Killing Children: From Ghazi to Detroit

In Iraq, the news that families were having the doors to their houses kicked in by heavily armed US forces who then proceeded to awaken everybody in the house, overturn their bedding and other belongings and arrest the household’s menfolk became commonplace for several years following the US invasion of that country. All too often, women and children were killed by US troops during these raids. In Afghanistan, a similar scenario continues with daily raids of houses and businesses being conducted by US forces in that country. The scene usually unfolds with a kicked in door and several uniformed soldiers entering the house with their weaponry ready to fire. Occasionally, a concussion grenade is thrown first while helicopter gunships hover noisily overhead. Sometimes the soldiers’ guns are already blazing when they enter. All too often children end up dead or wounded. Sometimes, as they were in in a December 27, 2009 raid in the village of Ghazi, they are taken from their residence and executed. Every once in a while, the raids are followed by denial and then an apology. US military spokespeople tell the media that a mistake was made and the incident retreats into the shadows of war.

On May 16, a scenario all too similar to the aforementioned raids by Washington’s police forces overseas took place in Detroit, Michigan. A Detroit Police SWAT team with a “no-knock” warrant in attacked the wrong home. The police threw a concussion grenade through the front window. It landed on a 7-year old girl–Aiyana Stanley-Jones– who was sleeping on the living room couch inside and severely burned her. Within seconds, a Detroit cop opened fire from the porch and killed Aiyana with one shot. Then the stormtroopers invaded the house and beat Aiyana’s grandmother. They grabbed Aiyana’s father, Charles Jones, and threw him to the floor while he pleaded with the cops to stop shooting since children were in the house.

Like the raids in Iraq and Afghanistan, the police in Detroit were supposedly looking for a wanted man. Also like US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, the police in Detroit have issued public denials and are essentially blaming the Jones family for the incident. Detroit police spokespeople have denied shooting from the porch and have refused to apologize for murdering Aiyana. At first, police insisted that the suspect they were looking for was in the house. Yet, he was not found there or anywhere nearby. According to the Detroit Police Department, the officer’s gun went off accidentally while he struggled with Aiyana’s grandmother (who was asleep on the couch). If one recalls the police murder of Oscar Grant on New Year’s 2009-2010 by BART police in Oakland, California, they will remember that his murder was also the result of a police “accident.”

As many readers know, the city of Detroit is economically depressed. There are few jobs and even fewer opportunities for its poor and working-class residents to improve their lot. Crime is rampant in some neighborhoods. Indeed, over 300 people have died in crime-related violence. Like many other urban areas (and some rural ones, too), certain residential areas in Detroit are approached by authorities in much the same way Kandahar is approached by US-led forces in Afghanistan. That is, with great caution. This means that police have little regard for the human lives in those areas. It is as if the system that the police work for blames these residents for the dismal economic and social situation they live in. Just like the politicians in DC and their backers on Wall Street, the public and private movers and shakers in Detroit not only refuse to accept responsibility for the destruction of their city, but spend the monies they have to insure their own safety and well-being while they let the rest of the city’s residents struggle in the wreckage that remains.

Police murders are not a new phenomenon, especially in the United States. Yet, the circumstances of this one cries out for justice. A 7-year-old girl should not be dead because police treat the residents of their city like they are the enemy. It is not a crime for a seven year old to sleep with her grandmother; not in Detroit and not in Afghanistan. A system that excuses these murders is a system that needs reconsidering, to say the least.

Ron Jacobs is the author of The Way The Wind Blew: A History of the Weather Underground and Tripping Through the American Night, and the novels Short Order Frame Up and The Co-Conspirator's Tale. His third novel All the Sinners, Saints is a companion to the previous two and was published early in 2013. Read other articles by Ron.

17 comments on this article so far ...

Comments RSS feed

  1. mphacker said on May 30th, 2010 at 5:08am #

    You should get an award for emotional journalism. If you did some research you would have found out that the family was harboring a known murderer in that house. The parents put the child at risk, not the police.

    When your city is like a warzone because of drugs and violence sometimes innocent people get killed when trying to clean up the mess. The citizens of Detroit need to stand up and fight against the criminals instead of blaiming the police and protecting murderers.

    The girl is dead because of bad decisions made by her family, period. The child would still be here today if the parents stood up against crime and violence instead of inviting it into their home. When you associate with drug dealers and murderers, you know what you are getting and what could happen. No shock at all that this happened.

