Updated at 5:45 pm on Tuesday, March 7
This post has been updated to include details of the investigation into the August 2015 shooting involving Officer Jerold Blanding, which were obtained through the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office on March 7 through a Freedom of Information Act request.
Originally posted at 7:05 am on Friday, March 3
The Detroit police officer who shot and killed a 19-year-old last month after what officials say was a physical altercation has allegedly been involved in at least two other non-fatal shootings that have prompted unjustified-use-of-deadly-force lawsuits against the department.
Sources close to Detroit police have identified the shooter as Jerold Blanding, an officer whose Instagram handle was "Fatal Force" at the time of the killing. Police officials have not named Blanding, but describe the officer who killed Raynard Burton on Feb. 13 as an African American man who has been with the department for 22 years.
Blanding shot Burton after initially seeing him speed by in what police later said was a stolen vehicle that the teen had obtained in a carjacking. A foot chase led the pair behind an abandoned building where police say a scuffle ensued and Blanding fired a shot into Burton's chest, killing him.Investigators have had little to go on beyond Blanding's account of the events: the shooting, they say, occurred far from
The week of the shooting, Metro Times reported that Blanding has a violent past that could throw his credibility into question. According to court records, in 1998, Blanding repeatedly shot a man who had appeared to have just gotten money out of an ATM and accidentally opened the door of
Blanding was never charged, but Detroit police failed to seek out that witness during their investigation and used leading questioning in an apparent attempt to help Blanding avoid punishment. The handling of the case helped lead to what would end up being 13 years of federal oversight of the DPD.
While he wasn't disciplined for that shooting, a 2000 report by the Detroit News says Blanding was disciplined in 1995 for shooting a pigeon with his department-issued Glock.
Now, a fourth incident alleged to have involved Blanding has come to light. This time, the officer who calls himself "Fatal Force" is accused of pumping about 15 bullets into a vehicle being driven by a man who says he was unarmed.
The 2015 incident is the subject of a civil rights lawsuit filed against Blanding, two other officers, and the Detroit Police Department. It comes after the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office declined to file charges in the case, determining that Blanding had acted "in self-defense and/or the defense of others."
We'll begin with victim DeMar Parker's account of the August night in question, then pick up with Blanding.
The series of events that would put Parker within inches of losing his life
Parker says Townson approached him aggressively, asking "What's your problem with my son?" and flashing his service weapon. Moments later, two other uniformed officers showed up and the group began to close in on him.
Frightened, Parker ran to his car and took off. He drove a few blocks until he felt he was out of harm's way and turned the car around to head back in the direction of his home. He says he decided to return using the same road in an effort to get the license plate number of the Ford Taurus in which the officers had shown up.
As Parker headed back down the street, he says one of the officers stepped into the middle of the road and pointed his gun directly at him. Parker swerved to avoid
"I never expected it," Parker recalled during a recent interview with Metro Times. "There was definitely fear
According to the suit, Blanding sent approximately 15 bullets into Parker's vehicle by the time he was done
Blanding, for his part, claims that Parker had come back down the street waving a pistol and that he feared Parker would shoot his fellow officer or hit him with his vehicle. Blanding was the only witness to claim Parker had a gun.
Others who were interviewed by detectives only spoke to the manner in which Parker approached the officers in his car. A neighbor says she saw Parker drive up slow in an attempt to "intimidate" the officers, while the grandfather of Parker's child— who was inside at the time— says he heard a "loud engine" come up the street. The officer Parker said was standing in the middle of the road with a gun claims he stepped out of the way
Everyone questioned claimed Parker had been acting erratically in the lead up to the shooting, while each of the off-duty officers claimed he had verbally threatened them.
The prosecutor's office never charged Parker due to insufficient evidence.
