Kevin Weeks was a career criminal employed as a Mob hitman, but even he possessed sufficient good judgment and self-restraint to avoid risking the life of a seven-year-old girl.
In Brutal, his aptly titled memoir of the years he spent working for Boston Mob boss — and protected FBI asset — James “Whitey” Bulger, Weeks describes how he was given an order to assassinate Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr, who relentlessly tormented Bulger in print. Weeks set up a sniper nest near Carr’s home. He had the target set up for the kill, but didn’t pull the trigger because Carr’s daughter, “a little girl, like seven-years-old or so,” was walking hand-in-hand with her father.
“I couldn’t take a chance of the bullet fragmenting and ricocheting or hitting her or just killing her father in front of her,” recounts Weeks.
This episode, admittedly, is retold from the self-serving perspective of a convicted murderer. Ironically, Carr himself, in his valuable book The Brothers Bulger, relates a somewhat similar story of a proposed contract hit that was vetoed by former Boston Mob boss Raymond Patriarca.
Joe Barboza, a hitman employed by Patriarca, pointed out that the hoodlum targeted by the contract lived in a three-story house in Boston. Barboza suggested that he could “break into the basement and pour gasoline all around and torch the place, after which I either get him with the smoke inhalation or I pick him off when he’s climbing out the window.”
“Barboza had worked out a plan for every contingency,” notes Carr. “He would bring three shooters with him, to watch each side of the house. They would cut the telephone lines to the houses, so that the victim couldn’t call the fire department. And just in case one of the neighbors called, before setting the house on fire Barboza planned to phone in false alarms across the city to tie up every fire company.”
Patriarca, who had few compunctions about killing when it suited him, wasn’t keen on Barboza’s plan, in large measure because of the potential harm to non-combatants.
“Patriarca asked Barboza if anyone else lived in [the targeted hoodlum's] house, and Barboza mentioned the victim’s mother,” continues Carr.
“You’re gonna kill his mother too?” asked Patriarca.
“It ain’t my fault she lives there,” the hitman snorted by way of reply.
“Patriarca canceled the contract,” Carr tersely summarizes. Barboza, not surprisingly, proved to be too ruthless and deranged for the Mob, and ended up — like Bulger — as another of the FBI’s protected assets.
It is a monumental pity that the Detroit Special Response Team, or the decision-makers above them in the Detroit PD, didn’t have the sense of proportionality displayed by Mob figures like Kevin Weeks and Raymond Patriarca. If they had, the murder suspect they sought — 34-year-old Chauncey Owens — could have been taken into custody without the midnight paramilitary raid that resulted in the burning and shooting death of seven-year-old Aiyana Jones.
Shortly after midnight on May 16, while Aiyana — a radiant little girl who might have grown up to resemble Zoe Saldana — was sleeping on the downstairs living room sofa where she would be killed just a few minutes later, the raid team gathered for a “safety briefing.”
As described by police sources to the Detroit Free Press, that briefing dealt entirely with considerations of “officer safety,” which — as any honest observer will admit — is the highest and most important consideration in any law enforcement operation.
The raid team “was told there was information that the suspect might be armed, possibly with an assault rifle and a handgun,” reports the Free Press. “Someone said there also might be dangerous dogs and that the house was believed to be a possible dope den.”
Another intelligence source speculated that the unprepossesing duplex might actually be the location of the missing Iraqi WMDs, which had been stored in a basement vault guarded by a basilisk.
No, not really.
But in its anxiety over officer safety, and its eagerness to stage a properly impressive raid for the benefit of the embedded A&E camera crew, the SRT did not take into account “the possibility of any children being present,” despite the fact that the front yard was littered with toys — a clue that even a police officer should be able to recognize — and warnings to that effect offered by neighbors as the raid unfolded.
Street officers and homicide detectives were already on the scene when the SRT’s armored personnel carrier rolled up in front of the duplex.
The APC was driven by Officer Joseph Weekley, who was also the first through the door after a flash-bang grenade had been thrown through the window. Weekley went barreling into the living room armed with a machine gun and protected by a ballistic shield.
Meanwhile, Aiyana — according to at least one eyewitness — was being severely burned by the incendiary grenade that had been thrown into her bed.
It’s not clear whether Aiyana suffered her fatal gunshot wound before or after Weekley entered the house. In either case, Officer Weekley has been identified as the shooter. He initially claimed that his gun accidentally went off during a “scuffle” with Aiyana’s 47-year-old grandmother.
Within a few hours that account was “clarified” by the police, who said that there was incidental “contact” between Weekley and Aiyana’s grandmother; the latter denies having contact of any kind with Weekley.
Geoffrey Fieger, the attorney representing Aiyana’s family, claims to have seen a videotape of the raid showing that the shot was fired into the house shortly after the grenade was hurled through the downstairs window.
Chauncey Owens, who has been charged with the murder of 17-year-old Je’Rean Blake, was arrested in the upstairs flat, a separate domicile from the one in which Aiyana was killed. Prior to the SRT raid, Owens had been seen on the streets near the duplex. There was no reason — well, none not dictated by the demands of Homeland Security Theater — to mount a midnight paramilitary operation to take Owens into custody.
Why wasn’t an effort made to arrest him on the streets — after staking out the duplex, if necessary? That question, of course, fails to take into account the “reality TV” camera crew. Once that factor is considered, it’s a matter of res ipsa loquitir.
A&E’s Detroit SWAT program made Joseph Weekley a television star. The May 16 raid, as some veteran police officers might put it, wasn’t Weekley’s first rodeo. Nor was this the first time his conduct put children at severe risk.
