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On the evening of May 16, 2010, the Detroit Police Department’s Special Response Team (SRT) prepared for a surprise raid to arrest a wanted man. A surveillance unit had been monitoring the duplex in which he lived throughout the day and a no-knock raid was scheduled for just after midnight.
Police staged a so-called “safety briefing” shortly before the raid; undoubtedly focusing on their own safety rather than the safety of unknown innocents behind the doors they were about to kick in. Officers were briefed that they’d be entering a “possible dope den,” in which the suspect “might be armed” and might even possess “dangerous dogs.”
Police neglected to account for — or flatly disregarded — the safety of any potential children that might be present. Besides the glaring presence of toys strewn about the lawn and front porch, it is unlikely that investigators could have missed the presence of four young children and multi-generational family in the opposite unit during their surveillance of the duplex.
The raid commenced at roughly 12:40 a.m. The Special Response Team arrived in its armored vehicle with a warrant to arrest Chauncey Owens, who was known to stay with his fiancée at 4056 Lillibridge Street.
Armed with MP5 submachine guns, adrenaline, and an unhealthy fear for officer safety, the raiders shuffled past the toys that littered the front yard and ignored the two distinct street address signs hanging on either side of the shared porch of the multi-unit building; 4056 was on the left, 4054 was on the right.
A man named Mark Robinson was detained on the sidewalk while walking his dog, just before the raid. He repeatedly told officers, “There are children in the house,” yet his warnings went unheeded. He was pinned to the ground with officers’ boots on his neck and back, reported attorney Geoffrey Fieger.
The raid team was accompanied by an embedded cable TV crew, filming for A&E’s “The First 48.” With full bravado, the SRT put on a display of maximum force for the fans of police-state-adoring reality television.
Without warning, officers simultaneously attempted to breach entrances of two discrete living units of the duplex: the suspects’ location and the neighboring residence. What occurred at 4054 Lillibridge — where the suspect did NOT live — would be devastating.
In mere seconds, masked police officers stormed the porch and smashed the window of the neighbors’ downstairs apartment. They immediately tossed in a concussion grenade and kicked down the door. An officer discharged his rifle, and an innocent little girl named Aiyana Stanley-Jones was dead.
Amateur footage shot from the exterior of the building shows how quickly the raid unfolded: