Questions About the SWAT Shooting

Six days later, police are releasing no new information about Friday’s shooting of a man by a member of the Washtenaw Metro SWAT.

What’s been reported:

  • The victim was a 33-year-old man who was taken to the hospital for “non-life threatening injuries.”
  • The shooting occurred in the 700 block of Lowell Street in Ypsilanti, reportedly in response to a barricade situation.
  • The SWAT member who shot the man is a Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Office deputy and is now on paid vacation.
  • Michigan State Police are investigating the shooting.

The lack of any further details is a red flag. Police never withhold details for long—that is, if those details look favorable to the police. Yet we’ve learned next to nothing from the sheriff’s office, the state police, or the Ypsilanti Police Department, who called in the SWAT. What information is Sheriff Clayton, who claims to support transparency and accountability, withholding?

Here are some details that either are, or soon will be, in the public record, but have not been released to the media or the wider community:

  • Was the victim arrested?
  • If so, what was the charge? And what is the race of the victim (racial identification data is recorded for arrests)?
  • If not arrested, why was he shot?
  • How long has the deputy been on the force?
  • What is the deputy’s race, ethnicity, age, and gender?
  • Or simply, what is the name of the deputy?

The community would also very much like to know the medical condition of the victim. There is a wide range of possible injury short of “life threatening.” If the victim had been injured by someone other than an officer, the police very probably would have updated the media on the condition of the patient. Yet we hear nothing. We would also like to know whether the victim was found with a weapon and, of course, exactly what lead up to the shooting.

These are details of incidents that are routinely released in other cases, when police don’t fear community backlash. The Sheriff’s Office is emphasizing that the incident is under investigation by the Michigan State Police. MSP forensic investigations often take a month to several months to complete.

The community has a right to know what happened, and now, not months later. Refunding of the Washtenaw Metro SWAT was on the agenda of the county commissioners meeting Wednesday night, then was removed. During public comment at the meeting community member Greg Pratt read aloud the news report and asked questions including:

  • What does SWAT do?
  • How does it make us safer?
  • What is the justification for continuing to fund it?
  • Which federal agencies does it share information with?

These are good questions, and we have many more. The community wants details now, both because we demand transparency and accountability from the sheriff’s office, and because no funding decisions can be made without ample time for community debate about the details of this shooting and wider issues of concern about Metro SWAT.

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