Do Detroiters want HER on 36th District Court bench?
By Diane Bukowski
Detroit – Ella Bully Cummings has been rather quiet about her run for 36th District Court Judge so far—no signs in the streets, no pep rallies—YET. The chief publicity she has received was a positive interview in The Michigan Citizen, at
But some believe she will launch a blitzkrieg campaign in the coming week, following a blizzard of media ads that have attacked incumbent 36TH District Court women judges for being “soft on crime.”
Ella Bully-Cummings was Detroit’s chief of police under Kwame Kilpatrick from 2003 through 2008, returning from retirement after a life-long career in the DPD. At the time, Bully-Cummings was hailed as one of only four female top cops in the U.S.
But during her tenure, at least 21 Detroiters died at the hands of Detroit police officers with her blessings, since she neither disciplined nor discharged the cops involved. Attorneys and families of the victims have claimed the deaths were in fact unjustified homicides.
Most of these deaths were reported by this author in the pages of The Michigan Citizen.
Cummings also condoned rapes by cops and false prosecutions, in addition to failing to protect Detroiters from death at the hands of state troopers and other law enforcement agents.
The killing of Tommie Staples, Jr. in June, 2008 by officers Steven Kopp and Barron Townsend is a prime example of events that took place under Bully-Cummings’ watch.
Staples’ family won a $2.5 million settlement from the city July 27, indicating even the city believes his death in June, 2008 was unjustified (see earlier VOD story on Staples settlement in September archives).
“This is another example of how the Detroit Police Department fails to investigate cases involving the use of excessive force, to reconcile inconsistent evidence and scrutinize officers,” the family’s attorney David Robinson told this reporter. “No discipline has been brought against these officers for Tommie Staples’ death. It is inexcusable that the department is still non-compliant after seven years of federal oversight.”
Robinson blasted Cummings in the lawsuit, saying she participated in a cover-up.
“As [Staples] was crossing the street, Defendants [Steven] Kopp and [Barron] Townsend, without warning, cut off his path, striking him with the police car they were driving,” says the lawsuit. “Defendant Townsend exited the car, shouted at Tommie Staples, and began shooting him without provocation, and without probable cause, and without lawful excuse. Defendants Townsend and Kopp shot Tommie Staples in the back, and killed Tommie Staples, while he was not committing any crime and possessed no weapon and posed no threat of any kind to any person.”
An autopsy report indicated the two cops also shot Staples in the top of the head as he lay under their car. The lawsuit says Townsend placed a gun near Staples’ body in an effort to disguise the murder, and that a sergeant, lieutenant and Bully-Cummings participated in the cover-up.
Staples’ wife of 36 years, Jacquelyn Porter, told this reporter at the time that she believed Kopp and Townsend retaliated because she and her husband used to intercede for neighborhood youth when they saw them being harassed by police, in particular by those two officers. Staples had no record. Robinson says in the suit that Cummings had a policy of disciplining officers only if there was no “reasonable doubt,” and concludes that meant that no one could be disciplined.
The violations included failure to determine whether the officers’ conduct was justified, list the badge numbers of all officers and names of all civilian witnesses at the scene, take photographs of injuries to Staples or the officers, complete investigatory reports and evaluations, or conduct and preserve ballistic and crime scene analyses, including gunshot residue and bullet trajectory tests.
It says top cops at all levels failed to review all firearms discharge and in-custody deaths and give annual reports to the Chief of Police.
Sheryl Robinson Woods, then the DOJ’s appointed monitor for the consent decrees, resigned this year after it was revealed that she had an affair with Bully-Cummings’ boss, former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, during her tenure.
In chronological order, here are reports on other killings and misdeeds by Bully-Cummings’ underlings, most of them reported by this author and published in the pages of The Michigan Citizen.
2004: SIX KILLINGS by police, with 15 non-fatal shootings, documented in The Michigan Citizen and the federal monitor’s report.
