FBI: Detroit cops lag in cracking cases
Many serious crimes are never solved; police say witnesses stall fireworks,
XL shooting probes.
Ronald J. Hansen / The Detroit News
GET FREE HEADLINES BY E-MAIL
DETROIT -- Two years after one person was shot to death and eight others
were wounded at the city's annual fireworks show, police still don't know
who pulled the trigger.
The case that began as stunning national news and later included the
embarrassment of charging the wrong man lingers unsolved and unforgotten. It
is made all the more frustrating because there were thousands of potential
witnesses and cameras everywhere.
It is a familiar refrain for Detroit, where crime remains a dominant concern
and a shrinking Police Department often struggles to find culprits.
Historically, about eight of every nine serious crimes in Detroit result in
no arrest, according to FBI figures. Even fewer result in a prison sentence.
On the weekend of Super Bowl XL, 24-year-old Kyle Smith was shot dead
outside a Woodward Avenue bar in the heart of the city's football
festivities. At a time when the city was supposed to be safest, when plenty
of people milled about, a gunman shot two people and got away. Nearly five
months later, the police still haven't cracked that case, either.
Smith's sister, Carrie Jimenez of Adrian, is troubled that the family hasn't
even heard from investigators in two months.
"It won't fix it. It won't bring her back," Jimenez, 31, said as she fought
back tears Tuesday. "But I want to ask him, 'Why?' � Deep down, I don't
think they'll ever solve it."
Detroit resident Louis Nelson, who was shot in the chest and leg at the
fireworks, said he still has $1,000 in medical bills from his wounds. But
he's not dwelling on the case anymore.
"I really try not to think about it," he said. "I'm very religious. He's got
to deal with God."
James Tate, a spokesman for the Detroit Police Department, said the
department hasn't given up in these cases, but too often the public has
information about crime but won't come forward.
"It can't be just the police. We need participation from the citizens," he
said. "We have some of the best investigators in the world."
He said investigators in the fireworks case are not expecting a breakthrough
-- unless the public provides more assistance.
Nine people were wounded at Hart Plaza near the end of the fireworks on June
23, 2004. One victim, Donald Murphy, 47, died of complications from his
injuries that August.
The day after the shooting, police charged Daron Tyrese Caldwell with
attempted murder and other felonies. Belated tests on weapons and DNA failed
to link Caldwell to the case, while many witnesses had doubts he was the
shooter. That led Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy to drop the charges
against Caldwell and prompted regular meetings with the police in an effort
to improve investigations.
The case won't go away for another reason: Caldwell is suing the city for
The Hart Plaza shooting and the Super Bowl slaying were two high-profile
cases that garnered plenty of attention to little effect. But countless
other crimes go unsolved every day.
Detroit's overall crime rate has fallen eight years in a row, according to
figures routinely tracked for the FBI. But the city's violent crime rate --
its murders, rapes, robberies and serious assaults -- rose 32 percent in
Most serious crimes in Detroit go unsolved every year, but the number of
arrests in these cases plummeted in 2004, the last year for which figures
are available. Police did not make available Tuesday the 2005 information
the department has already submitted for the annual FBI report.
Despite posting the lowest violent crime rate in the city in decades, the
closure rate for those types of cases in 2004 sank from 35 percent in 2003
to 25 percent in 2004. It was the worst closure rate for violent crime since
1996, when the city had 7,000 more crimes to investigate.
In fact, closure rates in 2004 dropped for all eight major crime categories
tracked by the FBI.
Anyone with information about a crime is asked to contact the police at
You can reach Ronald J. Hansen at (313) 222-2019 or rhansen@...
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]