    Did you know that the person that family was harboring happened to have just killed an innocent young man? Were is the outcry for his family? Where are the people writing articles about how gangs and drugs are ripping apart the city? Instead you pick an easy target and go after the police who are dealing with a bad situation the best way they can. Let’s see you stop hiding behind a blog and get out there and risk your life to make a change for the better? You seem to think you have all the answers.

  2. Don Hawkins said on May 30th, 2010 at 5:35am #

    When your city is like a warzone because of drugs and violence sometimes innocent people get killed when trying to clean up the mess.

    And why are cities becoming like warzone’s come on don’t play around the edges why?

  3. NotLeX said on May 30th, 2010 at 5:52am #

    Ok; this should be easy.

    The authors assumption that the officer actually wanted to kill a 7 year girl after throwing a flashbang grenade at her is pretty bold. I’m from new orleans, I know police can be very corrupt and brutal if left unchecked. Inflicting burn and blast injuries and then executing a 7 year old girl isn’t really a common police brutality offense. Last I heard, people who are compelled to commit that level of violence on children generally don’t pass SWAT team psych exams. The police were looking for a murder suspect, which is why they entered in the way that they did; because the suspect was wanted for a violent crime, and was more than likely considered armed and dangerous. Also, because of the suspects offenses and perceived willingness for violence, the police on the scene were probably SWAT rather than homicide officers.
    Throwing a flashbang in first is supposed to prevent there from being a shootout in a residential area and having civilian casualties for blocks around. Your hand may not go through that wall too easily, but trust that the worlds most abundant assault rifle (ak-47) will go straight through average american residential structures. And the AK is pretty popular with criminals, people who professionally apprehend criminals, like cops, know that.

    How is your personal opinion of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan relevant to this little girls unfortunate death?

    The flashbang grenade being used? That was your string to tie this tragedy to your opinion. You hoped people would take the emotions from this girls death and turn it into disapproval of the us military and foreign policy? I am willing to bet that the officer who fired the shot that killed this girl is going through extreme mental anguish and will continue to for a very long time if not the remainder of his or her life.

    If you felt guilt or cared about this girls death at all, you wouldn’t have used her death as a stepping stone to forward your beliefs. You took advantage of a childs death, and that face probably doesn’t bother you.

  4. bozh said on May 30th, 2010 at 6:00am #

    Don, yes to ur question,
    Mphacker appears to be selecting some facts and omiting other facts which might be even more important.

    I say people aren’t this or that, people become this way or that way. So, we study how people become what the are in-point of time-place.

    Obviously drugs get in; in an enormously iniquitous and uncaring society. So, study how US society became to behave as it behaves now.

    Drugs get in in spite of US having some 10mn people [cia-fbi-army-spies] available to search every incoming ship, plane, person.

    The war on drugs is being waged in streets and poor people’s homes not in rich people’s homes. So, police wages wars on poor streets, but not on rich streets or in rich homes. tnx

  5. Steven said on May 30th, 2010 at 6:01am #

    I do agree with Notlex, our cops are not out there to kill innocent people. But an organized assault that results on a death of a child is a failure that deserves punishment.

  6. Don Hawkins said on May 30th, 2010 at 6:05am #

    How is your personal opinion of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan relevant to this little girls unfortunate death?

    How is it relevant let’s see we are now fighting those war’s to protect the American way of life. Just what is the American way of life today in old twenty ten. Come on be honest so we can go shopping buy gold play in the stock market eat until we can’t get out of bed take pills to help with this way of life did I forget anything.

  7. Don Hawkins said on May 30th, 2010 at 6:17am #

    As we go through the motions and the show must go on no no no. Again in the movie the Matrix the first one remember when Neo was showed the real World a ruined World well guess what we are almost there and with the media TV we are made to think it’s not. Unlike the movie where a machine was running the show today it’s the human system known as capitalism that got a tad bit out of control. It does appear the push is on to see who get’s to run the out of control system from a secure location so to speak. Can I make that more simple.

  8. NotLeX said on May 30th, 2010 at 6:19am #

    Also, writer, based off of YOUR information, the cops were on the front porch, standing at the door. Then, they kicked in the door to the living room, where aiyanna and her grandmother were sleeping on the couch. The officer, according to the author, threw the flashbang grenade very near or on top of aiyanna. So neither of them were awoken when the door was kicked in, and the grandmother was still asleep after the flashbang grenade went off on top of or near her granddaughter, who was next to her. And then an officer on the porch began firing into the living room, killing aiyanna. The officer claims the weapon discharged as he was dealing with the grandmother, but that’s impossible, as she was still sleeping on the couch the whole time that the door had been knocked down, shots had been fired, and a stun grenade had gone off right next to her. That truly is a deep sleep. I can’t believe that you get paid to produce this garbage, maybe I’m in the wrong business.

