an officer's death because you dishonor them and belittle their memory. These officers know consciously that their lives are on the line when they go out in the streets. They are often painfully aware that their uniforms sometimes make them targets as much as they are sometimes feared for them. They choose to do their duties not out of ignorance, but out of acceptance and the desire to serve their community. This officer wasn't forced into his job, he chose it. He might not have thought he would die in the line of duty, but he was aware of the possibility. He doesn't deserve our pity or apologies, he and his family deserve our admiration and respect.

You don't apologize for an officer's death, particularly to his or her family, because they died doing what they wanted to do. They sacrificed their life for us, and there can be no shame in doing their duty. This officer and his family deserves our gratitude for his sacrifice and theirs, and his memory should be honored, not pitied. He should be remembered for his sacrifice.