18-year-old killed by retired cop with history of brutality during alleged robbery
By Diane Bukowski
May 11, 2012
DETROIT — Questions surround the death of 18-year-old Ian May on March 23. He was shot in the back of the head by security guard and retired cop Lamar Nowell Sr., while running from the scene of an “inside job” robbery at a Dollar General store on East Lafayette near downtown Detroit.
The questions involve not only May’s case, but the mindset of young people in Detroit today, deprived in many cases of homes, schools, libraries, recreation centers, jobs and guidance in a devastated city they did not create or ask to be born into.
They also involve the mindset of adults like U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, who characterized Detroit’s primary problem as “youth violence” during the NAACP Freedom Fund Dinner May 6, and George Zimmerman, who patrolled his Sanford, Florida neighborhood to keep Black youth like Trayvon Martin out, eventually brutally murdering the 17-year-old.
IAN MAY, 18
“Despite the picture the newspapers painted, Ian was straight up the most adorable, lovable, funniest, happy big kid that I know,” a friend of May’s mother Lidjinet Graves told mourners at his funeral March 30. It was overflowing with May’s family and friends, including dozens of youths wearing T-shirts with his photo.
A uniformed honor guard from a private security agency May had worked for flanked his coffin.
“We knew him as Big Ian [pronounced “een”],” a relative said. “He was an awesome young man who left a tremendous impact on the lives of many young people and adults as well. He made life seem so easy and free. What will I do without your jokes, Ian?”
May graduated from Detroit public and private schools with his high school diploma, and from the Job Corps, according to his obituary.
He also worked a summer job at the Detroit Department of Human Services, now in the process of being shut down by Mayor Dave Bing and Michigan Governor Rick Snyder.
VIDEOTAPE SHOWED SHOOTING
His grandfather Jerome Brown told VOD at the funeral that a store videotape police showed to May’s mother affirms that Ian was shot in the back, then fell on his face. Family members saw the gunshot wound in the back of his head at the funeral home, he said. Initial daily media reports claimed Nowell shot Ian in the face as Ian confronted him with a gun.
“It was wrongfully reported,” Brown said. “He didn’t point at gun or shoot at anyone, he ran away. We just want to make sure that videotape doesn’t disappear. How can it be right to shoot a kid like that who was running away?”
VOD requested a copy of the autopsy report from the Wayne County Medical Examiner, but was informed weeks later that it was still not complete.
During the preliminary exam of Dollar General store cashier Andrea Liles, fired worker Jazmine Marshall, and Lile’s child’s father Ovid Jones May 1, the store’s young manager testified that he and Liles were on duty at the time of the robbery.
He said two men approached Liles and demanded money. The manager testified that he opened the cash register with his keys to give them the money. He did not say how they got into the store, which had not opened yet.
“The taller man had the gun to Andrea’s side and told her, ‘come on baby, let’s empty all these cash registers,’” the manager said. He did not describe or identify either man, other than to say one was taller and one was shorter. He testified that he himself opened the registers with his keys. As he was about to let the men out, he said, the security guard opened the door.
“He said, ‘freeze,’ the manager testified. “Lamar said he was a retired police officer, and they took off running.”
No forensic testimony about the gun allegedly involved was introduced at the preliminary exam.
Graves said the prosecutor assigned to the case told her the guard had a right to shoot Ian because he was a “fleeing felon,” and that the guard “presumed” he was armed whether or not he saw a weapon. Graves said she believes the guard saw no gun.
SHOOT FIRST, ASK QUESTIONS LATER
In other words, shoot first and ask questions later. It appeared from the manager’s testimony that there was very little time for the guard to determine exactly what had just happened.
Maria Miller, communications representative for Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy, told VOD, “The investigation of the fatal shooting of Ian May was submitted to our office by the Detroit Police Department and the evidence was reviewed. It was determined that the shooter would not be charged because his actions were legally justified under the facts and evidence in the case.”
Police investigator Alvin Williams, the prosecution’s chief witness, read statements he took in his own writing from the defendants. They wove a confusing story involving two different alleged plots by the defendants to set up the robbery, with several backing out and trying to get others to take their place. One account implicated the manager himself.
