In this May 18, 2010, file photo Dominika Stanley, left, the mother of 7-year-old Aiyana Jones, sits next to Aiyana’s father Charles Jones, holding Aiyana’s photo, in Southfield, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)
The trial of George Zimmerman for the killing of Trayvon Martin will grab most of the major headlines this summer, but there is another trial involving the death of a black child that warrants our attention. Yesterday, June 18, a judge declared a mistrial in the case of Joseph Weekley, the Detroit police officer charged with involuntary manslaughter after shooting and killing 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones back in May 2010. Weekley was the lead officer in a raid on the home of Chauncey Owens, a suspect in the murder of a 17-year-old. The Special Response Team (Detroit’s version of SWAT) entered the home just after midnight, throwing a flash-bang grenade through the window and kicking down the unlocked door. Aiyana was asleep on the couch. Weekley fired a single shot that struck her in the head and killed her. The police entered on the first floor; Owens lived in the upstairs unit.
Weekley was indicted on October 4, 2011, and his trial started on May 29 of this year. He faced up to fifteen years in prison, but after three days of deliberations a jury was unable to reach a unanimous decision.
Even if what Weekley claims is true, that his weapon was discharged by accident after a tussling with Aiyana’s grandmother, the entire ordeal could have been avoided if the police acted as police should. If it sounds irrational to require a SWAT team to apprehend one man accused of killing one person, that’s because it is—but it has become standard operating procedure. What happened to Aiyana is the result of the militarization of police in this country, itself a byproduct of the “war on drugs.” Over the course of the past thirty-plus years, police have become more and more reliant on military weaponry and tactics (big and small police forces alike have bazookas, machine guns and mini-tanks for domestic use) in response to crime. They hardly pretend to be interested in information gathering, investigating, protecting and serving any longer.