    “Upon detonation, it emits an intensely loud “bang” and blinding flash of more than one million candela and 170–180 dB within five feet of initiation, sufficient to cause immediate (but temporary) flash blindness, deafness, tinnitus, and inner ear disturbance.[1]”

  9. Ron Jacobs said on May 30th, 2010 at 6:31am #

    This is not a technical piece. This is about a nation that rationalizes killing children as a matter of course. NotLex’s argument proves my point. Collateral damage is not an accidental term.

  10. NotLeX said on May 30th, 2010 at 6:33am #

    I forgot to add my conclusion. The way that the effect of a stun grenade is relevant. So the grandmother wakes up and jumps to her feet as the door gets kicked in, only to be deafened and blinded by the stun grenade. The entry tactic is to follow the flash, which means enter the room as soon as the stun grenade detonates. You lose your balance from the stun grenade going off near you, due to the pressure wave entering your ear canal. So this elderly woman has no balance, can’t see, and is probably scared for perceived threats and the cops are entering the room in a tactical formation to secure it, weapons up. My guess is she grabbed one of them either for balance, in an effort to defend herself, or simply because she could not see. She couldn’t hear the cops saying to get down or that they were police and couldnt see their uniforms, so they probably grabbed her, and she in turn tried to grab them.

    Or your theory that one of the officers viciously murdered this girl

  11. NotLeX said on May 30th, 2010 at 6:44am #

    There are many cases in which police have militarized what should be a community role but this girls death is not one of them. Also, you can’t make accusations that someone intended to shoot a sleeping child without a single reinforcing detail about this persons history of violence etc

  12. Don Hawkins said on May 30th, 2010 at 7:02am #

    Notlex on my above comment where I referenced the movie the Matrix can you read that again and just for the heck of it use your imagination a little and tell me your thought’s.

  13. jay said on May 30th, 2010 at 7:40am #

    Don, how can you excuse the killing of a 7 year old for any reason? Blaming it on the community, or her parents, or the criminal you claim was in the house (which the cops somehow never found?) isn’t going to cut it. The bottom line is a police officer committed at minimum negligent manslaughter. Will this police officer pay for his crime or not? I hope you’re not a judge.

  14. Don Hawkins said on May 30th, 2010 at 7:48am #

    Jay you must have me confused with someone else.

  15. kalidas said on May 30th, 2010 at 8:39am #

    The police knew this man was there. At the least they knew he was in the ‘hood’ and could be arrested surreptitiously (shades of David Koresh) with little need for an armed assault.
    They CHOSE to wage this made for TV military style drama for … well, TV.

  16. JG said on May 30th, 2010 at 10:32am #

    NotLeX you should be ashamed of yourself. Your take on how the incident unfolded is completely irrelevant. There is no excuse for murdering a little girl. Even if a murder suspect was in the house, should the police murder an innocent girl to catch him? How are they not worse than the guy they are after? He murdered and they murdered, what’s the difference? Are police supposed to protect citizens, or are they a group of thugs carrying out revenge killings? You cannot stop violence with more violence, that’s just irrational. And as far as drugs and violence destroying communities goes, you are completely wrong. You must have never lived in these neighborhoods that you think you know so much about. Have you ever walked around a desolate wasteland of a neighborhood in this supposedly great nation with no chance to get a job, earn money, provide for your family, or contribute to society in any way. Have you ever woke up knowing that you won’t eat today, and neither will your family. And at the same time, white people from the other side of town continuously ask you for drugs. Well I have, and trust me, you will get some drugs to sell before you starve. Drugs and violence are a symptom of poverty, and the police are helping to keep this system going, not helping the problem. So it is not Aiyana’s fault she was murdered. It’s not her family’s fault, her neighborhood’s fault, or various drug dealer’s fault, it is heartless people like you who praise this system of poverty and oppression and applaud cops for brutally enforcing this way of life. It is your fault! Hope you’re proud of yourself.

  17. meome said on May 30th, 2010 at 8:41pm #


    “but trust that the worlds most abundant assault rifle (ak-47)”

    Common misconception. The AK-47 is a battle rifle. Don’t believe everything you read on wikipedia.