First-degree murder charges in 1968 case of State Police Detective Robert Gonser dismissed ‘without prejudice’ in 1969, 1982; pros. witnesses recanted
Wayne Co. Pros. O’Hair in 1982: “No factual, legal or ethical justification for proceeding with this case.”
Oct. 2020: Summers returns to Inkster from Berlin to film ‘No End in Sight;’ Mich. State Police stop him, seize cell phone, blood sample
MSP’s Mike Shaw: “Summers still a suspect” in cop murder
MSP’s Shanon Banner: “We don’t maintain research on militia groups” re: state’s racist right-wing organizations
“I could have been in prison for 52 years of my life–there are others who suffered that fate, and a lot of them are innocent.” –Summers
By Diane Bukowski
November 15, 2020
UPDATE: Support Darnell at Metro Airport Today Friday, Nov. 20, 2020: From Renee Lichtman
[Today], Darnell has to return to Germany; he does intend to come back to Detroit in the near future to finish his film. But Darnell really does not know what to expect at the airport when he plans to leave…
Will authorities take his passport, the way they took his phone when he arrived in Detroit? Will the authorities have some “results” from the DNA swab they took from him, with a warrant, attached, when he stopped at a gas station?
At Metro Airport, Darnell will be giving an update to friends and media at 3:30 PM, today, Friday, at Delta Airlines, in the McNamara Terminal.
We hope you can join us and support a fellow veteran.
In Solidarity, Rene Lichtman 248 986 3466,
Darnell Summers at: 1 313 948 2537, email@example.com
DETROIT—Darnell Summers, a globally renowned documentary film-maker, musician, Vietnam veteran and war resister, returned to his boyhood city of Inkster, Michigan from Berlin, Germany last month to work on a new film, “No End in Sight.”
He discovered there is also no end in sight to a 52-year witch hunt by the Michigan State Police and the FBI, still seeking to re-charge him for the murder of MSP Detective Robert Gonser in Inkster on Aug. 8, 1968. Charges against Summers were twice dismissed “without prejudice” (meaning they could be brought again) in 1969 and again in 1984 after both prosecution eyewitnesses recanted.
Summers and his supporters, including attorneys from the National Lawyers Guild (Detroit) and the National Conference of Black Lawyers, and members of Detroit Will Breathe, spoke at a press conference outside the “Detroit Public Safety Headquarters” (DPSH) Nov. 13. The DPSH houses the headquarters of both the Detroit Police and the Michigan State Police Forensics Laboratory.
“This case is not just about me,” Summers pointed out. “It’s about the millions of people languishing in prisons in America and the tactics that are employed by this state, by this government, to imprison these people, to persecute these people, to oppress these people.
“They come from the oppressed sections of this country, and beyond the borders of this country, [the U.S.] also effects imprisonment, executions, assassinations. As a Vietnam veteran, I’m opposed to imperialistic wars, military interventions by this country. I didn’t support it before the [Vietnam} war, during the war and after the war.”
He called on his supporters to fight for “millions of prisoners across America” still locked up as a result of government tactics. Tactics used in his case included witness coercion resulting in the recanted testimony, prosecutorial refusal to disclose evidence that would exonerate the defendant, including a report that Summers was elsewhere at the time of Gonser’s death, and the use of “dismissal without prejudice” verdicts to circumvent final freedom.
(Ed. Prosecutors and state and city police have continued with these tactics to the present day, resulting in an untold number of wrongful convictions, many of them directed at Black youths. See box at right for examples, and story links below this article.
Summers, who is now 73, grew up in Inkster, Michigan. He served in the U.S. Air Force from 1966 to 1970. In 1968, while home on leave before being sent to Vietnam, he helped create the Malcolm X Cultural Center in Inkster, in a city recreation facility.
Its young Black founders were part of a wave of civil rights and “Black Power” revolutionary uprisings across the U.S. calling for an end to the war in Vietnam, as well as the “War Against Black America.”
According to news reports from the time, two Inkster police officers were “shot at” near the Malcolm X center on the night of Aug. 7, 1968, after the city had ordered the Center’s sign removed.
The two fired their guns in response, wounding a civilian.
Later the same night, on Aug. 8, MSP Detectives Robert Gonser and Frederick Prysby were surveilling the area as part of their duties in the MSP’s “Red Squad” (political surveillance unit) when they also came under gunfire. Gonser was killed at 2:40 a.m.
Black youth James E. Matthews, 14, killed by police during manhunt, another wounded
At 3:15 a.m., police officers killed Black 14-year-old youth James E. Matthews, less than a mile from the site of Gonser’s killing, causing outrage in the community.
An autopsy report indicated he died of wounds from two shotgun blasts fired at a distance.
Inkster resident Gerald Calvin Graham, 21 was injured by police in a separate incident and treated for a shotgun wound in the left shoulder at Wayne County General Hospital.
The Facebook page “Keep Darnell Free” reports, “. . . not once in these 52 years did any law enforcement official lift a finger to charge and prosecute any cop for the cold-blooded murder of Jimmie Matthews that August night. In fact, on Friday, August 16, 1968, Wayne County Prosecutor William Cahalan issued a statement claiming that there was ‘no criminality in the slaying of James Matthews.’
