Groups demand that Nessel investigate the death of Hakim Littleton, shot by Detroit Police | Michigan Radio
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Groups demand that Nessel investigate the death of Hakim Littleton, shot by Detroit Police

Jul 24, 2020

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel should lead an independent investigation into the death of Hakim Littleton, a coalition of activists and members of Littleton’s family said Thursday.

Detroit police shot Littleton to death earlier this month. Police bodycam and dashcam footage appears to show Littleton firing at officers at close range before they shot him.

Hakim Littleton's uncle, Asar Amen-Ra, joined groups calling for an independent investigation into Littleton's death.
Credit Sarah Cwiek / Michigan Radio

But coalition members questioned whether that video footage tells the whole the whole story. They questioned why Detroit Police Chief James Craig said just eight shots were fired, when it appears there were 10. And they claimed that a closer look at the video shows that Littleton was already restrained by officers when the fatal shots were fired. The entire sequence takes place within a matter of seconds.

“What you see in that video is officers already had him detained, and had already kicked the gun away from him, before he was executed at a point-blank range,” said Nakia-Renne Wallace, a leader of Detroit Will Breathe, the group leading Detroit’s ongoing protests against police brutality.

Wallace and other coalition members said Detroit Police can’t be trusted to investigate themselves, and called on Nessel to investigate.

“We want to say that Hakim Littleton was murdered, and he was murdered for no reason other than the fact that he was a young Black man. And because the police, the Detroit Police Department, feels that they have impunity to do whatever they want to do,” said Wallace.

Wallace also called on Detroit Police to end what they have called excessive force against protesters, including the protests that sprung up in the wake of Littleton’s death. They also called for the release of more footage from the events surrounding Littleton’s death.

“We want all of the videos from all of the officers present immediately released,” Wallace said. “Be transparent. Release it from 30 seconds before. We want all of the videos released with sound and audio and no edits.”

Craig has called Littleton’s shooting an appropriate use of force, and suggested that he had an understanding conversation about the events surrounding Littleton’s death with his family — something Littleton’s uncle Asar Amen-Ra adamantly denied.

“Let me tell you right now,” Amen-Ra said. “Hell no, we ain’t satisfied with no explanation, we ain’t satisfied with the investigation they’re done so far, we ain’t satisfied with nothing.”

Amen-Ra said his 20-year-old nephew was not a “gang member,” but a socially conscious young man with a history of negative police interactions. “I've served all of my life in the Black security and Black defense forces protecting our community and my nephew was trained up in the same way,” Amen-Ra said.

Julie Hurwitz, a criminal defense attorney and member of the National Lawyers Guild, said Detroit Police have a history of letting problem officers off the hook for violent and unconstitutional behaviors.

“They are fraught with secrecy,” Hurwitz said. “They will only find wrongdoing among officers who have dozens, if not scores of similar citizen complaints and use of force investigations against them. The public is never made aware of the violent racist patterns of misconduct and dishonesty committed by so many officers.

“We are entitled to know what really happened out on the corner of McNichols and San Juan on July 10," she said. "Why was Hakim Littleton shot in the head at point blank range? How could this have been avoided?”

Nessel’s office did not respond to questions about whether it was aware of Littleton’s death, or the demand that it launch an investigation.