Thursday, June 26, 2008

Detroit Family and Friends Hold Candlelight Tribute for Police Shooting Victim Tommy Staples, Jr.

DETROIT

Answers sought in shooting

Crowd at vigil seeks justice for slain man

BY ERIC D. LAWRENCE
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
June 25, 2008

Light from more than 100 handheld candles flickered Tuesday night as family members and neighbors demanded answers in the fatal shooting by police earlier this month of Tommy Staples Jr. in a northwest Detroit alley.

Ron Scott, spokesman for the Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality, led the group in a chant, saying, "We will not stand for this anymore."

"No justice," Scott shouted into the microphone as the crowd shouted back, "No peace."

The group gathered for a candlelight vigil in a vacant lot near Puritan and Tuller, within sight of the area where Tommy Staples, 54, died in a shooting on June 2 involving two police officers.

Tommy Staples' daughter, Talona King, said she cannot understand how her father, who she said was unarmed, could have been killed. Family members said he was walking home from a friend's house at about 10 p.m. when he encountered the two police officers. What happened next is unclear.

"Why they had to shoot him six times, I have no idea," she said, calling the killing a murder. "Those officers will pay."

After the shooting, a crowd gathered around police, and the groups clashed. Tommy Staples' son, Brian Staples, 25, said he was sprayed with Mace by police in the fray while trying to protect another family member.

Detroit police have confirmed that the shooting occurred but have released few details, saying that the case is under investigation. The officers have been placed on administrative leave and are not working patrols.

There have been seven police-related fatal shootings in Detroit in the past three years.

"This reflects a pattern of lethal force," Scott said.

Throughout the vigil, Scott and others called on Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy to be as aggressive in prosecuting the officers in this case as she has been in prosecuting Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who faces numerous felony charges in the text message scandal.

"She has got to charge these cops," Scott said of Worthy.

Contact ERIC D. LAWRENCE at 313-223-4272 or elawrence@freepress.com. Staff writer Naomi R. Patton contributed to this report.


Stories differ in fatal police shooting of Detroiter

Police say man pulled out gun, but son says he didn't own one

George Hunter
The Detroit News

DETROIT -- Tommy Staples Jr. was walking through an alley after visiting a friend this month when he crossed paths with undercover police officers, who shot Staples several times, killing him.

That much is stipulated by police and residents of the northwest Detroit neighborhood where Staples lived. But from there, the stories differ.

Police claim Staples pulled a gun on the officers. Others claim he didn't own a firearm.

A candlelight vigil was held Tuesday night to honor Staples and to protest the shooting.

Witnesses say Staples, 54, was struck by an unmarked car about 10:30 p.m. as he cut through the alley near Puritan and Tuller.

Detroit Police spokesman Chief James Tate told The Detroit News shortly after the incident Staples pulled a gun on the officers.

According to Tate, officers saw Staples lingering in the alley and approached him to investigate. Staples put his hand under his shirt, pulled out a handgun and pointed it at the officers.

Staples' son, Brian, said his father was "a peaceful man. He didn't even own a gun."

Brian Staples, 25, said he was home with his mother when he heard several gunshots. A friend called to tell them a man had been shot in the alley near their home.

"We jumped up and ran to the alley," Brian Staples said. "We saw a bunch of cops there, and we asked what happened. At first they told us it was an 18-year-old man. Then I saw an older man in the fetal position underneath the car. He had on black and white Adidas (tennis shoes) -- the kind my father owned."

Staples said he told an officer, "You're lying; that's my father."

The officers involved have been placed on administrative leave, pending the outcome of the investigation.

1 comment:

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