DETROIT (FOX 2) - The Wayne County Prosecutor has rejected a warrant requesting the arrest of a Detroit gas station clerk for shooting and killing a suspected thief earlier this week and, in the process, issued a blistering critique of the investigation.
Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said it's sending the case of a fatal shooting at a Detroit gas station back to the Detroit Police Department because there are "several items" that needed to be completed.
The deadly shooting happened just after 10:30 p.m. Monday in the 10000 block of Gratiot Avenue at a Mini Mart. On Wednesday, the prosecutor's office said it received a warrant request for the store clerk's arrest but it rejected that request on Thursday.
In the rejection, the prosecutor said there were several items that were missing from the report:
- There are only a few police reports although other officers can be seen on body-worn camera video. The police reports are needed for all uniformed officers and a plainclothes officer who responded to the crime scene
- A police report from the officer who retrieved the video from the store
- The Medical Examiner’s report
- The Evidence Technician’s report, photographs and sketch of the scene
- EMS Run Sheet
- Video and Phone – Specific work is needed in this case
- Numerous instances of basic investigative work must be completed
- Required reports related to the suspect and the victim
- Reports related to the firearm in the case that were not submitted
- Witness List and Discovery for Defense
The prosecutor returned the request to Detroit Police for further investigation and said this is the third request this week for a homicide warrant that were "missing basic reports" that are required for review.
According to the prosecutor, these items included: a suspect’s statement, video statements of witnesses, crime scene photos, body-worn camera video, an evidence technician’s report and sketch of a crime scene, tape of a 911 call, video surveillance footage, a facial recognition report, firearm reports, photos shown to a suspect, photo lineup documentation, and search warrants.
The suspect in the Mini Mart shooting has been released while police work to complete the warrant to the prosecutor's requests.
“Unfortunately, this is not the first time this has happened or even the 20th, but it seems to be occurring with much more frequency lately. Just yesterday, we had two other homicide cases that had to be returned to DPD because they were missing so many basic reports and evidence that it completely prevented us from going forward. This is very disturbing," said Prosecutor Worthy.
The gas station was shut down for operating without a license and activists are now questioning if the victim, Joshua Lewis, will get justice. Sources tell FOX 2 the suspect is a flight risk.
Detroit police say the clerk shot Lewis with a rifle for allegedly stealing from a coin machine. The clerk is said to have been behind the counter and fired through the protective glass that separates employees from customers.
"If that killer is released, I'm going to interpret it as a young Black man, as a Black man, and many others are going to interpret it as this is a call to deputize non-Black men to kill Black men," said activist Negus Vu, The People's Action.
Retired Detroit Police Assistant Chief Steve Dolunt told FOX 2 that the system moves slow, at times.
"The justice system, the judicial system works slow. and sometimes you can't get everything within 48 hours," said Dolunt. "And I don't know if this individual has any misdemeanor warrants you can hold him on. But let's face it, if you're thinking about charging me with murder, I'm 'getting out of Dodge.'"
Dolunt, who spent more than 30 years with the Detroit Police Department, said he believes there's enough evidence for probable cause and that they have a gun, a victim, a suspect, and they have intent.
"Is everything perfect? No. Do cops make mistakes? Prosecutors? Yes. Looks like killed a guy in cold blood and walked away? No, we shouldn't allow that," Dolunt said.
The shooting sparked outrage and reopened a deep wound for many Detroiters. There have been several instances where gas station workers, many of whom are immigrants, have attacked or killed Black customers.
Community organizers and activists have lobbied to shut the gas station down and are expressing deep frustration with the prosecutor's office for returning that warrant to DPD.
"This is not the time, this is not the place and it damn sure is not the city that you want to let a non-Black man who killed another Black man in cold blood to be released 72 hours later," said Negas Vu. "If you do that, it is completely irresponsible and be prepared for the worst by reactions from the city."
Detroit Police Chief James Craig released a statement saying:
"I find it interesting that I did not get one call from the Prosecutor's office on any concerns relative to the investigative work of this case. My review and understanding based on what was clearly depicted in the video, is that there were no imminent threat of life to the suspect. He in fact, fired a single round through the safety glass barrier, striking the victim who was in the process of committing a property crime. The video supports this and the assigned prosecutor has seen the video and has also been in regular communication with the assigned detective. We recognize and appreciate that the prosecutor office is responsible for charging decision and if there are additional information that we have to provide, certainly we will do that. However, if Prosecutor Worthy knew about any concerns relative to this case or any other key cases she referenced, why didn't she contact me directly? She never reached out."