June 25. 2004: DARON CALDWELL, falsely charged with second-degree murder and other offenses related to shootings at Hart Plaza that resulted in one death. Charges were later dismissed after it was discovered that the police had fabricated evidence and reports in a “rush to judgment.
Nov. 2004: DENNIS CRAWFORD, killed by officers Barron Townsend (also liable in the Staples death), and Laron York. Lawsuit filed by attorney Geoffrey Fieger says the two cops responded to a domestic violence call at Crawford’s home on Steel. They struggled with him and brought him to the ground, whereupon York shot the unarmed man four times, once in the back, once in the head, and twice in the leg, killing him. The lawsuit was settled for an unknown amount in federal court in 2006.
Jan. 2005: UNARMED MOTORIST, still unnamed, shot to death by cops as he waited with his stalled vehicle behind townhomes at Russell and E. Canfield. Witnesses said the shooting was unprovoked. Despite Councilwoman JoAnn Watson’s demand that she be given the man’s name and details of the incident, the DPD never complied.
Feb. 2, 2005: WILBERT BURKS, 39, killed by cops after they responded to a domestic violence call on Dolphin, near Fenkell and Lahser. “It was overkill,” a neighbor told this reporter. “They had over 28 shots and he never shot off a round. The house was riddled with bullets. His girlfriend had two children in the house at the time. Her teenage daughter passed out, and they had to call EMS for her. Afterwards,the police were laughing in the street, like it was a party.”
Feb. 12, 2005: Allante Lightfoote-Powell, a 16-year-old Osborn High student, killed by cops in the basement of a vacant house on Maddelein after allegedly robbing a Foot Locker store at Gratiot and 7 Mile. Cops claimed he hid in a closet, then came out firing. However, no gunshot residue tests were performed on his hands, according to records later obtained from DPD. Bonnie Hanne, a neighbor, said, “They didn’t have to kill him. These cops around here are always messing with someone. Why was a reserve officer involved? There’s a mini-station right across the street.”
Feb. 12, 2005: unnamed youth, 16-20, shot to death by cops after allegedly pulling a gun on McDonald’s workers. “We all ran out the back door,” one young worker said, so the youth got no money. He ran away to the 14900 block of Glastonbury. Police said he shot one officer, whose partner then killed him. The shoot-out took place in the driveway of a home occupied by young children. Police later claimed they needed
hollow point bullets, because the youth had on a thick winter coat which they claimed could have deflected the barrage of bullets that killed him.
Feb. 2005: Two men wounded by police in other alleged shootouts. One took place Feb. 2 after the robbery of a Burger King on Grand River. The suspect in that case was shot in the head. On Feb. 13, at 7 Mile and Ferguson, a man suspected of narcotics possession sustained wounds in the shoulder and leg.
July 3, 2005: Anthony Scott, 25, shot to death by police at a gas station at Michigan and Lonyo. Police claimed he had a knife in his waistband, but witnesses said he did not pull it or otherwise threaten the cops. “Anybody from the streets knows that the cops are about shooting you,” his widow Bobbie Jo Wethington said at a press conference hosted by then State Rep. Hansen Clarke. “That’s why I know he was not grabbing for a knife.”
Two of Scott’s friends, 16 and 17, watched in horror from inside the car. One said Scott only lifted his shirt to show the cops that he had been severely injured in a 2002 stabbing, and to plead with them not to manhandle him. “They pulled us over for reckless driving,” said the witness. “We were going to get gas and a pack of cigarettes for his mom. They came out with their guns already drawn. They kicked the door shut on his legs, and a cop yelled ‘knife’ after he pulled his shirt up.” The witness said Scott’s hands were in the air when a cop known as “Scrappy” fired twice. Clarke, who was then running for mayor, said, “Clarke said, “The Police Department failed to comply with 86 out of 91 directives from the federal monitor. This is completely unacceptable. As mayor, I would make sure that police officers respect the legal rights of the citizens, and receive proper training throughout their careers, so that they understand they are to resort to deadly force only when absolutely necessary.”
