Police and members of the public are voicing significant concern regarding types of crime that warrant aggressive use of force and vehicular pursuit by police following last week’s tragic death of 15-year-old Demond Grimes on Detroit’s eastside. Grimes who was enjoying the last few days of summer riding an all terrain vehicle on Detroit streets was ordered to pull over and stop the vehicle by a Michigan state trooper on patrol in the 9th precinct. Operating an ATV on Detroit city streets is not permitted by law, and could result in a misdemeanor violation and traffic fine. But when the spirited teen failed to comply, the state trooper caught up with the errant youth near the intersection of Rossini and Gratiot, and tasered the teen, causing him to crash head on into a pick-up truck. Grimes died later a short time later at St. Johns Hospital after efforts to revive and rescusitate the youth failed.
Detroit Police Chief James Craig in responding to the death of the teen, announced an immediate investigation into the Aug. 26 incident. “Anytime we have a situation that involves a death with another police agency involved, it warrants an independent investigation,” Craig said.
Detroit police restrict chases to violent felons, and in some case when giving chase to fleeing felon presents harm to the community, DPD may employ the use of aircraft to continue pursuit.
“Even in the case of a felony, there are a lot of factors to consider,” said Craig
Michigan State police policy allows troopers to pursue those suspected of committing misdemeanors or motorist involved in traffic offenses. Michigan State police Lt. Mike Shaw said the now suspended state-trooper chased Grimes for a duration of 49 seconds. The trooper was suspended for deploying and using a stun gun in a moving vehicle.
Mayor Mike Duggan issued a statement on the death of Damon Grimes and MSP pursuit policy following the police involved killing of the high school student.
“Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Damon Grimes. I fully support Chief Craig’s decision to have the Detroit Police Department conduct an independent investigation into the events leading up to his death. DPD will be presenting its findings to Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy.
“Police chases often have the potential for tragedy and the difference in the policies of the Detroit Police Department and the Michigan State Police highlight that concern. The Detroit Police Department policy is not to engage in high speed chases for traffic offenses or misdemeanors. In the case of felonies, the decision to continue a high-speed chase is made by a supervisor.”
Duggan said he had met with Gov. Snyder following and urged the State Police to adopt the City of Detroit’s policy when patrolling city streets. “I also spoke with State Representative Sheldon Neely (D) of Flint and expressed my full support for his proposed legislation to require Michigan State Police abide by local pursuit policies when patrolling within the boundaries of a city.”
Police chases have proven deadly throughout the years:
In January, two men were killed when Detroit officers from the 10th Precinct chased a minivan after a traffic stop. The minivan crashed into another vehicle, resulting in both deaths.
In June 2015, Makiah Jackson, 3, and Michaelangelo Jackson, 6, were killed while Detroit police chased parole absconder Lorenzo Harris, who drove his car 95 mph through an east side neighborhood as he tried to elude officers. He was convicted of two charges of involuntary manslaughter and sentenced to 30-50 years in prison.
But Craig and Shaw, along with a number of other front-line law officials concede that the use of ATVs on Detroit streets is a growing problem as unlicensed young people drive down streets, sidewalks and across vacant lots at speeds of up to 50 to 60 mph.
“We’re aware of complaints of young people who engage in … racing (ATVs),” Craig said, adding that he’s working to identify methods and develop procedures to better govern the use of off-road vehicles. “But it amounts to a misdemeanor at best, so our officers know not to pursue. It’s too much risk,” he concludes.