On the night of Nov. 9–10, 2014, Aura Rosser was killed in her home by an officer of the Ann Arbor Police Department. Responding to a domestic call, Officer Mark Raab tased Aura, while Officer David Ried simultaneously shot Aura in the heart.
In June of this year, AAPD’s Chief Baird wrote in a memo:
The incredibly tragic incident was justified by any legal, policy or reasonable moral standards. The actions of the responding officers did have a tragic outcome but likely saved the life of the victim in the original domestic violence felonious assault incident that was ongoing when the officers arrived. It was tragic for Ms. Rosser, the officer involved, as well as all who care about either of them. It was tragic for the community as a whole. However, it was a completely justified and reasonable response to the situation the officers encountered that day.
What was “the situation the officers encountered that day”? While neither of the officers were interviewed that night—nor any time since—all residents and guests of the house were taken to the police station for questioning. Some of the interviews (in video, audio, or both) were released on the prosecutor’s website. The interviews with Victor Stephens and Gregory Fairley—the two eyewitnesses to the incident, apart from the officers—reveal repeatedly that Aura was not an immediate threat to Stephens, nor to the officers, and that she was given no time to comply with orders.
In the words of eyewitness Gregory Fairley, “It’s wrong what he [Ried] did, man. I’ll put it on everything, man. He shouldn’ta never shot that gun. He had no right to.”
In January 2015, Washtenaw County Prosecutor Brian Mackie announced his decision not to press charges against Ried. In his memo, he took the written statements of the officers as fact, and ignored the two eyewitness testimonies whenever they contradicted the officers.
Notably, in 2015 Mackie accepted Ried’s claim that he feared for his life and therefore “acted in lawful self-defense,” while in 2016 Baird claims that it was Victor Stephens whose life was “likely saved.” They cannot have it both ways. The extensive interviews with Stephens and Fairley reveal that neither Stephens nor the officers were at immediate risk when the deadly shot was fired.
These videotaped interviews, released by the prosecutor later than the rest of the investigation materials, have not previously been published in any media. The full interviews are an hour or longer each. Below are excerpts of the testimony that contradict the claims of Ried, Raab, Mackie, and Baird. The audio quality is poor; we provide a careful transcription.
Stephens repeats his account with remarkable consistency, approximately twelve times. The next morning, the Ann Arbor News quoted Stephens relating a similar account: “The police said ‘police,’ so I stopped. She walked towards them. They said ‘freeze’ and the next thing I know I heard (gunshots).” The same interview quoted Stephens as saying “Why would you kill her? […] It doesn’t make any sense.”
We encourage you to watch the videos for yourself, with a warning that they may be triggering. We believe this new material raises important questions, both about what was said and what detectives chose not to ask. Please add your observations and questions in the comments section below.
We must have a public dialogue about the police homicide of Aura Rosser and its implications for our community. Ried is still armed and on the streets. Mackie is up for reelection after 24 years incumbent, and after failing to indict officers in at least three police homicides: Aura Rosser, Clifton Lee, and David Ware. In the words of the People’s Retort:
To truly restore justice will require the entire community to confront the truth of racism, economic injustice, and police violence, in Ann Arbor as in America. Only from a place of truth can we imagine a new, more just world where Aura Rosser would still be alive.
Transcript of Excerpted Interview of Victor Stephens by Michigan State Police
[5:05:40 on the morning of November 10, 2014, indicated by time stamp at top of screen]
DC: Detective Corriveau
VS: Victor Stephens
DD: Detective DeClercq
DC: Mr. Stephens?
DC: Good Morning. How you doing, Mr. Stephens? Hey, I’m Detective Corriveau of the State Police. You ok?
VS: Yeah, I’m fine.
Other officer: I told him to go ahead and just relax until you got here.
DC: Alright. Great, thank you. Okay. You awake?
DC: Okay. Hey, I need to talk to you about what happened this evening, ok?
DC: Alright. Let me just get your, uh … I wanna make sure I got all your information and stuff correct.
DC: You’re Victor Lynn Stephens? Okay, you’re born …
[cut to 5:14:10]
VS: When they come through, I could see ’em.
DC: The police?
VS: ’Cause they came in and said, “Police!” So I let her go. She stopped.
DC: Okay … where are you standing at then?
VS: I’m standing like right next to the bathroom.
DC: Right next to the bathroom, okay. And they’re standing—they come in the front door?
VS: They come in the front door. When they say “Police!” she stopped.
VS: Turned to him. I heard him say, “Put down the knife.” Next thing I know, “pop-pop!” Okay? My cousin was all, “She’s dead! She’s dead! She started crying and all.”
