Apr. 7—DETROIT — Closing out a case that sparked tense protests last summer and heightened scrutiny of the Detroit Police Department’s use of force, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced no charges would be filed in connection with officers’ fatal shooting of Hakim Littleton.
Worthy, who laid out her charging decision Wednesday in a 25-minute presentation that included still images from officers’ body-worn cameras, concluded police “acted with lawful self-defense and in defense of others” during the July 10 incident on San Juan Street near West McNichols.
The prosecutor said the video footage and statements from four civilian witnesses showed Littleton fired five shots at police before an officer kicked his gun away from him — in contrast to claims from protesters that the 20-year-old was unarmed when he was shot.
“This is not a chargeable case,” she said.
Police Chief James Craig applauded the decision, saying at a separate news conference the department faced unfounded claims on social media that officers had shot Littleton as he lay on the ground unarmed.
In an interview, Craig said Littleton forced officers to shoot him: “When you fire shots at an officer a few feet from his head, you don’t give the officers a lot of other options.”
But members of Littleton’s family expressed anger over Wednesday’s decision, with Asar Amenra saying his nephew was “assassinated.”
“We are sick and tired of Black people suffering all over the United States,” he said during a news conference with other relatives near the site of the shooting. “Why is it every time you want to apprehend a Black person, there’s always got to be some type of brutality, whether it’s gun violence or a damn knee on your neck?”
The images Worthy displayed at her news conference showed Littleton pointing and firing a gun at police, who returned fire. She narrated as she showed the images, saying they showed Littleton taking a gun from his left pocket and making a step toward an officer who was arresting another person.
Worthy said the incident lasted about 10 seconds from the time Littleton pulled out his weapon and finished firing it.
“This all moved extremely quickly, which is why we want to break it down for you this way,” the county prosecutor said during her presentation at the press conference. “At this point, Mr. Littleton points his gun directly at Officer A’s head and fires two shots while Officer B is arresting Witness 1,” said Worthy, repeating herself for emphasis. ” … All of them were in danger.”
A third officer returned fire, striking Littleton, who fell to the ground, Worthy said.
Officer A straddled Littleton, who still was holding the gun, which he fired three more times, the prosecutor said.
Worthy said Littleton still had the gun in his hand after he was wounded. She said the gun was kicked away by one of the four officers at the scene after “all the shots had been fired.”
The shooting was justifiable, the prosecutor said.
“Even after Mr. Littleton was on the ground wounded, he remained a deadly threat,” Worthy said. “He was armed and continuing to fire shots, endangering all the officers and civilians on the street.”
Video shot from an officer’s body-worn camera shows Littleton pull a gun from his shorts pocket and fire shots from about two feet away from a cop who was part of a crew that was at McNichols and San Juan investigating a July 5 mass shooting in which three people were killed and five others wounded.
At his news conference, Craig said his department fought back against “a false narrative” on social media about the shooting by releasing that bodycam footage hours after the incident. Without that, “God knows what would have happened,” the chief said.
He said while he supports people’s right to free speech and to march for justice, he does not support “criminality.” Craig said he hopes the efforts of “misinformation” end now.
The chief praised the “thorough investigation by the Wayne County prosecutors, who used facts to come to their conclusion and took emotion out of it.”
“There was erroneous information put out immediately that we’d shot an unarmed Black man on his porch, and that we’d shot him 15 times,” Craig said. “That was a lie. More misinformation was put out that officers continued shooting him after they’d kicked the gun out of his hand, but the video shows no shots were fired after we kicked the gun away. This misinformation they’re putting out needs to stop. They lied right after this happened, and they continue to lie.”
Worthy acknowledged “some people” would be unhappy with her decision but said her office “let the facts and evidence guide us” in reaching the decision announced Wednesday.
“I am never going to charge people unless we can prove it beyond a reasonable doubt in court,” she said.
The shooting occurred during a summer of protests in Detroit and other cities nationwide in the wake of the May 25 death of George Floyd, who was pinned with a Minneapolis officer’s knee on his neck for more than nine minutes. Littleton’s death was followed by fresh demonstrations accusing Detroit officers of killing him without cause.
Activists accused police of using tear gas, pepper spray, chokeholds and rubber bullets against them during some of those protests. Detroit Will Breathe filed a federal lawsuit against the city, which argued in a counterclaim that demonstrators should have to pay for property damage resulting from the protests; a federal judge rejected the city’s request.
