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Stephon Johnson Special to the NNPA from the Amsterdam News
Published: 29 May 2010


 Aiyana Jones

DETROIT (NNPA) - It was a somber affair at the Second Ebenezer Baptist Church in Detroit May 15. Family, friends and others came to pay their respects to the family of Aiyanna Jones, who died at the hands of the Detroit Police Department.
The Rev. Al Sharpton flew out to Detroit to deliver the eulogy for Jones, but Sharpton did not direct his attention to local Detroit authorities. He pointed the finger at the community and spoke about self-examination.
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"When it gets rougher, you get tougher," declared Sharpton at Jones' service. "When it gets dark, you strike the match and make it light. Don't give up and don't turn on each other. We've got to go and deal with the violence in our community as we hold the violence accountable for others. Why am I directing that to us? Because we need to deal with ourselves."
He continued: "I can come here and curse out the mayor. I can come here and tell off the police chief. I can get in an argument with the attorney general. But I'd rather tell you to start looking at the man in the mirror. Because all of us have done something that contributed to this."
Rev. Edgar L. Van Jr., pastor of the Second Ebenezer Baptist Church, made things plain and simple for those in attendance: Turn yourself over the God if you want to feel joy.
"I know somebody who knows how to fix the hemorrhaging and the pathology of our community," said Van Jr. "There is somebody who knows how to wipe the tears from your eyes."
Rev. Horace Sheffield III, chief executive officer of the Detroit Association of Black Organizations, made things simpler. "We've got to stop killing each other. We've got to love one another," he said.
Amid all of the sadness and pain lies an investigation into possible police brutality. Last week, the AmNews reported that the Detroit Police Department continued to stick to the story of a police officer's struggle with Jones' grandmother, Mertilla, resulting in the gun going off and striking Jones. Geoffrey Fieger, attorney for Jones' family, said that there's video from the camera crew of A&E's reality show "The First 48," which documents police departments on the trail of homicide suspects, that proves that the gun, along with the incendiary device, were fired outside of the house.
The name of the officer in question was revealed at the end of last week. And he's had a small history of controversy.
According to multiple reports, later confirmed by the police department, last summer, Officer Joseph Weekley shot a barricaded suspect, but Assistant Police Chief Ralph Godbee said Weekley's actions were appropriate. In 2009, Weekley was named in a federal lawsuit with other police officers over a raid on the city's North Side. In the melee, an officer pointed guns at three children and shot two dogs.
Detroit's mayor, Dave Bing, appeared to be reaching for straws when he pointed towards "culture" and not the police as the reason for Jones' death. "It's a behavior problem," he said. "It's a cultural problem. When people don't have jobs, they get frustrated and angry, and people are making very bad decisions."
Bing instituted a ban on reality television cameras in the city of Detroit in the wake of Jones' death, but Bing understands that this action isn't enough. With Memorial Day approaching, Bing is on the lookout for trouble this upcoming summer.
"It's going to be challenging," he said. "We need all the help we can get."
New York City might need all the help they can get, as well. Over the past weekend, three people were killed in separate shootings in Queens and in the Bronx. At 2:15 a.m. May 16, during a reunion of a junior high school class from I.S. 231 in Springfield Gardens, several party crashers opened fire and killed Dane Freeman of Cambria Heights, Queens. Five other people were wounded.
Many of the uninvited guests learned of the event through Facebook and Twitter.
Less than 60 minutes after the Queens shooting, two 19-year-old males were shot near East Burnside and Walton avenues in the Morris Heights section of the Bronx. Irving Cruz, a Harlem resident, was pronounced dead at the scene and Bronx native Raffy Taveras died later at Lebanon Hospital Center.
In an op-ed sent exclusively to the AmNews, Sharpton once again directed his attention to the community and not the authorities. He also made a few comparisons to the New York shootings and another, less-publicized Detroit tragedy.
"Just a few days before Aiyanna's horrific death, a 69-year-old Detroit grandmother was shot and killed by a stray bullet as she was cooking dinner in her home," said Sharpton. "Just during this weekend alone, who knows how many countless other young souls we lost all across the country? We must act now," stated Sharpton.
There's an online petition urging A&E to release the camera crew's video of the Jones tragedy. The petition, titled "Release the Aiyanna Jones Video," hopes to get at least 1 million online signatures. There's also a Wikipedia page for Aiyana Jones. People are encouraged to update the page with facts about the investigation.

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