May’s mother told VOD her son received a call at 4 a.m. that morning from a friend. He was sleeping after an evening of work. She said her affable son was sometimes gullible.
“He would tell me, ‘Mom they’re my friends,’ and I would tell him, ‘Everybody is not your friend, Ian,” Graves said.
LAMAR NOWELL, SR.
According to court records, Lamar Nowell, Sr., now 62, of Southfield, was already retired from the Detroit Police Department when he was convicted of felony “aggravated stalking” in 1994, for incidents involving his ex-wife, also a retired officer. On appeal, his conviction was converted to misdemeanor stalking.
Several Detroiters sued him for brutality during his tenure in the 1980’s, winning undisclosed settlements.
Michael Seals, a Kettering High School graduate and Detroit Memorial Hospital custodian, said Nowell smashed him in the face with his fist, knocking out of three front teeth and injuring his face. He said he had been visiting his mother next door to a gas station when police carried out a drug raid on the station. They forced him inside when he went out to inquire what was going on, says the suit.
Charges against Seals for interfering with a police officer were later dismissed.
“I WANT YOU, BITCH!”
Helen and Herman Collins sued Nowell in 1987. The lawsuit says Ms. Childs went outside after officers had stopped her son and two friends in front of her home on Wisconsin, and that she yelled to her son to stop resisting.
As she was going back to her house, says the suit, Nowell “grabbed her by the hair, pulling her to the ground, yelling ‘I want you bitch.” It says Nowell and the other cops beat her on the face and body, causing a concussion, multiple injuries to her spine, sprains of both hands and a shoulder, and “multiple contusions over her entire upper extremities.”
Charges against her for interfering with the officers were dismissed after Nowell failed to show up for the hearing.
In an earlier case, in 1980, Ellen and Odell Collins sued Nowell and four other officers for breaking down the door of their home and holding them at gunpoint, before discovering they were at the wrong address.
Nowell’s “Linked-in” page, with his photo, says he is currently a “Loss Prevention consultant, Licensed Private Investigator, owner of a Private Security Guard agency, Concert, dance Promoter/ Instructor and D.J.”
There is no record on the state website of a “Professional Investigator “ license for Nowell (the state term for a PI), or of a license as a security guard agency owner, required under Michigan Public Act 330 of 1968. That act says part of its purpose is “to protect the general public against unauthorized, unlicensed and unethical operations by individuals engaged in private security activity.”
It is unknown whether Nowell has a concealed weapons permit or simply carries a gun as a “retired police officer,” which would be illegal.
Nowell’s page says he is also CEO of Courtesy Process Service, LLC, and of Dance N Harmony, and that he owns Englewood Maintenance Company. The first company is registered with the state, the other two are not.
Nowell can now add to his resume that he is the killer of 18-year-old Ian May.
Note: VOD did not contact Nowell for comments, having earlier been threatened with criminal charges by the prosecutor’s office for contacting witnesses in ongoing cases.
Pumped up by people like Attorney General Holder, Detroit police chief Ralph Godbee, and the Detroit 300, many will say that Ian May “got what he deserved.” There are more and more reports of youths dying during home break-ins and other alleged robberies in recent months.
Detroit, already the poorest city in the country, is now under “state occupation” as Rev. Charles E. Williams II says in the article below. The passage of the Public Act 4 consent agreement by the City Council provides for the virtual dismantling of most city services, meaning conditions for youth in Detroit will worsen drastically in months to come.
Michigan paralegal Edward Sanders researched Michigan’s “Self-Defense Act,” Public Act 313, which took effect in 2006. It has been compared to the Florida law Zimmerman is using to justify his killing of Trayvon Martin.
The law transformed earlier precedent under People v. Riddle, a 2002 Michigan Supreme Court case, said Sanders.
“Generally, a person acting in self-defense [had] a duty to retreat from the attack if he or she can do so safely, but retreat is never required in the person’s own home, nor is retreat required in the case of a sudden and fierce violent attack or if the person reasonably believes the attacker is about to use a deadly weapon,” Sanders wrote.
