Detroit's surge in freeway violence, Detroit schools head back to classroom, venomous spiders in UofM library

Police were still assessing the damage from a Monday night freeway shooting when three people died when another driver in an SUV was wounded by gunfire from another vehicle Tuesday afternoon. 

The victim was last listed in temporary serious condition and the I-96 freeway was shut down for hours.

Police don't believe yesterday's shooting was connected to Monday's incident that also unfolded on I-96. But both scenes do play into the growing narrative of violence moving from city neighborhoods and businesses to Michigan freeways.

"A lot of it is spur-of-the-moment - failure of people to deescalate situations and taking it to a level where it doesn't need to go," said Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw. 

But these weren't the first two freeway shootings in Detroit this year. Tuesday's violence was the 8th recorded since the start of the year. And there were dozens of freeway shootings reported in 2020. 

What is going on? Detroit Police Chief James Craig has said homicides and attempted murders increased in Detroit last year as a result of the pandemic. But the violence is shifting to freeways because of success deterring crime elsewhere, Shaw said.

"We did hear there were some groups in the city that knew that the Green Light cameras were very successful and they were all over the city," he said. "They knew that they weren't on the freeways so they started taking a lot of their actions - is the best way to put it - onto the freeway because they knew they wouldn't be caught."

That's one theory. Shaw pointed out that three times as many illegal guns have been seized during traffic stops in Detroit. 

Monday night, gunfire being exchanged between two vehicles on the expressway near Shaefer resulted in the shooting deaths of a driver and passenger. The suspect shooter fled the scene before being struck and killed by an off-duty police officer. 

Around Tuesday afternoon on a ramp connecting I-96 and M-39, a 28-year-old was injured after getting shot and crashing into the wall of the freeway. At least five shots were fired from dark sedan. Police believe a passenger in the victim's vehicle also fled after possibly getting injured. 

The violence has prompted the urging from Pastor Maurice Hardwick to keep the peace, referring to Detroit's freeways as "new shooting galleries." He'll be organizing a rally later this week.

Shaw and state police are deploying more troopers to patrol freeways and have also tapped into highway cameras with a partnership with MDOT

Two men charged with threatening Michigan public officials

A 62-year-old and a 42-year-old were both charged with three counts of malicious use of service provided by a telecommunications service provider after sending threatening remarks to two members of Congress and an elected judge.

Daniel Thompson and Clinton Stewart both made threatening remarks to elected officials over the results of the 2020 election. Thompson, who lives in Harrison, left voicemails and used vulgar and threatening language in calls to Sen. Debbie Stabenow's office and a staffer of Rep. Elissa Slotkin. 

Stewart, a resident of Georgia, is accused of leaving threatening messages for Cynthia Stephens, a Court of Claims judge who was the target of threatening messages. He claimed she was an 'activist judge' who was ruling unfairly in favor of then-presidential nominee Joe Biden

Both defendants have yet to be arraigned and no new court dates have been scheduled. 

Detroit schools transition back to in-person learning today

The Detroit Public Schools Community District is reopening its Learning Centers today as its first step transitioning back to in-person learning this school year.

The learning centers will be open to families who need classrooms in some capacity for children who require supervised in-person support. Students will also attend school daily, eat breakfast and lunch, and receive direct support from school personnel.

"Our survey data among families demonstrate a near doubling of the demand for in-person learning since the late fall to 40-50%," said Superintendent Dr. Nikolai Vitti. "We will always use data and science to protect our students and employees in this pandemic."

If Detroit's positive test rate remains below 5% for COVID-19, the district will likely open the rest of its classrooms by early-to-mid-March.

Gift of Life Michigan says improper testing led to organ recipient's death

Following the death of a woman who received a double lung transplant that was infected with the coronavirus at the University of Michigan hospital, a group that organizes organ donations is prioritizing better COVID-19 testing ahead of procedures.

