hakim littleton
A crowd swelled along the line of police tape on Friday afternoon as rain fell near where a man was fatally shot by Detroit police.

"Say his name," the crowd yelled, before responding to their own demand: "Hakim Littleton."


Comment: "His name is Robert Paulson"? Reality is stranger than fiction.


Police Chief James Craig had already come to the scene to give the police account of what happened. He said the now-slain man had tried to shoot at officers about 12:30 p.m. near San Juan Drive and W. McNichols Road in the Bagley neighborhood of Detroit. Police returned the gunfire, fatally striking 20-year-old Littleton.

In the hours that followed, loved ones and protesters discounted Craig's statements. They began counting Littleton among the Black people disproportionately killed by police in the U.S., the names they've been chanting for over a month amid protests following the death of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis.

In Detroit on Friday, police in riot gear and protesters clashed, police arrested several organizers, and the remaining protesters marched.

With the crowd still on the move about 7:30 p.m., Craig held a news conference at Detroit Public Safety Headquarters downtown and played police footage of the shooting.

A still frame from an officer's body-worn camera appears to show Littleton with his armed raised and a blast of smoke — gunfire — aimed right at an officer's head.

But the evidence didn't keep a crowd from returning to the scene on Saturday evening, calling for more information on the officers involved and speaking out against police actions amid the clash with protesters.


Comment: Evidence doesn't matter, apparently. The truth doesn't matter.


Eight people were arrested and, based on inquiries from the Detroit Free Press, police have launched two investigations into protester-police interaction Friday.

The investigation into the shooting is still underway.

Gathering on Saturday again at the intersection between homes, a corner liquor store and a boarded-up storefront, protesters took the credit for the release of the video and demanded the records on the police involved in the shooting.

"We're making history," leader Tristan Taylor said as they marched.

The Fourth of July

The sequence of events that led to the death of Littleton began around the Fourth of July — more specifically in the early morning hours of July 5, Craig told reporters on Friday while at the scene.

Eight people were shot in the area of San Juan and McNichols after a fight during a large block party, he said. Three people died.

Members of the Detroit Police Department's 12th Precinct and a gang intelligence unit were out conducting surveillance on Friday, Craig said.

Police had information the July 5 shooting involved a local gang and, while out, police sought to arrest a man with suspected gang ties on a warrant for drug distribution, Craig said.

The video


Police released, at the evening news conference, three videos of the shooting, one an apparent duplicate in slow motion.

It was dashboard camera and body camera footage, and it showed a quick succession of events including eight shots being fired in about 5 seconds, Craig said.

Dashboard camera footage shows police converging quickly, with an officer starting to take a man in a white T-shirt into custody. He was the target and he was cooperating, Craig said.

As other officers approach, Littleton, in an orange shirt, can be seen bending slightly to seemingly root through a pocket.

Craig said a witness relayed that Littleton said something to the effect of "you are not going to take my man."

Body camera footage audio shows an officer say, "F*** you reaching for, man?" as Littleton pulls something out of his pocket, something else falls out of it and he turns toward another officer.

The first blast can be heard as Littleton simultaneously raises an arm at the other officer.

A slowed-down version also shows a puff of smoke aimed directly at the officer's head.

The officer with the body camera running is clearly seen raising his gun, more shots sound and Littleton falls to the ground.

In the melee, Littleton appears to move on the ground and the officer with the camera appears to run behind a car out of the way.

Video included the sound of nine blasts, though it was not immediately clear whether the audio of a single shot was possibly distorted. Detroit Police Sgt. Nicole Kirkwood said Saturday night she would follow up on an inquiry into the number of blasts, noting the investigation was still underway.

Craig previously said the officers collectively fired four shots, though none were fired by the officer who was initially shot at and followed Littleton on foot.

Police found two shell casings where the suspect turned and fired twice, and two more where he fell, Craig said.

The officers are on administrative leave, per protocol, police have said.

Of the officer first shot at, Craig said it was a miracle he wasn't shot in the head.

"This officer was a hero. Despite being fired upon, he clearly wanted to stop the suspect even while putting himself in direct harm's way," he said.