MICHIGAN’S “SELF-DEFENSE ACT”
The Michigan Self –Defense Act, however, passed after a campaign by gun rights activists, eliminated the duty to retreat in additional circumstances.
“It specifies that a person could use deadly force against another individual, without a duty to retreat, if he or she were not engaged in the commission of a crime and honestly and reasonably believed that force was necessary to prevent imminent death, bodily harm, or sexual assault,” said Sanders.
The law expanded where a person can use deadly force, from inside their home to garages, barns and yards, among other provisions. However, said Sanders, the Self-Defense Act preserved the common law duty to retreat in other circumstances.
According to a 2006 Detroit Free Press article, former Governor Jennifer Granholm signed the law, but forced changes including protecting victims of domestic assault and allowing prosecutors to investigate such shootings.
Even Ottawa County Prosecutor Ron Frantz, then president of the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Association of Michigan, told the Free Press, “We don’t want murderers falsely using self-defense claims without being subject to the scrutiny of prosecutors and juries.”
TIGH CROFF CASE
In reality, this rarely happens. Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy did bring second-degree murder charges against Tigh Croff, a 31-year-old security guard who caught two men outside his home when he returned from work, after two break-ins had occurred the previous week, in Nov. 2009.
He chased Herbert Silas, a 53-year-old unarmed homeless grandfather of 13, down the street for several blocks, then shot him to death.
“I told him he was going to die, and I shot him,” Croff told police. “I ain’t no angel, but I ain’t done nothing stupid.”
Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Michael Hathaway reduced the charges to voluntary manslaughter over the prosecutor’s objections, and later refused to recuse himself from the case. In off the record comments, Hathaway had expressed sympathy for Croff, saying he himself would not hesitate to shoot in similar circumstances.
After a hung jury in the first trial, a second jury convicted Croff of manslaughter and a firearms charge. Hathaway sentenced Croff to three years’ probation for the manslaughter charge, although he faced up to 17 years in prison. Hathaway had to sentence him to a mandatory two years in prison on a gun charge.
Croff is currently incarcerated at the Parnell Correctional Facility.
Detroiters need to examine their consciences regarding whether taking private property, particularly that belonging to predatory local store owners who pay low wages, is worth the life of youths like Ian May.
In August, 2011, another “retired Detroit police officer” shot 16-year-old Robert Coffee eight times. A gunshot wound in the back, which penetrated his lungs and heart, was likely the fatal wound. Coffee had allegedly robbed a McDonald’s at W. McNichols and Livernois. According to news reports, the “retired cop” regularly frequented to store to use its Internet.
Earlier, another “retired cop” shot a Grosse Pointe South High star football player, who lived in Detroit, to death on W. Seven Mile near the Lodge Freeway, claiming he had attempted to rob him.
VOD went to the scene of the McDonald’s incident the following day and saw that the front windows and door of the store were boarded up after being blasted out by the retired cop during Coffee’s attempt to escape. No eyewitnesses were present, but one youth told VOD, “It’s too bad that it takes a white person to ask questions about what happens to kids like us.”
In arguing against juvenile life without parole sentences, prisoner advocates have cited extensive medical evidence showing that full brain development including impulse control does not happen until around the age of 25. They argue that the evidence shows that youth are not as culpable as adults for what they do. The U.S. is now the only country in the world that sentences youth to death in prison. The same argument should apply to execution in the streets.
Two weeks after May died, several youths robbed another Dollar General store, but none were killed. Since then, two youths have been shot to death during home break-ins, during which one homeowner also shot his own wife, non-fatally.
Whatever happened to “STOP OR I’LL SHOOT?” Black youths like Trayvon Martin, Ian May, and Robert Coffee are considered expendable by many in this country, “collateral damage” in the “war against crime.”
WHERE IS THE WAR AGAINST THE CRIMINAL BANKS, CORPORATIONS, AND POLITICIANS WHO HAVE DESTROYED CITIES LIKE DETROIT AND CONTINUE TO WREAK HAVOC ACROSS THE WORLD, A WORLD THESE YOUNG PEOPLE DID NOT MAKE?