Weekley took part in a February 2007 SRT raid on a Detroit residence occupied by several children. A lawsuit filed on behalf of the family claims that the SRT gunned down two dogs “without any justifiable reason whatsoever,” and that during the operation the officers “had their guns pointed at … [a] child and [an] infant.”
In that 2007 raid Weekley and his comrades were pursuing a suspect in an armed robbery. As was the case last Sunday, the SRT wasn’t dealing with a hostage situation or a barricaded shooter, let alone a heavily armed serial killer on a rampage. None of the people terrorized by the raid and detained at gunpoint was charged in connection with the crime. At least in that earlier incident, the SRT — in what appears to be an example of unwonted restraint — declined to use a flash-bang grenade.
Paramilitary units like the Detroit SRT are used to carry out what are described as “high-risk” operations. This description is generally true — when applied to those targeted by the raids; the risks experienced by the heavily armed raiders in body armor are minuscule.
On average, between 100—150 such raids take place every day in this supposedly free country. Most of them are narcotics enforcement actions against people involved in non-violent, consensual behavior. Typically, the only “risk” confronted by law enforcement personnel in such circumstances is the possibility that if they knock on the door and present their warrant the evidence will disappear down the toilet. Under this order of priorities, the convenience of prosecutors enforcing asinine drug laws is served at the expense of those brutalized and often killed without reason in their own homes.
The decision to carry out a SRT raid was almost certainly dictated by the media ambitions of Detroit Police Chief Warren Evans, who — in the words of Detroit News columnist Charlie LeDuff — is positioning himself as a “reality TV” star.
“Television executives around the country have been shown what is known in television parlance as the ‘sizzle reel’ of Chief Evans himself, a video compilation of Detroit’s top cop trying to take back the streets,” writes LeDuff, who saw that footage several weeks ago. “It is part of a pitch for a full-blown television series.”
As Detroit’s civic and economic implosion accelerates, the city has become an irresistible setting for state-centric media outlets “peddling mayhem,” continues LeDuff. “Spike TV featured the Detroit bureau of the Drug Enforcement Administration in 2008. A&E is taping a season of ‘Parking Wars’ here; production on a series about the Fire Department wrapped late last year. Even Animal Planet is in on the deal with ‘Animal Cops Detroit.’”
Chief Evans’ “reality” show pitch begins with the uniformed bureaucrat “gripping a semi-automatic rifle, standing in front of crumbling Michigan Central Depot, staring down a camera and declaring that he’ll do whatever it takes to take his city back from crime. The camera will tag along with Warren Evans as he goes on house raids, smokes cigars with his underlings and recalls words to live by told to him by his mother.”
LeDuff’s disclosures do much to explain why the A&E camera crew went along on the SRT raid that killed Aiyana Jones, and why the Department chose to stage a midnight “Shock and Awe” operation rather than quietly bringing in the suspect.
Aiyana Jones was killed because the Detroit PD wanted to boost Chief Evans’s Q Score.
Nearly two decades ago, millions of Americans were mortified by the assault on Randy Weaver’s family in northern Idaho and the federal siege of the Branch Davidians at Mt. Carmel.
In the first atrocity, FBI sniper Lon Horiuchi proved — by gunning down a nursing mother who was cradling her infant daughter — that he wasn’t burdened with the scruples that prevented Kevin Weeks from pulling the trigger on Howie Carr.
The latter episode ended with the FBI (aided by the Delta Force) carrying out — on a much larger scale — an arson/murder plan very similar to the one proposed by Mob hitman Joe Barboza, and vetoed by Mob boss Raymond Patriarca. As Barboza proposed, the Feds pumped the Branch Davidian dwelling full of gas and, when the fire erupted, used snipers to pick off anybody attempting to flee the holocaust. They even interdicted fire and emergency crews while the victims burned and suffocated.
Waco and Ruby Ridge were anomalous only in the sense that they were large, well-publicized versions of the daily acts of state terrorism carried out by the Regime, both here and abroad. Pashtun and Tajik families terrorized by Special Forces raids in Afghanistan could profitably compare notes with survivors of SWAT raids in the United States.
Jason Moon, who served with the U.S. Army in Iraq, brought back a video in which a sergeant told his troops that “The difference between an insurgent and an Iraqi civilian is whether they are dead or alive.” For the benefit of those who fail to take that sergeant’s meaning, Moon explains: “If you kill a civilian he becomes an insurgent because you retroactively make that person a threat.”
Jason Washburn, who served three tours in Iraq, has recounted how troops were encouraged to carry “drop guns” to be deposited near newly-minted “insurgents”; eventually, this instruction was modified to permit “drop shovels,” since a solider in the heat of combat must assume that someone armed with a shovel was planting an IED, and the holy imperative of “force protection” dictates that he take no chances.
By his third tour of Iraq, recounts Marine Jason Wayne Lemue, the rules of engagement had achieved a certain compelling clarity: “[W]e were told to just shoot people and the officers would take care of us.”
Terrifying as all of this is, the really bad news is that there is substantial reason to believe that there are fewer restrictions on the use of lethal force by domestic paramilitary police than there are on U.S. military personnel operating overseas.
This trend will likely grow much worse when the Homeland Security Apparatus is filled with veterans of the Empire’s current foreign campaigns. You know, the kind of people who can blithely dismiss the anguish of a father whose children have been gunned down by foreign invaders by saying, “Well, it’s their fault for bringing their children to a battle.”
I can’t help but see just a hint of that casual sadism in the following detail regarding the death of Aiyana Jones: Charles Jones recalls that after he heard a flash grenade followed by a gunshot, he rushed into the living room, where “police forced him to lie on the ground, with his face in his daughter’s blood.”
It was a terrible thing, of course. But at least the troops were safe. And, as Joe Barboza might observe, it wasn’t the SRT’s fault that Aiyana lived there.