DPD officer cleared in accident that killed 18-year-old on bike
DETROIT (WJBK) - Dashcam video recorded the fateful moments before a Detroit police officer struck and killed 18-year-old Tonieo Spann.
The officer had his lights and siren on as he sped along the Davison Service Drive to a scene to assist Highland Park police. Spann was riding his bike home from work last December when the officer hit him.
The family has consulted with a lawyer and is considering taking legal action against the city, even though the officer in question has been cleared of any wrongdoing. Detroit police are calling it a tragic accident and say the dashcam video they released makes that clear. The family however, disagrees.
Fredonya Gates says her son Tonieo was her rock.
"I just wish he was still here with me," she says. "When I needed something done he was there; he was there."
The 18-year-old had just graduated from Detroit Pershing High School and was a month away from starting basic training with the Marine Corps.
"He wanted to fight for his country for real and he just wanted to make a better community for everybody and get his family out of Detroit," says his sister Rockelle Sterling.
DPD released dashcam video but cut out the moment the officer struck Spann. His family sees that as a cause for concern.
"I believe that the light changed, but they kept going and they hurried up and turned it off or something," his mother says. "Or they are not showing everything."
But police say they cut the video for decency's sake and the officer - who is said to have had a green light - did not see Spann until it was too late. The teen, who wore a reflective vest, came from behind a wall on Oakland as he crossed the Davison Freeway service drive.
Detroit police says the officer had no time to stop or avoid the collision. Spann may not have heard the siren. The Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, which cleared the officer of any wrongdoing in late February, says the young man was wearing headphones during the accident.
Even so, his family and pastor wonder if the accident could've been avoided either by the officer slowing down at two stop signs or when approaching the traffic light.
But police have the right and perhaps the obligation not to when responding to a call.
"Now we're not saying DPD murdered him and killed him; we know it was an accident," says Pastor Maurice "Mo" Hardwick. "But we want closure of what happened. Right or wrong on either side, and there should be condolences met and have these things settled in a very timely, respectable manner."