2 shot, killed in northwest Detroit

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Two men in their early 20s were fatally shot while sitting in a car early Wednesday on Detroit’s west side, police said.

The double homicide took place about 2:15 a.m. on the 20000 block of Glastonbury, which is in the northwest part of Detroit, south of West Eight Mile and west of the Southfield Freeway.

Police arrived at the location to find the two victims “unresponsive,” having been shot multiple times, in the front seat of a gray Chevy Malibu.

The man found in the driver’s seat is a black male in his 20s, who suffered multiple gunshot wounds. He wore a gray sweater and Jumpman (Michael Jordan brand) jogging pants. His passenger was a 21-year-old black male, who also suffered multiple gunshot wounds. He wore a blue windbreaker and gray basketball shorts. Both men were pronounced dead at the scene.

There is no suspect description as yet.

Detroit council OKs bonds for Pistons move

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The Pistons announced their intentions to come back to the city at a press conference in November. The announcement featured Mayor Mike Duggan, Chris IIitch of Ilitch Holdings, Pistons owner Tom Gores and NBA commissioner Adam Silver.(Photo: Detroit News)

 

The City Council approved $34.5 million in taxpayer-funded bonds on Tuesday to make modifications to the Little Caesars Arena to allow the Detroit Pistons to play there this fall.

The measure was passed 7-2 with Council President Brenda Jones and council member Raquel Castaneda-Lopez voting no.

The council took up the matter after a federal judge late Monday declined to issue a preliminary injunction that would have blocked the Detroit Downtown Development Authority from capturing taxes to pay for the bonds.

Approval of the bonds have cleared the way for the NBA’s Board of Governors to vote on the team’s move from Auburn Hills to Detroit at its next quarterly meeting on July 11.

After the vote, Jones said she does support the Pistons coming to Detroit, but “there are things I do not support.”

“That is looking at what happens past the Pistons just coming to Detroit and looking for the future and what happens in the future with Detroit, with employment, with education and to me, there is not enough guarantee in writing to what the Pistons will do for Detroiters past the fact of building and relocating the facility in the days to come,” she said.

District 5 Councilwoman Mary Sheffield on Tuesday noted she had several negotiations with the Pistons over additional community benefits. Some were included, others were not, she said.

“Was it the best deal? No, I don’t believe that it was,” she said. “But I do believe that as we move forward I will have ongoing negotiations with the Pistons to make sure that the residents in District 5 truly benefit from this development in the city of Detroit.”

Earlier this month, the panel voted 7-2 in favor of several associated agreements including a $20 million brownfield tax incentive, development plan and community benefits for the Pistons planned practice facility and headquarters. Jones and Castaneda-Lopez also cast the lone no votes.

The head of the Detroit Economic Growth Corp. on Tuesday credited the council for being able to “honestly and openly consider the merits of the plan before them” and not distracted by what he contends has been “misinformation that has been circulated in the media.”

“Instead, they focused on the facts of the plan, and those facts speak for themselves — significant economic benefits with no new taxes and no impact on city or public school operating funds,” said Glen W. Long Jr., chief financial officer and interim president and CEO of the DEGC.

Mayor Mike Duggan added the passage of the DDA bonds for the Pistons was a “bigger win” than the earlier court ruling.

“It’s a remarkable day,” said Duggan during a Downtown Detroit Partnership stakeholder meeting in the city.

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Mark Goldsmith, in a written opinion, said the plaintiffs in a lawsuit — activist Robert Davis and city clerk candidate D. Etta Wilcoxon — failed to demonstrate the right to vote guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution is being violated by the team’s move.

The pair sued the DDA, seeking a temporary restraining order against the tax authority and voter approval before tax dollars could be used for the arena.

The two have alleged the DDA and the Detroit Brownfield Redevelopment Authority are illegally using tax revenues intended for the city’s public school students and Wayne County parks to finance construction of the facilities.

Last week, attorneys for the taxing entities asked Goldsmith to toss the suit, alleging it could derail the project, prevent the team’s move to Detroit and cause “massive harm” to the city.

Davis on Tuesday said the battle is far from over.

In a court filing, he and Wilcoxon contend any decision made Tuesday by council regarding the DDA bonds violates Michigan’s Open Meetings Act and will be subject to invalidation. He’s also referenced plans to file a separate action in Wayne County Circuit Court over the panel’s decision on the bonds and the Pistons.

They also intend to appeal Goldsmith’s ruling on the injunction with the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in the coming days.

“What happened today means absolutely nothing,” Davis said Tuesday. “It’s far from over, and I’m very confident in the end, the citizens of the city of Detroit are going to have a right to vote on the question.”

LaMar Lemmons, a board member of the Detroit Public Schools Community District, said Tuesday he is among several board members seeking to convene a special meeting Thursday to consider whether to put the measure before voters in November.

Lemmons said he feels “disrespected” by the council’s action on Tuesday and the developer “needs to do something for our children.”

“It has never even been presented to the elected members of the (school) board by City Council,” he said. “They have not conveyed to us what their intentions were or that we should come before them to express our collective opinion.”

The majority of the seven-member school board would have to vote in favor of the ballot initiative for it to proceed, Lemmons said.

The state reimburses the district through the School Aid Fund for any shortfalls that are the result of tax deals or other shortages. But other local entities which collect taxes, such as the Detroit Public Library, do not get reimbursed.

So far, about 62 percent or nearly $539 million of the Little Caesars Arena project is from private financing and the rest — $324 million overall — is government financed. The arena and other developments are estimated to cost a total of $862.9 million.