DC: Okay, well, where, where were you standing when, when that happened?
VS: It was like this. I’m like this.
DC: Okay, where is she standing at?
VS: She’s off to my left.
DC: Where? Show me. Over here?
VS: Yeah. She’s facing them.
DC: She’s this way.
VS: Yeah, she’s facing them.
VS: They say “police,” when they say “Police!” I let her go. She stopped.
DC: So, she’s facing them?
DC: She’s looking this way?
VS: She’s turned this way.
VS: They’re coming in the door.
DC: Okay, where’s the knife at?
VS: The knife is in her hand.
DC: Like right here.
VS: But … the space is so far away, I’m like … I don’t know.
DC: Okay, so where’s, how … she went like this? Like this? Like this?
VS: She’s pointing like this.
DC: She’s pointing like this? Okay. So she’s standing like this, okay, and she’s facing them.
DC: Okay. So, she turns around to face them. Did she start walking towards them?
VS: Yeah, she took, she moved towards them.
DC: She started moving towards them.
VS: When they said “Police!” she stopped.
DC: She stopped.
VS: And moved …
DC: She stopped dealing with you …
VS: Right. And going that way. The man say, “Police!” …
DC: So she’s walking this way?
VS: Right. And they said, “Freeze!” and then they go “pop-pop!”
VS: And I’m like, damn it.
[cut to 5:16:45]
VS: To me, I was like … this shit happened so fast. But, when they said, “Police!” she turned towards them. Even though you got the knife, the space is so far away.
DC: How far away do you think it was?
VS: I would say … 15 feet.
DC: 15 feet?
VS: At least.
DC: Yeah? So farther away than from here to you?
VS: I would say …
DC: This far away?
VS: It’s farther than that.
DC: Okay. How far away? From me to you?
VS: No, it’s farther than that.
VS: You know my house.
DC: Mm hm.
VS: You been through that part of my house. They came in the door, and we’re by the bathroom, then turn to them.
DC: Okay, so she’s standing by the bathroom.
DC: How far into the house are they?
VS: They … they’re right at the door.
DC: Right at the door. Okay.
VS: They come right in.
VS: They said … basically, they shoot at a knife. She turns, she turns, they see the knife …
DC: Okay. Did she start walking towards them?
VS: Yeah, yeah.
DC: Okay. And they said “stop”?
VS: They said, “Freeze! Police!”
VS: “Police! Freeze!” And she turned towards them, and she was like …
DC: Yeah. Okay.
[cut to 5:27:50]
VS: And then, like, I would say about, between 7 and 10 minutes, and then the police. “Open up, it’s the police!” And when they say that, she stopped.
VS: And turned towards them. And then she … I don’t know, just stopped turnin’. And they said, “Freeze!” And that gun, “Pop-pop!”
[cut to 5:28:37]
DC: So, I just wanna make sure, so, you’re standing, you’re by the bathroom. It’s in the hallway, right?
DC: So you were, were you in the bathroom?
VS: No. I was outside.
DC: Outside. Behind her in the hallway. She … the police say, “Police.” Right? They come in, she turns towards them?
VS: She got like three steps.
DC: Took three steps towards them?
VS: Uh huh. And then they … and then they shoot.
DC: Okay. You could see it?
VS: Yeah, I’m sayin’, it went like this. She’s right-handed.
VS: We’re both right-handed.
VS: Okay. Because I’m holdin’ on to her hands, like … bathroom here, I’m right here.
DC: Mm hm.
VS: Okay, I would say … between two … from where we was at and where the door is, I’d say like, over 15, 20 feet.
VS: But, the light was on.
DC: Mm hm.
VS: So when the [inaudible] said, “Police,” she stopped. And then she turned towards them. She started going towards them. But you could see the knife in her hands.
DC: She started walkin’ towards them?
VS: Yeah. She took like three steps and he said, “Freeze!” and then I heard “pop-pop!” I went in my room and I told my cousin … she came when she heard the shots, she come out. “Girl, close the door.” Know what I’m sayin’?
[cut to 5:32:27]
DC: She stops wrestlin’ with you?
VS: Right. When they say, “Police! Freeze!” … when they say, “Police!” she stopped and she turned towards them.
[cut to 5:32:49]
VS: But then, she take two or three steps and then … [inaudible] “Police! Freeze!” You know, it’s like, you know what I’m saying, it’s like they say “police!” and then she just stopped. They said, “Police! Freeze!” When they said “Police!” she turned towards them …
VS: … and go towards them. She take three steps, and they said “Freeze!” and they shot “pop! pop!” And I went in my room.
DC: And then you just went in your room …
DC: … right after that.
