As they reconcile the senseless death of a young child at the hands of Detroit police, neighbors of the residents who live in the home, where 7-year-old Aiyana Jones was killed, also welcome a newfound peace on that block of the East Side neighborhood.
Although the child's death has gripped the city with cries of injustice and police abuse, and spawned loud protests and even lawsuits before the girl could be laid to rest, people who live near the home paint a different picture of Aiyana's family.Groups of loitering men, loud music and grimacing stares characterized the atmosphere around the home, neighbors say. Many were intimidated by shady crowds and remained wary of the company they kept. But now, in spite of the tragedy, an unexpected calm has surfaced.
Willy Fletcher, 30, has been living on the block for five years and said he had never seen Aiyana's grandmother, Mertilla Jones (in the video below), on the street before. Mertilla is alleged to have struggled with police inside the home, causing the gun of Officer Joseph Weekley, a 14-year police veteran, to fire when the Detroit Special Response Team raided the house early Sunday, police officials say. "The first time I seen her was on the news," he said, adding that a suspicious crowd typically used the home as a hangout.
Neighbors said the residents of Aiyana's house were all relatives living in the two-family flat. They say the family has lived there for about two years and Chauncey Owens, the man police were looking for when the stray bullet hit Jones, was known for terrorizing the neighborhood. "Soon as they moved over here, you didn't even want to sit outside anymore," said one neighbor, who chose not to give his name to Black Voices. "If he [Owens] said something to you, you just let it go, because you already know how he is."
The tragedy has brought painful controversy to a city already mired in a month of bloody violence that claimed the life of a 69-year-old grandmother, hit by a stray bullet fired by a man defending himself from a robbery; the death of a 15-year-old on Mother's day; and the killing of a 12-year-veteran officer in a drug investigation that turned into a shootout.
The death of Aiyana reportedly stemmed from a search warrant being executed by police in pursuit of Owens, who was suspected in the May 14th murder of 17-year-old Jerean Blake, a high school senior who lived in the area. Owens has since been arrested and charged in connection with Blake's death.
Neighbors on the street say Aiyana's house was always congested in the front and rowdy, with loud cars idling in the street. Another resident, who also chose anonymity, said, "Since the media is here they aren't out like that anymore I guess because [their] boys are gone."
"People were scared to come outside, nobody comes outside," said a 30-year-old resident who also chose not to give his name to Black Voices. Ironically, he said, calm came to the block after Aiyana was killed: "The only day we were able to sit outside was that day, because they all left."
Today, there is stillness on the street. There is no loud music or crowdedness; just a mounting heap of stuffed animals and balloons (pictured above), which for neighbors, is a stark reminder of a bittersweet tragedy.
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