The family of a seven-year-old girl slain in Detroit by a police bullet during a raid on her home filed state and federal lawsuits Tuesday against the police department, claiming police knew there were children in the home but conducted the raid with guns drawn anyway.
Geoffrey Fieger, the attorney for the family of Aiyana Jones, said Detroit police had no legitimate reason to throw a flash grenade into the home early Sunday. He said police, who were looking for a murder suspect, had the home under surveillance for hours.
"Certainly, they were aware children were living in the home," Fieger said at a news conference at his offices in the Detroit suburb of Southfield.
Fieger said the ages of the other three children in the home were: four, two and three months.
Jones's family has filed two lawsuits related to her death. A federal lawsuit claims police violated the child's constitutional rights and seeks an unspecified cash award of more than $75,000.
A four-count suit filed in Michigan state court seeks damages in excess of $25,000.
Gun discharged accidentally, police say
Police claim the girl was shot by an officer's gun that mistakenly discharged inside the house.
A film crew for the A&E series The First 48 was with police during the raid. The show chronicles the work of homicide detectives during the critical first two days after someone is killed.
Fieger said he has seen video of the raid that indicates the police account of events is full of "utter fabrications." He would not say whether the footage he saw was from the A&E crew.
He said the video shows an officer lobbing a flash grenade and then shooting into the home from the porch.
"There is no question about what happened because it's in the videotape," Fieger said Monday.
"It's not an accident. It's not a mistake. There was no altercation. Aiyana Jones was shot from outside on the porch."
Police want to see video
Assistant chief Ralph Godbee said police want to see the footage Fieger is referring to.
"If Mr. Fieger has access to anything that would be evidence in this case, he should, as an officer of the court, get it immediately to the Michigan State Police, which will be investigating," Godbee said in an email.
Godbee also said the police department has asked for footage shot by The First 48 crew, which has been in Detroit for several months shadowing homicide investigators on a nearly daily basis.
Neither Godbee nor A&E would say whether that request was granted.
'The videotape shows clearly that the assistant police chief and the officers on the scene are engaging in an intentional cover-up of the events.' — Geoffrey Fieger, attorney for victim's family
A&E spokesman Dan Silberman said the network would not comment on the case, and he turned down an Associated Press request to view its footage.
Police departments across the nation have granted access The First 48 crew, giving viewers an inside look at crime scenes, autopsies, forensic processing and interrogations.
The Detroit police department declined to say whether it was being paid by the television show.
The First 48 crew was with Detroit police last Friday following the shooting death of a 17-year-old high school student outside a party store not far from Aiyana's home.
They then accompanied the department's elite special response team as they prepared early Sunday to raid the ramshackle duplex where Aiyana lived to look for the suspect in the teen's slaying.
Michigan State Police investigating
Fieger said more than one camera was recording at the scene and that the footage he saw includes sound.
"The videotape shows clearly that the assistant police chief and the officers on the scene are engaging in an intentional cover-up of the events," Fieger said.
Police have said the target of the raid, a 34-year-old man, was arrested in the upstairs unit of the duplex.
Police had warrants to search both units, and family members of the slain girl were seen going in and out of both on Monday.
The suspect has not been charged, and it was not immediately clear what relationship he had to the slain girl.
The case has been handed over to the Michigan State Police to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy said.
Police have not identified the officer whose gun fired the shot that killed Aiyana.
Godbee said he is a 14-year veteran of the force with six to seven years on the special response team and that he has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
The officer was cleared following a non-fatal shooting last summer in which police returned fire after being fired upon by someone barricaded in a house, Godbee said.
The Detroit police department has been under two court-ordered consent decrees since 2003 aimed at, among other things, correcting how and when its officers use force on suspects.