Speaking at the Littleton family’s news conference, Dawn Fuller vowed not to rest “until justice is done for my nephew” and harshly criticized Worthy for not filing charges. She said she cries every day over Littleton, who was “like my son.”
“My nephew was going places. They never gave us any justice,” she said. “Shame on Kym Worthy for being a woman of color and not supporting other women of color. You are a sellout to this city. Trust me, we’re coming for all of you. I will never sleep again until justice is done for my nephew.”
The family, she said, doesn’t even know the name of the officer involved in the shooting. Littleton’s mother declined to speak to reporters.
Fuller said her nephew had been in a boot camp when he was young but had “turned his life all the way around,” only to be “harassed by police.”
“Hakim worked hard,” she added. “He was really doing excellent.”
Littleton was employed, his grandfather said previously, and worked at a local party store while he was waiting on his mother to reopen her own convenience store, where he was a manager.
At the time of the shooting, Littleton was on probation for a 2017 unarmed robbery and felony firearm conviction. He was initially charged with armed robbery, but cut a deal with Wayne County prosecutors for the lesser charge and was sentenced to three years of probation.
Detroit Will Breathe organizer Lloyd Simpson, who led off the Wednesday news conference, accused Worthy of rubber-stamping the “murder” of Littleton.
“The fact is Hakim Littleton didn’t have to die,” he said. “This type of policing is only reserved for Black communities like Bagley.”
Simpson said the organization and family are demanding all of the bodycam footage and for Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel to conduct an independent investigation as well as federal law enforcement officials, arguing the state “is not trustworthy.”
Simpson said the police showed up that day due to a federal drug warrant and “we allow this type of brutal policing when it comes to drug enforcement” and that’s why “Hakim Littleton didn’t get to walk away.”
Kenneth Reed, director of the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, called Worthy’s statements “typical prosecutorial speech” and said the officers involved in the shooting took things too far and should be held accountable.
“They took it a step further, and it turned out to be an execution in our organization’s estimation,” he said.
Reed raised the prospect of activist groups, including his own, or the Littleton family pressing for a federal investigation into the death.
“That’s something that our organization would have to take a look at in light of what happened today,” he said.
But Maurice Hardwick of the Live in Peace Movement supported Worthy’s conclusion, saying it was clear that the police response was self-defense.
“I don’t see any brutality there. I saw the young man basically take a shot at the officer first,” said Hardwick, who marched for 70 days to protest George Floyd’s death last May.
Hardwick said he wanted to defuse any hostile situations during marches.
“We have to calm down with that (allegations of brutality) because you make a mockery for real brutality when you start throwing out anything,” he said. “We disrespect the focus that needs to be done when there is brutality.”
Hardwick contends the videos formerly circulated of the incident clearly show what happened, “the same way we see when the officer murdered George Floyd.”
“You don’t have to have a trial to see what happened,” he said of Floyd’s death. “I follow the truth.”
Detroit Will Breathe and Littleton’s family dispute the department’s account of the incident.
“Detroit Police Chief James Craig has attempted from the start to absolve his officers from any wrongdoing, regardless of the facts,” according to their statement issued Wednesday. “Craig claims that the initial release of body cam footage vindicated his officers when in fact, it took less than a week for activists and a journalist to conduct a walkthrough that clearly showed Hakim was detained before the fatal shot was fired. The truth is, if Hakim had been white and this was Grosse Pointe, he would have been apprehended rather than killed.
“We demand a credible investigation into the actions of the Detroit Police Department. This injustice will not go uncontested. Hakim’s life matters.”
The Wayne County Medical Examiner’s Office backed up Craig’s statement in its autopsy report. It ruled Littleton’s death a homicide, the result of four gunshot wounds — one in the head, two in the right thigh and one in the left thigh.
Chief Medical Examiner Carl Schmidt’s report said Littleton was shot in the back of the head; the bullet went through his brain and lodged in his scalp, where it was recovered.
“There was no evidence of close-range fire on the skin and around the entrance wounds,” Schmidt wrote.
A toxicology report, which was part of the autopsy, showed Littleton had marijuana and alcohol in his system when he died. His blood-alcohol level was 0.016.
Published at Wed, 07 Apr 2021 20:57:00 +0000