"It is highly likely the virus was sort of lurking deeply into the respiratory system, not so much at that point in time in the upper respiratory track is everyone's best guess as to how it went undetected," said Bruce Nicely of the Gift of Life Michigan.

The donor had been given a nasal swab that came back negative. Three days later, the recipient began showing COVID-19 symptoms. It required a test of the fluid in her new lungs to identify the virus.

This is the only known case of this happening, Nicely said. There's been "thousands" of transplants since the pandemic. To ensure safety, the group has partnered with a lab that can safely obtain a sample from people's lungs for testing.

83% of Michigan school districts now offer in-class learning

More than 80% of Michigan school districts planned to offer some form of in-person instruction in February, which represented a more than 20 percentage-point increase over the previous month amid a decline in the coronavirus' spread.

Michigan State University's Education Policy Innovation Collaborative said it was the largest monthly increase since the start of the academic year. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has strongly encouraged schools to offer a face-to-face option by March 1.

Researchers released a report showing that 83% of traditional districts and charter schools planned to do so this month, with 65% offering a fully in-person option and 18% offering hybrid instruction. Just 15% of districts planned to be fully remote, down from 35% in January.

Districts' pandemic learning plans can be fluid and change after they are submitted each month to EPIC, the state Department of Education's strategic research partner.

- The Associated Press contributed to this report

Venomous spiders found in UofM library

Three Mediterranean recluse spiders were identified in the Shapiro Undergraduate Library at the University of Michigan's Ann Arbor campus earlier this year.

A spide expert from UofM Dearborn described the species as "one of those cosmopolitan species." It likes to hitchhike with people throughout the world - which is probably why it's been found in 22 different states.

But are they dangerous? "They don't have a huge amount of venom, but they have enough to start necrosis, which is the eating away of the flesh," said Prof. Anne Danielson-Francois.

After being closed Sunday and Monday, the library got a thorough cleaning. No injures have been reported as a result of the discovery.

What else we're watching

  1. Macomb County is launching a new vaccination site in Sterling Heights for residents over the age of 60. A press conference introducing the facility will be held at 10 a.m. today
  2. A Warren asbestos abatement company faces multiple felony charges after misrepresenting project costs for contracted work to the Detroit Land Bank Authority
  3. Tiger Woods is recovering after lengthy surgery attempted to repair several broken bones from his car crash Tuesday. The injuries are not life-threatening.
  4. A grandmother and father both died from COVID-19, leaving their daughter with the task of planning and paying for funeral arrangements. FOX 2 will have the story Wednesday night.
  5. Race data on COVID-19 vaccines finds that only 3.7% of all vaccinations have gone to Black residents. The information is incomplete however since almost half of all cases didn't have race data.

Live on FOX 2

Daily Forecast

It's going to be another day of 40-degree temperatures - mid-40s to be precise. Then a slight cooldown before temperatures climb back up. Expect all of that snow to be gone by week's end.

COVID-19’s impact on cancer care has been 'profound,' experts say, with many delaying routine screenings

Roughly a year into the COVID-19 pandemic, the crisis has affected nearly every facet of human life. More than 2 million people worldwide have died from the virus, including half a million Americans, and restrictions put in place to halt the virus’ spread has devastated economies.

Experts say the pandemic has also negatively impacted cancer care, with many still skipping preventative screenings over COVID fears. Some fear the delays in screenings and treatments could ultimately lead to a spike in cancer deaths in the future.

Earlier this month, the World Health Organization said COVID-19’s impact on cancer "has been stark," with a "profound" impact on diagnosis and treatment of cancers around the world.

Dr. André Ilbawi with the WHO’s Department of Noncommunicable Diseases said 50% of governments had cancer services "partially or completely disrupted because of the pandemic."

"Delays in diagnosis are common. Interruptions in therapy or abandonment have increased significantly," Ilbawi said, adding that this would likely have an impact on the total number of cancer deaths in coming years.