[cut to 5:30:08]
VS: Well, I [inaudible] … see, my cousin. I’m standing in the door trying to keep my cousin…. “What’s going on?” “Shit, I don’t wanna hear that shit.”
[cut to 5:33:22]
DC: Okay, so the police came in and then they did, they called the ambulance?
VS: No, they came in, they shot “pop-pop!”
DC: Mm hm. They shot twice?
VS: It sounded like two pops.
DC: Okay, two pops.
VS: So the guy says, “You doin’ alright?” and the other guy was like … they didn’t come, like, right up. Someone was just shot … they didn’t call. She was on the floor. [inaudible] well, they shot her ass. The big guy, alright, he came up the hall, the hallway’s only so big. I can’t see nothin’ behind. You know what I’m saying, but I know she got shot.
DC: Mm hm.
VS: ’Cause she’s got [inaudible].
DC: Okay. So did she just fall down as soon as it happened? You just ran in the room? Did you see anything else?
VS: I didn’t even know, ’cause when they shot her … it was like this. He shot. First she turned towards them …
DC: Did you see who shot her?
VS: I don’t know which one it was.
VS: You know what I’m saying? ’Cause she … the hallway’s about this wide.
VS: Okay. With her moving towards them, and getting shot [inaudible] “pop!”
DC: Did you see if they both had a gun out, or what?
VS: I didn’t, all I seen was, all I can remember was they say “police,” she turned towards them, they said “Freeze!”, and I’m quite sure in the light they could see the knife.
VS: You know …
DC: Was the lighting pretty good?
DC: The lights were on? It wasn’t dark out?
VS: No, the hallway was lit up.
VS: The hallway, from the hallway to the door, okay? You’re coming toward the light there …
DC: Was it like this light? Like this?
VS: Probably, it’s like … I’m gonna say, it’s bright, but, it’s enough for where you can see …
DC: Where you can see. Okay.
VS: … [inaudible] and got something in your hand.
VS: Then … the bathroom had the bathroom light on, but there’s another light where you can see. I’m saying, you could see [inaudible] had something in their hand. Then, I don’t know, and I don’t know what the story is from them, but I’m like this. You say “Police!”, you turn towards them, and they say “Freeze!” and I walk towards them …
DC: So did they say “freeze” first and then she started walking towards them?
VS: First they said “Police!”
DC: Uh huh. She turns towards them.
VS: And starts going that way and they say “Freeze!” and then they shot her “Pop-pop!”
DC: Okay. Alright.
[cut to 6:11:26]
DC: So you grab her?
VS: I grab her. Here and here. I grab her.
DC: Okay. So you grab her.
VS: She pushed me, she’s trying to get me against the wall.
DC: Right, like this, okay?
VS: Right. Okay, the bathroom’s here.
VS: I’m talking, like, “girl, [inaudible].” That’s when…
DC: You hear…okay.
VS: The door opens.
DC: The door opens.
VS: Mm hm, the door opens and somebody says, “Police!” and she stops.
DC: Like this?
VS: She just stops and turns.
DC: She turns this way?
DC: Okay, so she turns, looks at the police …
VS: When they say “Police!” she stops, takes like two, two or three, two or three steps, they say “Freeze!” …
DC: They say “freeze”?
DC: And then?
VS: “Pop-pop!” And then I go in my room.
DC: And then you went in your room.
VS: Yeah. I stood, like, right in the door. I had to tell my cousin, “Be cool, don’t come out.”
[cut to 6:14:26]
DD: You heard…you heard the officers tell her to drop the knife, but she just turned and walked anyway?
VS: I heard, I heard them say, “Police!” She turned towards them, and I heard them say “Freeze!”
DD: And she took two steps.
VS: And that was all she wrote.
DD: And she took two steps towards the officers?
VS: When they said “Police!” she’s like, when me and her heard them say “Police,” she stopped, and turned towards them and I was, I stepped back.
DD: But she took steps toward them?
DD: How many?
VS: I would think no more than three.
DD: Towards them?
DD: Knife’s still in her hand.
DD: In her right hand.
DC: Like this or like this?
DD: Okay. About how far away was Aura from the officers when she was shot?
VS: Um. Basically, they just came to the door. I would say just …
DD: Okay, so from one wall to the next?
VS: A greater distance than that.
DD: Longer than that? So, I would say this is probably a 10 foot distance here.
VS: Mm hm.
DD: Maybe fifteen, that’s a rough estimate.
VS: Mm hm.
DD: Okay. Okay. So you, you knew she was walking towards those officers with a gun in her hand after they had given her direction…
VS: With a knife! I said knife!
DD: … to stop. A knife, I’m sorry.
VS: She didn’t have no gun. Where did guns come from?
