An elite Detroit SWAT team cop who shot a sleeping 7-year-old girl in the head with his machine gun when his assault team raided the wrong apartment will be tried for involuntary manslaughter a second time.
Officer Joseph Weekley’s first trial ended with a hung jury after three days of deliberations in June.
Sometime shortly after midnight on May 16, 2010, a Detroit Special Response Team (commonly referred to as SWAT) threw a flash grenade into the apartment inhabited by Charles Jones, his daughter Aiyana Mo’nay Stanley-Jones and his mother, Mertilla Jones. The child was sleeping on a couch near the front door of the small apartment as her grandmother sat with her, watching TV.
She didn’t know that TV was right at her door. A crew from A&E’s reality program, “The First 48” accompanied police hunting Chauncey Owens, a man suspected of gunning down a teenager in front of a liquor store earlier that night.
What the cops didn’t realize what that Owens lived in the upstairs apartment of the duplex house on Lillibridge Street. The Jones family occupied the downstairs flat.
But in a matter of seconds, Weekley burst through the door and fired one shot, killing Aiyana (pictured).
Weekley was already something of an A&E star. He was featured on “Detroit SWAT,” another of the network’s law-enforcement reality shows.
“You don’t go into a home around midnight. People are drinking. People are awake,” a Detroit police detective critical of the raid told Mother Jones magazine. “I would have waited until the morning when the guy went to the liquor store to buy a quart of milk. That’s how it’s supposed to be done.”
In a lengthy article on the incident, Mother Jones suggested that the officers may have felt the need to stage a dramatic, midnight raid for the benefit of the TV cameras.
In his first trial, Weekley testified that Mertilla Jones had leaped up off the couch, surprising him and grabbing his gun, causing the accidental discharge that killed the little girl.
But prosecutors found that notion implausible, saying that the woman simply did not have enough time in the seconds between when the grenade exploded, burning Aiyana’s blanket, and when Weekley charged into the house to get up and into position to reach Weekley’s gun.
As a SWAT officer, Weekley would have been trained in how to react without firing if someone grabbed his gun, other witnesses at the trial testified.
Weekley’s new trial is set to open Dec. 4.
Footage of the raid taken by the A&E crew and used as evidence in the first trial can be viewed below.
SOURCES: Detroit Free Press, Huffington Post (2), Mother Jones