Aiyana Mo'Nay Stanley-Jones (July 20, 2002 – May 16, 2010), was a seven-year-old African-American girl from the Detroit's East Side who was shot and killed during a raid conducted by the Detroit Police Department's Special Response Team on May 16, 2010. Her death drew national media attention and led U.S. Representative John Conyers to ask U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for a federal investigation into the incident.
Officer Joseph Weekley was charged in connection with Jones' death. In October 2011, Weekley was charged with involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment with a gun. Weekley's first trial ended in a mistrial in June 2013. Weekley's retrial began in September 2014. On October 3, the judge dismissed the involuntary manslaughter charge against Weekley, leaving him on trial for only one charge: recklessly discharging a firearm. On October 10, the second trial ended in another mistrial. On January 28, 2015, a prosecutor cleared Weekley of the last remaining charge against him, ensuring there would not be a third trial.
On May 14, 2010, Southeastern High School senior Je'Rean Blake was shot and killed near the intersection of Mack and Beniteau on Detroit's east side. By the end of the following day, police had identified Chauncey Owens as a suspect in the shooting and obtained a warrant to search 4054 Lillibridge St, where he was believed to be hiding. They subsequently raided the wrong house.
According to press reports, police were on the scene by 12:40 a.m. on Sunday, May 16, 2010. In an attempt to distract the occupants, police fired a flash grenade through the front window. Officer Joseph Weekley claimed that the flash grenade subsequently blinded his view of the person on the couch in the living room.
Police officers, bystanders, and residents of the home disagreed about the events that followed. According to reports, seconds after entering the house, Officer Joseph Weekley fired the fatal shot. He pushed his way inside, protected by a ballistic shield. Weekley claimed Aiyana Jones' paternal grandmother Mertilla Jones attempted to slap his MP 5 submachine gun, causing it to fire. The bullet struck Aiyana killing the young girl. Weekley stated, "A woman inside grabbed my gun. It fired. The bullet hit a child."
Mertilla Jones was held overnight and released. She said she reached for her granddaughter when the grenade came through the window, not for the officer's gun, because the flash grenade had set the child on fire. She said she made no contact with them. Geoffrey Fieger, the family's lawyer, said the police fired the shot that struck Aiyana from outside the home, possibly through the open front door.
After the shot was fired, Weekley reported to his sergeant that a woman inside had grabbed for his gun. Police arrested Mertilla Jones, administered tests for drugs and gunpowder, and released her Sunday morning. Mertilla said that she reached for Aiyana but had no contact with officers. At Weekley's retrial in 2014, it was disclosed that Mertilla's fingerprints were not found on Weekley's gun.
The police officer responsible for the shooting, Joseph "Brain" Weekley, is a member of Detroit's SWAT team and was a frequent subject on A&E, whose film crews were also filming the investigation for the documentary TV series The First 48.
Chauncey Owens, who was the boyfriend of Aiyana's aunt, was found in the upper floor of the duplex and surrendered without incident.
After a one-year internal and federal investigation, on October 4, 2011, a grand jury indicted Officer Joseph Weekley on involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment with a gun. He admitted in his first trial that, "It's my gun that shot and killed a 7-year-old girl." His trial was scheduled for October and finally took place in June 2013 but resulted in a deadlocked jury. A fresh trial was scheduled for December 2013, but actually began in September 2014.
Allison Howard, a videographer and photographer with A&E who was also present at the raid, was indicted on obstruction of justice and perjury for allegedly "copying, showing or giving video footage that she shot of the raid to third parties". Federal prosecutors say that Howard had provided false testimony to investigators about the shooting and that Weekley's action were reckless and she had lied to the police in an effort to blame Jones' family for her death. In June 2013, Howard pleaded "no contest" to an obstruction of justice charge, and the perjury charge against her was dismissed. She was sentenced to two years of probation in July 2013 and was fined $2,000.
Weekley's first trial ended in a mistrial in June 2013. Wayne County Circuit Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway presided over the case. Aiyana's case would be the longest presiding case that Hathaway had in more than 20 years of being on the bench.
Weekley's retrial started in September 2014. He was charged with involuntary manslaughter and "negligent firing of a weapon causing death".
