It’s Happening Again. What Aiyana Jones’ Death Tells Us

By Juell Stewart May 17, 2010

It’s an all-too-familiar occurrence: A young person of color gets killed by the police, the community rallies around the victim’s family, and everybody wonders what can be done to prevent it from happening again. Well, it’s happening again in Detroit, where police fatally shot 7-year-old Aiyana Jones in her sleep early Sunday morning.  Law enforcement officials raided the Jones’ home, blasting through the door with a “flash-bang” device designed to "create confusion." They were in pursuit of a suspect in the killing of a 17-year-old boy; the suspect was found in the upstairs attic. Police say Jones’ grandmother was on the other side of the door as they entered the house, and when she tussled with an officer, a gun accidentally discharged. The family’s attorney says a video shows cops actually fired into the house after the flash-bang discharge. Accident or not, the results remain the same: another innocent victim dead at the hands of police, a community left to mourn and to wonder how to keep it from happening again.    The outrage over the incident is understandably intense. Often in these cases, the official account creates room for doubt in the public mind about whether the victim precipitated the violence; this time, that doesn’t exist. Unlike with other high-profile, young Black male police murder victims, such as Sean Bell and Oscar Grant, the officers who shot Jones can’t argue that they believed a sleeping 7-year-old posed any immediate threat.