“For more details about the murder of Jimmie Matthews, see the article ‘Will Detroit Burn?’ in the Michigan Daily, June 18, 1969 https://digital.bentley.umich.edu/…/mdp.39015071754233/170″
FACEBOOK PAGE “KeepDarnellFree” https://www.facebook.com/KeepDarnellFree
Policemen from Inkster and Westland, Wayne County Sheriff’s officers and Michigan State Police officers were questioned in Matthews’ killing by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office.
A “police-prosecutor” investigative task force concluded Matthews’ death was a result of “mistaken identity” by cops conducting the manhunt, in a report issued eight days after the shootings. Wayne County Prosecutor William Cahalan said “there was no criminality” in the shooting.
Multiple accounts of Gonser’s shooting indicate that eyewitnesses saw shots fired from a car with four Black men in it. But charges against Summers and two co-defendants, including a young woman, were not brought until June, 1969.
Police and prosecutors used the testimony of a sole eyewitness, Milford Scott, 22. Scott claimed he was in a car with the three defendants during the shooting, but later recanted his account, leading to the first dismissal of charges.
The female co-defendant told prosecutors she had been beaten by State Police. The second time charges were brought against Summers in 1982, she said she was in the car with Summers when he shot Gonser. But she recanted that testimony, causing the second dismissal of charges.
Above is Detroit Free Press article by Joe Swickard on the charges against Summers being dropped the first time. Below is an excerpt from a United Press International (UPI) release on the second dismissal, produced from CIA files.
After charges against Summers were dropped in 1969, and he completed his tour with the USAF, he moved to West Germany and continued his activism on an international level.
He has been involved with the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (Anti-Imperialist), the STOP THE WAR BRIGADE during the Gulf war, the Iraq Veterans against the War, the GI newspaper FighT bAck, and the “Just Say No Posse” aiding G.I. war resisters, among other groups and alliances. He has also been active with immigrants from Turkey and the youth movement in Germany.
Meanwhile, Summers remained active in the U.S., allying with political prisoners like John Sinclair of the White Panther Party, and Attica Brother “Shango,” who survived the vicious massacre of prisoners who rebelled at Attica State Prison in New York in 1971. Shango died in a suspicious shooting after his subsequent return to his hometown of Detroit.
Meanwhile, Summers has had a successful career as a professional musician, filmmaker, actor, composer, cameraman, producer and sound technician, working on projects around the world.
Summers is the only alleged “suspect” the MSP has continued to target over the ensuing decades. The Michigan State Police played a major role along with the Detroit Police, the FBI and the CIA in surveillance of many thousands of anti-war and anti-racism activists over previous decades, and continues to do so today.
Atty. Jeffrey Edison of the National Conference of Black Lawyers called the ongoing campaign against Summers “police terrorism” during the press conference, noting that police brutality has many aspects.
“The surveillance itself is a manifestation of terror,” he said.
He noted that “Red Squads” were “an arm of the FBI’s COINTELPRO, whose specific objective was to neutralize the Black liberation movement, focusing on the Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam, and the Republic of New Africa.”
Summers re-entered the U.S. in early October to visit Inkster and Detroit and Detroit and film his new documentary “No End in Sight.” He was not immediately aware that the MSP had tried to go to Germany to question him, yet were rebuffed by German authorities due to COVID-19 entry restrictions.
He was questioned at the airport by “unidentified law enforcement officials.” Meanwhile, the MSP had paid visits to his brother Bill Summers, a noted jazz drummer, and to a friend in Inkster. The next day, the MSP visited him where he is staying.
Then, on Oct. 27, Summers, his son and a friend were stopped by the MSP while sitting in a car at a gas station in Inkster. The MSP cops produced a search warrant giving them authority to seize his cell phone and to take a DNA sample from him, which they did at the gas station.
On May 13, 2020, the MSP tweeted an account of Gonser’s killing as part of a memorial for 23 officers who had been killed in the line of duty. It still said Gonser’s killer is “unknown.”
But MSP spokesman Mike Shaw told Bryce Huffman, a reporter for Bridge Magazine, prior to the Nov. 13 press conference that Summers is “still a suspect” in Gonser’s killing.
Shortly afterwards, the Detroit News quoted MSP spokeswoman Shanon Banner in a Nov. 15 article, “Michigan’s history with militias is often dark.” The article covers right-wing, mostly white and often violent, murderous militias beginning in the 20th century. It includes the Black Legion, the KKK, and today’s “Wolverine Watchmen,” recently charged with a conspiracy to kidnap and possibly kill Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.
Banner said, “We don’t maintain research on militia groups as our only involvement would be if or when a group becomes involved in criminal activity.”
Above: Shushanna Shakur, sister of the late Republic of New Africa revolutionary Atty. Choke Lumumba, who supported Summers, reads statement from Ed Watson, a founder of the Malcolm X Cultural Center in Inkster, MI during press conference Nov. 13, 2020.