Officer Joseph Weekley, a 15-year veteran of the Detroit Police Department detailed with a SWAT team, was indicted in October 2011 in the case of the accidental death of a child during an arrest of two murder suspects. He has been charged with involuntary manslaughter and negligent discharge of a firearm. The first charge carries a maximum sentence of 15 years, according to Michigan law.
The charges stem from an incident that occurred in the middle of the night on May 16, 2010. The SWAT team obtained a warrant for the arrest of Chauncey Owens, a suspect in the murder of a 17-year-old youth at a convenience store. In the apartment with Owens was his accomplice, Charles Jones, also wanted for the same crime.
Members of the team surrounded the building. A flash-bang grenade, which causes a blinding bright light for several minutes, was thrown through the apartment window by the SWAT team. The intent was to disorient the suspects when the police arrived at the door, facilitating the arrest. Waiting for the grenade to have its effect, Officer Weekley, aware that he was in a dangerous situation, entered the apartment, only to arrive at the exact moment that the grenade burst. Officer Weekley was momentarily blinded.
The wife of Charles Jones confronted him and grabbed for his weapon. In the scuffle, the gun discharged unintentionally, accidently hitting and killing a child sleeping on the sofa. The two suspects were arrested and face murder charges.
Officer Weekley went on disability status as a result of the trauma and psychological effects of the accidental death of the child. He and his wife, a former policewoman, have two young daughters.
This is a difficult and emotional case. LELDF believes that the tragic accident occurred in a very dangerous confrontation with an aggressive individual. We will be assisting Officer Weekley with expert witnesses and legal fees throughout his case.