On the second day of trial, September 24, LaKrystal Sanders, who lived on the upper floor of the house where Aiyana was killed, testified. LaKrystal Sanders was Aiyana's paternal aunt, the girlfriend of Chauncey Owens and the daughter of Mertilla Jones. While LaKrystal Sanders was on the stand, Judge Cynthia Hathaway told her that she (LaKrystal Sanders) was being "disrespectful." Aiyana's mother Dominika Stanley and paternal grandmother Mertilla Jones testified and both had "emotional outbursts." After the grandmother's outburst, the judge ordered the jury out of the room and the grandmother was escorted from the court room screaming. Because of Mertilla Jones's outburst, the judge stopped the trial until September 29.
On September 29, Weekley's lawyer asked the judge for a mistrial, citing Mertilla Jones's conduct on the stand the week before. The judge denied the motion for mistrial, saying she believed the jury could still be "impartial." However, the judge also said if Mertilla Jones and the other relatives continued to have outbursts on the stand, then she would declare a mistrial.
On October 3, the judge dismissed the involuntary manslaughter charge against Weekley. On October 10, the judge declared a mistrial due to jury deadlock. On January 28, 2015, county prosecutor Kym Worthy dismissed the last remaining charge against Weekley, the misdemeanor of careless discharge of a firearm causing death. Weekley will not go to a third trial.
The jury claimed that race did not affect the decision of their verdict. The jury stall resulted in seven voting "not guilty" and five voting "guilty".
Aiyana Jones' funeral was held in the Second Ebenezer Church on May 22, 2010 in Detroit. Al Sharpton gave the eulogy. Charles Jones, the father of Aiyana Jones, wore a black suit with a pink tie and pink handkerchief in remembrance of his daughter. It was her favorite color. Dominika Stanley, the mother of Aiyana Jones, unable to bear the reality of her daughter being gone at the beginning of the funeral service, later sat by Aiyana's casket feeling a sense of comfort being in her presence. The casket was white and was afterwards driven to the grave by horse-drawn carriage. She was buried on the grounds.
A civil rights lawsuit questions Weekly's account of the incident, claiming the grenade had gone through the window and struck Aiyana. The lawsuit asserts that police were outside of the home where they "blindly fired random shots," and, in result, one of the bullets fatally struck the 7-year-old child in the neck. The lawsuit charges Rowe and Weekly for the unlawful use of excessive force. Furthermore, the police department and unnamed supervisors of the Special Response Team in the city of Detroit are being sued for violating the civil rights of Aiyana Jones through their training and policy procedure. The family is seeking $7.5 million in damages and a jury trial conceded by the court filing. Two days after Aiyana's death, on May 18, 2010, attorney Geoffrey Fieger filed lawsuits on behalf of Aiyana's family against A&E and the police.
Fieger video claim
Fieger claims that footage from an undisclosed source shows that the lethal bullet came from outside the home, rather than inside, as police said. A spokesman for city police demanded that Fieger share the tape's contents with Michigan State Police investigators. Fieger responded by saying he does not have the supposed video, which he claims was made by the A&E reality show The First 48. Michigan State Police Detective Tawana Powell testified during the 2014 trial that the investigation discovered that the video Fieger was talking about did not exist.
John Weekley Follow-Up
On April 2, 2015, nearly 5 years following the accidental shooting of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, Weekley has been reestablished to active duty as a Detroit police officer. The department decided to withdraw the police officer from active duty shortly after the incident that took place on May 16, 2010. Weekley was transferred from Special Response Team to the Criminal Investigations Bureau. Police Chief James Craig states, "He'll be in a limited duty capacity. He won't be in the field."
In September 2013, J. Cole published a music video to his song known as "Crooked Smile" featuring TLC on YouTube, and he dedicated the video to Aiyana Stanley-Jones.
In May 2016, BlackMattersUS held a rally in memory of Jones. Families of people killed by police officers and activists gathered at the feet of the Spirit of Detroit statue in front of the Coleman A. Young Municipal building in Detroit. On July 20, 2016 Detroit police arrested six unknown individuals for chaining themselves to a precinct of the Detroit Police Department. The rally was in honor of Aiyana Jones. The Detroit chapter of the Black Youth Project 100 (BYP 100) and the Black Lives Matter Detroit organized the rally on what would have been Aiyana's 14th birthday. The protestors pleaded for the termination of Weekly as he had recently been selected to co-chair the Detroit Police Department's Committee on Race and Equality. Mertilla Jones, grandmother of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, said, "Accountability needs to be expected from cases like this, because cops can't keep killing people and getting away with it."