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Published: Monday, 5/17/2010

Family: 7-year-old shot by police was asleep

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Charles Jones talks about the loss of his daughter, Aiyana. He said the slaying suspect whom police arrested had been in the duplex's upstairs apartment that officers raided at the same time as his. Krystal Sanders shows a photo of her niece, Aiyana Jones, shot when a police officer's gun discharged during a search of the duplex where the child lived. Charles Jones talks about the loss of his daughter, Aiyana. He said the slaying suspect whom police arrested had been in the duplex's upstairs apartment that officers raided at the same time as his. Krystal Sanders shows a photo of her niece, Aiyana Jones, shot when a police officer's gun discharged during a search of the duplex where the child lived.
MANDI WRIGHT / AP Enlarge

DETROIT — Seven-year-old Aiyana Jones was asleep on the living room sofa in her family's apartment when Detroit police searching for a homicide suspect burst in and an officer's gun went off, fatally striking the girl in the neck, family members say.

Her father, 25-year-old Charles Jones, told The Detroit News he had just gone to bed early Sunday after covering his daughter with her favorite Disney princess blanket when he heard a flash grenade followed by a gunshot. When he rushed into the living room, he said, police forced him to lie on the ground, with his face in his daughter's blood.

“I'll never be the same. That's my only daughter,” Jones told WXYZ-TV.

Assistant Chief Ralph Godbee said officers set off the flash grenade as they entered the apartment with their guns drawn about 12:40 a.m. Sunday with a warrant to look for a suspect in the Friday slaying of a 17-year-old boy. The lead officer's gun went off after he encountered a 46-year-old woman inside the front room of the house and “some level of physical contact” ensued. Police do not believe the gun was fired intentionally, he said.

“This is any parent's worst nightmare. It also is any police officer's worst nightmare,” Godbee said.

Family members identified the woman as the child's grandmother and Charles Jones' mother, Mertilla Jones, who has said she was not involved in a struggle with the officer. Police later said the officer may have just collided with the woman.

Godbee said the shooting was being investigated and all information was preliminary. The officer was put on paid administrative leave, he said.

“This is a tragedy of unspeakable magnitude to Aiyana's parents, family and all those who loved her,” Godbee said. “It is a tragedy we also feel very deeply throughout the ranks of the Detroit Police Department.”

Charles Jones said he had to wait for hours to find out what had happened to his daughter.

“I saw them (police) running with my daughter out of the house. They had my mother on the floor, and they just kept me there for like two hours,” Jones, 25, told

The Detroit News. “I knew it was bad, and they probably had my baby at the hospital, because someone asked me if she had any allergies.

“Her blood was everywhere and I was trying to stay calm, but nobody would talk to me. None of them even tried to console me.”

The officers had a search warrant and were looking for a 34-year-old man suspected in the shooting death of 17-year-old Jarean Blake. Officers arrested the suspect during the search, Godbee said.

Blake, a student at Southeastern High School, was gunned down Friday by a liquor store in front of his girlfriend. Blake stumbled across the street, collapsed and died, police said.

Godbee would not comment on newspaper reports that neighbors told police there were children in the house and showed them toys in the front yard. The girl's father said three other children besides Aiyana were in the house when the raid happened.

Charles Jones said he was trying not to be angry but wanted the story to be told.

He said Aiyana was a lively child who loved to sing and had recently developed an interest in Hannah Montana and the Justin Bieber song “Baby.”

“She was just figuring out what she liked, what she wanted to do with her life,” her father said. “I want this story to be heard. This was a wrongful death.”

Article appeared in earlier editions of The Blade and toledoblade.com.

Girl, 7, hit by police bullet in Detroit raid, is killed

DETROIT - A sleeping 7-year-old girl was shot and killed when an officer's gun went off while Detroit police were searching a duplex for a suspect in the slaying of a teenager, a police official said.

Assistant Chief Ralph Godbee said yesterday that Aiyana Jones was hit in the neck by a single bullet and died at a hospital.

Police said the girl was sleeping on a couch when she was shot.

"This is any parent's worst nightmare. It also is any police officer's worst nightmare," Chief Godbee said.

He said officers with the department's Special Response Team set off a flash grenade as they entered the apartment with their guns drawn about 12:40 a.m. yesterday with a warrant to look for a suspect in the Friday slaying of a 17-year-old boy.

The lead officer encountered a 46-year-old woman immediately inside the front room of the house and "some level of physical contact" ensued during which the officer's gun went off, Chief Godbee said.

The officers had identified themselves as police, he said.

Charles Jones, Aiyana's father, told the Detroit News the woman Chief Godbee referred to was his mother and the child's grandmother.

"They came into my house with a flash grenade and a bullet," Mr. Jones said. "They say my mother resisted them, that she tried to take an officer's gun.

"My mother had never been in handcuffs in her life," he said.

"They killed my baby, and I want someone to tell the truth."

Chief Godbee said the shooting was being investigated and all information was preliminary.

The officer was put on paid administrative leave, he said. Police do not believe the gun was fired intentionally, he said.

"We cannot undo what occurred this morning," Chief Godbee said. "All we can do is to pledge an open and full investigation and to support Aiyana's family in whatever way they may be willing to accept from us at this time."

Mr. Jones said he was trying not to be angry but wanted the story to be told.

"This was a wrongful death," he said.

The officers had a search warrant and were looking for a 34-year-old man suspected in the shooting death of 17-year-old Jarean Blake.

Jarean, who was a student at Southeastern High School, was gunned down Friday by a liquor store in front of his girlfriend.

Officers arrested the suspect during the search, Chief Godbee said.

Mr. Jones said the suspect wasn't in his home but was in an upstairs apartment that officers raided at the same time.

Chief Godbee would not comment on newspaper reports that neighbors told police there were children in the house and showed them toys in the front yard.



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