Pastors, NAACP question shooting of 17-year-old Lansing girl by police officer
A group of local pastors and the Lansing branch of the NAACP held a press conference today inside a Lansing courthouse to raise some serious questions about the fatal shooting of a 17 year-old girl in March by a Lansing police officer.
The shooting took place in the early morning hours of March 14th at a South Lansing Bank of America. Seventeen year-old Derrinesha Clay broke into the bank and officers were called to the scene. Finding her in a storage room, officers were able to subdue her to her knees when apparently she pulled a steak knife and began slashing at the officers. That is when Lansing police officer Brian Rendon fired two shots, hitting Clay in the head then the abdomen and killing her.
Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III said the deadly use of force was justifiable, reports The Lansing State Journal.
“It is my belief that the shooting was a justifiable act of self-defense by the officer,” Dunnings said in a written statement. “As such, no charges will be filed. This loss of life is regrettable.”
That was nearly a month ago, but now members of the Lansing branch NAACP, local pastors and community members are not convinced the use of deadly force was necessary.
Rev. Melvin T. Jones stood at the center of the crowd of ten people addressing the media. His statement was read directly from the press release.
Jones was the chosen representative to speak for the group of pastors involved with the discussion. He made it clear that the crime that was committed by Clay was not condoned by the group and that the group’s position was reached after analysis of MSP reports.
“While we maintain great respect for the institution of law enforcement, we maintain greater respect for the sanctity of human life,” said Jones. “In the case of Derrinesha Clay, we believe that the use of deadly force could have been avoided in the attempt to apprehend her.”
The group’s statement stated that they have serious concerns about LPD’s practice of entering a situation with “guns blazing” without any preemptive intelligence about what was happening, especially given the fact that Clay was in a situation where she was trapped inside the building and there were no bystanders that could have been injured.
Jones went on to say the the group believed there was a high degree of inconsistency between the involved officers’ official statements. He cited various points such as how the two officers who initially apprehended the suspect gave two completely different psychological and behavioral observations about Clay.
According to the group’s analysis of the MSP report, Officer Rendon said Clay was “flailing around” and “screaming” during the attempted arrest while officer Jillian Johnson, who was also at the scene, did not mention any of that type of behavior and said she thought Clay “was going to surrender.”
“What is clear is that Derrinesha Clay was pulled to the ground face down, pulled up to her knees and eventually shot twice,” said Jones. “It is a bit much for us to believe that once the suspect was in hand and taken down that two officers could not contain her, especially given the disparity in size, strength and the training of police officers. In our opinion, this the the tragic consequence of poor judgement, hypersensitivity, and the use of deadly force as a first option.”
Jones articulated several demands, including a review of the Lansing Police Department’s deadly force policy, the establishment of a civilian review board to oversee internal police investigations, and the removal of Officer Rendon from active duty.
Jones said there was a feeling of “unrest” in the African-American community in Lansing when it came to Officer Rendon, claiming that Rendon has had numerous instances, including the shooting of Clay, where he has used his weapon.
“We strongly suggest that the officer responsible for the misuse of excessive and deadly force be relieved of active duty until final judgement has been rendered determining his ability to serve responsibly in an intense and volatile environment where the loss of human life is a stake,” said Jones, ending the group’s written statement.
Carolyn Ellis Logan, President of the Lansing NAACP was also at the press conference and said they support the pastors’ analysis and said the group was involved because this was a “social justice issue.”