Parker says that a week after the shooting, internal affairs investigators and homicide detectives at police headquarters told him that DPD would launch an internal investigation to examine the actions of the officers. Detroit police spokesman Michael Woody, who would not comment on the case because of the lawsuit, did confirm that an investigation had been opened, though he wouldn't say when and declined to divulge its status.
For now, what is known is that after the August 2015 incident, Blanding was able to remain on the force all the way through February of 2017 when he killed
"When I found out it was Blanding [that shot Burton] I feel like it validated what was going on with me even more for people that had suspicions of what could have been," said Parker, who learned Blanding was the officer who killed Burton through media reports. "And then you see his history and, it's like — this guy is a hothead. My question is, what type of help is he receiving after these situations
Parker's lawyer says DPD's approach, thus far, has been to turn a blind eye to the problem that is Blanding.
"It's essentially become known that they aren't going to do anything," said Prescott. "I would feel better if I knew ... people had gone on the record and said maybe we did a psych examination, or we qualified
Detroit police declined to say what, if any, steps have been taken to help or discipline Blanding in the past. The department says it does track uses of force by officers through a database it refers to as an “early intervention system.” Woody says the system is essentially designed “to identify an officer who is likely to engage in
It’s not uncommon for the department to give special supervision to officers like Blanding, says Detroit Board of Police Commissioners Chairman Willie Bell."We have identified officers in the past who might have problems, whether it be citizen complaints or red flags go up, and there’s a great deal of monitoring and counseling that would try to go into those situations," said Bell.
The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality says that in the case of Blanding, however, such an approach would not go far enough.
"This guy should not be on the force," said Chris White, the watchdog group's director of operations. "He has proven over a 22-year period to be an extremely hostile individual."
Blanding, White says, has been able to remain a Detroit cop because the department is more concerned with protecting its reputation than weeding out rogue officers.
"It's an issue of transparency," said White. "It's time to stop trying to cover up this type of behavior because the mayor is up for re-election and it's time to address this issue
But firing an officer who has not been charged with a crime is next to impossible, says Bell. The department just this decade had an officer within its ranks who had shot nine people and killed three of them over the span of six years, forcing the department to pay out more than $7 million in lawsuit settlements. It was only after the DPD accused Eugene Brown of payroll fraud that he exited the department. But Brown left on his own terms: he retired and is likely still receiving a pension.
Blanding, so far, only appears to have cost the department six figures. That's how much the lawyer who represented Crenshaw says the city paid to settle the suit he brought against the department after Blanding's off-duty ATM shooting in 1998.
David Robinson is a lawyer
Robinson has a unique perspective on why some officers might be more likely to pull the trigger than
"What motivates someone like Blanding to forget about his sworn responsibility not to shoot somebody who is no longer a threat?" asked Robinson. "Is it a mistake? I don’t think so. Is it unjustified fear? In large
For Robinson, Blanding and Brown were accidents waiting to happen.
But just because an officer has shot people on multiple occasions, it doesn't necessarily mean the department considers the officer a risk to the public.
“Each case is investigated on its own merit,” Woody told a local daily paper last month after Metro Times brought the 1998 incident to light. “If there are any factors that are of concern (in the earlier shooting), they will be brought to the forefront and addressed.”
Woody wouldn't comment to Metro Times now that Blanding has turned out to be the triggerman in more than one earlier shooting, but embattled Police Officers Association President Mark Diaz did.
"Because an individual, police officer or otherwise, is ever, at any point in their lifetime, in a situation that requires them to use fatal force, that does not shield them from being in a like situation ever again," Diaz said in an email after he was charged with malicious destruction of property and suspended from the department.
For Blanding's latest known living victim, the hope is that the officer who calls himself Fatal Force will never be in a "like situation ever again." But if that does end up being the case, Parker hopes Blanding will have at least received the proper help first.
"We need police out here to help us out and keep our city safe and our streets safe," said Parker. "He doesn’t need to ... be reacting to situations in this manner. Whatever type of help there might be to improve his decision making under pressure, he needs that."