DD: I’m sorry.
VS: It was a knife!
DC: Was it a pen or a carving knife?
VS: Carvers knife.
DD: Well, Fairley said there was about a eight-inch blade, a six- to eight-inch blade on that knife. [Editor’s note: forensics found the blade was four inches long.]
VS: Well, I think about…it was curved.
DD: Okay, then, then that’s about right then.
DD: Okay. And, uh…sorry about that. It was a knife, I just misspoke myself, but she was walking towards them with a knife in her hand …
VS: Mm hm.
DD: … after they’d given her direction to drop it. “Freeze.”
Transcript of Excerpted Interview of Gregory Fairley by Michigan State Police
[5:05:29 on the morning of November 10, 2014, indicated by time stamp at top of screen]
DD: Detective DeClercq
GF: Gregory Fairley
DD: How you doing, sir?
GF: How you doing?
Officer: You want the door shut, sir?
DD: That’d be good, please. Thanks. You need anything? You got water? You’re good?
DD: Sorry about this. I know you don’t wanna be here. Alright. I know you don’t wanna be here. I’ll try to get you in and out of here as fast as I can, okay, buddy? I’m Detective Sergeant Tom DeClerq. I’m with the Michigan State Police, I’m not with this police department. I came out of headquarters in Lansing. So my morning started kinda early. Um, I’m just gonna ask you some, uh, specifics about yourself to make sure I have the right info. Okay?
DD: That a good picture?
GF: I mean, why’s that like that? Why’s … I mean, what, what’s going on, though?
DD: Well, somebody was killed. So you know how serious that gets. You know what I mean?
GF: You’re saying [inaudible] is dead, then?
DD: Well, that’s what I’m here to talk to you about.
DD: That’s what I’m here to talk to you about. I wanna get through that. Alright, you understand that you’re not under arrest, right now? You do know that, right?
GF: Yeah, that’s why I don’t want to get involved in nothing without a lawyer.
DD: Well …
GF: I don’t like to do nothin’ …
DD: If, if you’re in trouble, then I’d say, you know what, if you wanna talk to a lawyer …
GF: You know, you know how it goes. You know what I’m sayin’?
DD: Well, did you kill anybody today?
GF: Hell, no!
DD: Okay, I don’t think you have a whole lot to worry about then.
DD: ’Cause this is what I’m lookin’ at.
[cut to 5:20:23]
GF: I’m like, “Man, don’t shoot, don’t shoot. She ain’t got nothin’.” Poom poom! I said, “Damn. I asked you, I said, man, don’t shoot, man. I had my hands up, don’t shoot. But you ain’t shootin’ at me, you shot at her.” But when you shot, she throwed her hands up. He might’ve thought it was a gun. But it wasn’t no gun. Later on she [referring to an officer] found a knife in her pocket. Because they was upstairs arguing. Getting into a little beef.”
[cut to 5:42:13]
GF: And then it happened so quick. The whole … everything … the whole … everything happened altogether, though.
GF: So I’m like, damn.
DD: Did you see her get shot?
DD: You saw her get shot?
GF: Yeah. He shouldn’ta never shot her, man.
DD: This is Detective Corriveau.
GF: It’s wrong what he did, man. I’ll put it on everything, man. He shouldn’ta never shot that gun. He had no right to.
DD: We’re just getting to the, to the part …
GF: He had no right to, but, what … you know, he like … he like … I don’t know, man, because she…. He shouldn’ta never shot that gun.
[cut to 5:49:21]
GF: I told him, I told him, no, look, “Do not shoot.” [inaudible]
DD: Yeah, you didn’t want him to shoot you. Right?
GF: No, I’m talking about don’t shoot, period.
GF: ’Cause I ain’t, ain’t nobody got nothing. I said, “We ain’t got nothing.” He’s like “Toom, toom” anyway.
GF: And I’m like, damn, I was this close to her. I was like, maybe, she next to him, and I’m right here in this chair. But he still let that motherfucker go. For no, for no reason, man. Ain’t no way he shoulda let that, that taser go like that, man. I was like, “Don’t shoot.”
[cut to 5:50:23]
GF: Yeah. She was next to the table like this.
DD: Okay. But she, did she … but she staggered back after getting shot? Like dropped the knife and staggered back then?
GF: No, man. It wasn’t like that. She dropped. Boom. It was like, fuck. I don’t know how many times they shot her with that taser, but … it just wrong, brother. I don’t care if they give me a lot of trouble, whatever, he shot that for no apparent reason.
DD: I understand …
GF: And she didn’t have nothin’, like she rushin’ at nobody, ’cause she way away from the police. She was way far from the police.