Aug. 7, 2005: James A. Stone, known as Poppa Stone, died in custody at the Second Precinct after pleading to go to the hospital for several days. His grandson Darius Stone was arrested and taken to the same precinct. After learning of his grandfather’s illness from other prisoners, he became sick himself with asthma after screaming for help for his grandfather for several days.
He also asked to go to the hospital. Police detective Michelle Baker told him neither would receive medical attention until he confessed to the charges he had been arrested for, in detail, and implicated others. He did so, but Baker and other officers never took either man to the hospital. Despite numerous calls to his relatives by Darius and other prisoners, James Stone died in the lock-up. A federal lawsuit is in progress.
Feb. 1, 2006: Rosetta C. Williams, killed by Kevin Lorenzo Collins at Mt. Zion Hope Missonary Baptist Church. Lawsuit filed by Fieger’s office says that police failed to arrest Williams after he viciously assaulted Williams’ daughter, despite the family’s spending hours meeting with numerous officers about the assault, and despite the fact that Collins later presented himself to the police to file a counter-complaint. Collins later went to the Mt. Zion Missionary Baptist Church, where he shot Williams, her sister, her mother, two nieces and a goddaughter, killing Williams.
Jan. 2006 through June 2006 (at least) – Cops rape Black men: dozens of men on Detroit’s southwest side were subjected to literal rapes during pretextual traffic stops by officers Mishael Osmand and Michael Parish, under the guise of anal cavity searches for drugs, conducted on the public streets. Such searches are absolutely illegal under state law. The scandal came to light with the case of Byron Ogletree, pulled over by the two on May 31, 2006. Ogletree and others then testified in front of City Council, and more men came forward at rallies and meetings on the southwest side to say they too had been raped. The ACLU, the law firm of Posner and Posner, and others have filed lawsuits on behalf of the victims.
At least four judges dropped trumped-up charges against victims of Osman and Parish after publicity about their crimes. BUT NEITHER COP WAS DISCHARGED BY ELLA BULLY-CUMMINGS, OR CHARGED WITH RAPE BY WAYNE COUNTRY PROSECUTOR KYM WORTHY. Osman, in fact, was promoted to sergeant.
OCT. 3, 2006: Inspection by federal monitor’s office shows that only 15 percent of Detroit police car videotapes are functional. The 2003 DOJ consent decrees included a clause that read: “DPD policy on video cameras shall be revised and augmented to require: activation of scout car videos at all times the officer is on patrol; supervisors to review videotapes of all incidents involving injuries to a prisoner or an officer, uses of force, vehicle pursuits and external complaints, and that the DPD retain and preserve videotapes for at least 90 days, or as long as necessary for the incidents to be fully investigated.”
The monitor’s staff conducted ride-alongs in police cars in February, 2006, in which it found that either there were no cameras in the cars involved, or they were not operational, and warned the department then. There is no indication to date that this policy has EVER been complied with, and certainly not during the five years that Bully-Cummings was police chief.
Nov. 26, 2006: Brandon Martell Moore, 16, unarmed, shot to death in the back by off duty police officer Eugene Williams, who was moonlighting at a National Wholesale Liquidators store on Eight Mile and Van Dyke. Moore was shopping at the store with his older brother, 22, and several friends when they became separated. Because the store had a policy of not allowing unaccompanied youths under 17 inside, Williams forced Moore and some of his friends outside. They attempted to go back in to get one of the group they had left behind, but Williams fought them.
His gun dropped out, and when the youths saw it, they ran. Williams shot Moore in the back and wounded his 14-year-old friend in the hand, ending his budding football career. Williams killed two other men off-duty during his tenure with DPD, slammed a 16-year-old student into a wall at Osborn High, and wounded his police officer wife in a domestic dispute. He remains on the force.
Nov. 26, 2006: An unidentified young man was shot to death that evening in a hail of gunfire by police, according to neighbors. The police had pursued him on foot after he allegedly tried to rob a Family Dollar store on W. McNichols. They claimed he fired a shot at them as he ran.
