Jonathan Cohn

A Little Girl, a Single Gunshot, and an American City

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I was going to write another blog item or two today, but I ended up engrossed in a magazine article. It's by Charles LeDuff and it appears in the latest edition of Mother Jones. Here's how it begins:

IT WAS JUST AFTER MIDNIGHT on the morning of May 16 and the neighbors say the streetlights were out on Lillibridge Street. It is like that all over Detroit, where whole blocks regularly go dark with no warning or any apparent pattern. Inside the lower unit of a duplex halfway down the gloomy street, Charles Jones, 25, was pacing, unable to sleep.

His seven-year-old daughter, Aiyana Mo'nay Stanley-Jones (PDF), slept on the couch as her grandmother watched television. Outside, Television was watching them. A half-dozen masked officers of the Special Response TeamDetroit's version of SWATwere at the door, guns drawn. In tow was an A&E crew filming an episode of The First 48, its true-crime program. The conceit of the show is that homicide detectives have 48 hours to crack a murder case before the trail goes cold. Thirty-four hours earlier, Je'Rean Blake Nobles, 17, had been shot outside a liquor store on nearby Mack Avenue; an informant had ID'd a man named Chauncey Owens as the shooter and provided this address.

The SWAT team tried the steel door to the building. It was unlocked. They threw a flash-bang grenade through the window of the lower unit and kicked open its wooden door, which was also unlocked. The grenade landed so close to Aiyana that it burned her blanket. Officer Joseph Weekley, the lead commandowho'd been featured before on another A&E show, Detroit SWATburst into the house. His weapon fired a single shot, the bullet striking Aiyana in the head and exiting her neck. It all happened in a matter of seconds.

The article actually tells several stories--about the little girl and her family, about Detroit, about America. But much as I want to comment on all of them, it seems somehow disrespectful to her and the tale. So I'll just recommend you read it. 

It's the most stirring and revealing piece of journalism I've read in a very long time.

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