The protests

Family and loved ones gathered at the police tape on Friday afternoon and were soon joined by organizers who have spent the last month marching against police brutality.

Loved ones on the scene cried and were incensed, with Asar Amen-Ra, who said he was Littleton's uncle, questioning police, calling for Craig to speak straight to those gathered and saying the time for peaceful protest was over.

He said his nephew was like many young men, working all the time and hanging out with his friends.

"We hear one thing from the police, and another thing from the community. The community told us that the police pulled up, told (him) to get on the ground. He put his hands up, and these mother f------ shot him in the back of the head," he said, adding his sister had been to the hospital and saw his nephew's body.


Comment: And the video clearly shows that this is a lie.


"He has got two shots in back of his head, plus other bullet wounds."

Details on the shooting were not immediately available from the Wayne County Medical Examiner's Office and Amen-Ra could not be reached Saturday, following the release of the police video.

Craig would later speak out against misinformation spread online amid the protests, such as claims more than a dozen shots were fired.

"It's always tragic when a police officer has to use force," Craig said. But, he stressed: "This knee-jerk reaction to not knowing facts is a problem. ... It's to incite others."

More than 100 protesters gathered at the scene, and yelled over the police tape at officers.

The tape fell more than once, and police in riot gear eventually showed up.

An ice cooler, traffic cones and concrete were thrown at officers as they pushed forward. Police said eight people were arrested, and organizers said those included Detroit Will Breathe's Taylor and Nakia-Renne Wallace.

Police fired tear gas. Protesters were seen with blood on them and one said she had the wind knocked out of her while protecting someone on the ground.

Two officers were injured, Kirkwood said.

The crowd then marched to the police department's 12th Precinct at Woodward Avenue and Seven Mile Road, and were met with a line of police officers in riot gear and flanked by armored vehicles.

Police eventually moved back to surround their building and no contact was made. The crowd then marched back to the site of the shooting, some watching the police video as it aired online.

Saturday

Protesters, civil rights leaders and police continued to analyze the events of Friday as the weekend continued.

Detroit Police launched an investigation Saturday night after the Free Press presented photos taken at the scene showing an officer with an arm around Wallace's neck and another showing an officer's knee near or on a protester.
Nakia Wallace
© Adam J. Dewey
Detroit Will Breathe organizer Nakia Wallace is taken down and arrested by Detroit Police Department officers during a protest on West McNichols Road at San Juan Drive in Detroit on July 10, 2020. An officer appears to have their arm wrapped around her neck during the arrest. Wallace was released from jail the next morning.
Neck restraints are prohibited except where deadly force is authorized, Kirkwood said in a statement.

"In regards to the two pictures that you have presented, we don't have enough information to conclude that a violation has occurred," she said. "... Under the direction of Chief James Craig, he has launched an internal investigation to determine whether our officers' actions are in compliance with the Department's Use of Force Policy."

Wendell Anthony, president of the Detroit NAACP branch, had issued a statement the night before, calling Littleton's death "heartbreaking."

He urged the community and law enforcement to find common ground. He said the case highlights the value of bodycams and dashcams in assessing police incidents and helping "dispel and explain situations that could possibly lead to deep division and even conflict."

"This is a very challenging time in the history of police and community relations throughout our nation," Anthony said. "It must be noted that even in this situation, what could have been an overreaction was toned down and peacefully concluded on both the part of the police and the community protesting what some thought was an injustice. This situation could have gotten well out of hand. A disaster was avoided."

Taylor, addressing then marching with about 100 people Saturday, lambasted police for their interactions with protesters.

He also said the officers' records needed to be released, as Littleton's were.

Craig and court records show the slain man was on probation stemming from a 2017 unarmed robbery and felony firearm conviction. Court records show he was initially charged with armed robbery, but pleaded guilty to a lesser charge that got him three years probation. Craig also said he was believed to have gang ties.

He was scheduled to be released from probation in 2021.

But no details on the officers are out there, Taylor said. He said they are given the benefit of the doubt where Black and brown people aren't.

"All too often we find ourselves having to justify the existence of Black and brown bodies in ways white people and police officers never dream of," Taylor told the crowd.