Feb. 12, 2007: Artrell Dickerson, 18, shot in the back and killed by officer Kata-Ante Taylor as the teen, already wounded, lay on the ground next to Cantrell Funeral Home on Mack. He had just attended the funeral of another teenager. Police claimed they saw another man pass a gun to Dickerson when a police car rode past, and that Dickerson ran. Police claimed he fired at them as he ran. But eyewitnesses told this reporter that Taylor “stood over him and executed him. There was no gun nowhere near him.”
May 1, 2007: Detroit police along with Detroit Public Schools police viciously attacked a demonstration against school closings, held by students as young as fourth-graders outside the former Northern High School on Woodward.
The students were pepper-sprayed, beaten, dragged by their hair across the street, and falsely charged. Two teachers, Steve Conn and Heather Miller were criminally charged and discharged by the district. They later beat the charges and won their jobs back. This demonstration countered the first in a wave of massive school closings that has decimated the Detroit Public Schools. The district’s final dissolution is awaiting state orders after EFM Robert Bobb submits a deficit elimination plan to the state Nov. 15.
His fiancee, Kozetta Russell, his mother, and other family members and friends, all of whom lived in the same townhome complex where Royall did, watched in horror as he was killed, screaming and crying for the cops to stop. They met numerous times with police officials and Prosecutor Kym Worthy afterwards, to no avail. The cops, who neighbors said brutalized many others throughout their community, never faced any charges in the case. A lawsuit filed by the office of Geoffrey Fieger is still ongoing.
July 1, 2008: SHELTON BELL, JR., 16, shot to death by an off duty cop after allegedly demanding the keys to the cop’s car at a gas station on the west side, then running when the cop pulled his gun. The autopsy report shows that Bell, Jr. was shot ten times, five in the chest, three in the back, once in the head behind his right ear, and once in his left arm. None of the shots were at close range. Bell, Jr. had no intoxicants in his system according to the toxicology report.
July 2, 2008: BULLY-CUMMINGS holds a press conference falsely claiming that Elizabeth Sanders had given birth to a 6-month old fetus which was still alive and might be in need of medical attention, according to a federal lawsuit filed by attorneys Hugh Davis and Cynthia Heenan. Although Sanders had in fact miscarried a short period into her pregnancy, in a hospital, she and her boyfriend Jude Beckowitz were falsely charged with the death of the fetus and subjected to a huge media blitz before the charges were finally dismissed.
July 14, 2008:- Police killed an unidentified man they claim emerged from a house at Indiandale and 14th streets, pointing a gun at them. They alleged that he and three others were involved in an earlier drive-by shooting and carjacking. They said they arrested the three others, and tracked the fourth man with a dog to the house where they killed him.
July 18, 2008: 35-year-old Robert Hill, backpack strapped on, rode his bicycle to an apartment building at Appoline and Buena Vista. Hill and his bicycle were rammed by a police car into another vehicle. The officers claimed that Hill pulled a gun, and when they ordered him to put it down, he pointed it at them and they shot him to death. Relatives said later that Hill was going to defend his niece in a domestic violence incident at the apartment building.
Nov. 4, 2008: Cummings never ordered Detroit police to investigate the deaths of Detroit citizens James Willingham and Jeffrey Frazier, after a high-speed state trooper chase down E. Davison near Ryan, at 3:30 p.m. as nearby schools were letting out. Detroit police came to the scene only to control the unruly crowd that gathered, outraged at the reckless chase. Troopers violated their own high-speed chase regulations and should have been considered criminally liable for the deaths of the two Detroit men.
CUMMINGS RESIGNED SHORTLY AFTER KILPATRICK LEFT OFFICE IN 2008. HER SUCCESSORS WARREN EVANS AND RALPH GODBEE HAVE SINCE ADMITTED TO HAVING AFFAIRS WITH A POLICE LIEUTENANT WHO WAS THE LIAISON TO THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE MONITOR. WHO IS MONITORING THE DETROIT POLICE DEPARTMENT?