Members of the public who spoke at Tuesday’s formal session were divided over the bond approval.

Rick Mahorn, a former Detroit Piston, was among those who spoke at public comment, urging council to “do their due diligence” to get the team downtown.

“It’s very intriguing, the city is getting back to where it used to be,” Mahorn told council. “This move for the Pistons is just wholehearted.”

But John C. Mozena, vice present for marketing and communications for the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, told council the deal is a bad one for Detroit.

This proposed subsidy for the Pistons is not good public policy,” he said. “It will not improve the lives of people in Detroit. It should not be approved by this council. They can do this without your help.”

Peregrine falcon population on the rise in Michigan

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A peregrine falcon circles outside the windows near its nest while the chicks are checked out and banded by the DNR and Detroit Zoological Society at the Old Macomb County Building in Mt. Clemens, Mich. on June 1, 2015.

 

Michigan’s peregrine falcon population has risen remarkably in the last 30 years, state officials announced.

Since 1987 the population of peregrine falcons, which are considered endangered in Michigan, has grown from five young birds to 15 nesting pairs, according to a report released last week by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

In 2016, the pairs reared 30 young with nearly half of them in southeast Michigan, officials said.

“The peregrine falcon recovery in southeast Michigan is a true conservation success story,” said Christine Becher, southeast Michigan peregrine falcon nesting coordinator for the DNR. “…We share the same ecosystem with peregrine falcons, and if southeast Michigan is cleaner for peregrine falcons, it is cleaner for all of us.”

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Peregrine falcon chicks look inside the Old Macomb County Building’s window after they have been checked out and banded in Mt. Clemens on June 1, 2015. (Photo: Robin Buckson / Detroit News file photo)

Southeast Michigan, especially along the Detroit River and its connecting waterways, is a significant part of the peregrines habitat in Michigan, according to the DNR report.

Adult peregrines are crow-sized birds with slate-gray backs, barred breasts and a wingspan of 36 to 44 inches, according to the DNR. The young birds have brown backs and heavily streaked breasts. All peregrines have prominent cheek marks that look like a mustache on each side of their head.

The state began efforts to save its peregrine population in 1986 and the falcons began reproducing successfully in 1993, officials said.

In 2016, there were 54 nest sites in the state, officials said. Of the 29 sites that produced young, 13 were in southeast Michigan.

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Michigan’s peregrine falcon population has risen remarkably in the last 30 years, state officials announced. (Photo: Picasa / Barb Baldinger)

Each spring Macomb County holds a banding ceremony for its newest peregrine falcons. The first successful nest in the area was on a ledge of the Old Macomb County Building in downtown Mount Clemens in 2008. Since the, peregrine falcons Nick and Hathor, have produced 53 eggs and 26 chicks.

The Eckert Power Station just south of downtown Lansing is among the nest sites. The Lansing Board of Water & Light created the site in 2004 after a staff member shared an interest in endangered birds, said Stephen Serkaian, executive director of public affairs for the Lansing board. Since that time 50 eggs have been laid.

On Thursday, the utility invited the DNR and Potter Park Zoo to band its newest peregrine falcon chicks, three females named Dory, Olive and Misha. The chicks also had their blood drawn and were checked for parasites.

“We have tremendous interest in the Lansing area about the birds,” Serkaian said. “In fact, especially this time of year when the chicks are hatched and the male and female adult birds are feeding them you can see them soaring all around downtown landing as they hunt for food and return to the nest.”

Peregrine can reach speeds up to 180 miles per hour as they dive to catch their prey, according to the DNR. Their diet typically consist of small birds, including pigeons, songbirds and seabirds.

Serkaian said he’s pleased the utility has been able to help the peregrine population. He’s hope to one day see the bird removed from the state’s endangered species list.

“That would be a win-win for everyone,” he said. “A win for the species and a win for our community’s commitment to support efforts to become a greener and cleaner utility.”

Competency exam increase strains system in Detroit area

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Child-killer Mitchelle Blair, said “this (exam) is irrelevant.”

 

Requests for mental evaluations for criminal defendants — commonly known as competency exams — are on the rise in Metro Detroit courts, creating a strain on the state mental health facility that conducts them.

Since 2012, the number of evaluations ordered has increased more than 20 percent, according to data from the Forensic Center for Forensic Psychiatry in Ypsilanti, where the competency exams are conducted. The center’s budget for 2017 is $81.2 million.

The center conducted 8,212 mental competency exams for courts in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties in the past five years. Last year, 1,874 exams were done, up from 1,475 in 2012.

“There has been a remarkable increase,” said Dr. Donna Rinnas, director of evaluation services for the Forensics Center.

Rinnas said the surge in requests has created a logjam of cases.

Evaluations can take two to three months to complete, but officials are working to cut down on the delays, she said.

“We had an extensive wait list, which we’ve been able to cut back,” Rinnas said. “The department has made that a priority.”

Gregory Green was given a competency exam in October.

Gregory Green was given a competency exam in October. (Photo: Jose Juarez / Special to The Detroit News)

Solutions include offering overtime to psychologists and other staff members who conduct the competency examinations.

The increase in the center’s caseload has led to delays in court proceedings and has prosecutors and defense attorneys concerned.

Mark Reene, the director of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, said the bottleneck is having a “significant impact on the justice system, crime victims and defendants.”

He said the delays cause additional frustration for crime victims who have to show up to testify twice if a hearing is adjourned.

But in many cases, an evaluation can’t be avoided, Reene said — if there’s reason to believe a defendant may not be fit to stand trial, a competency exam must be ordered.

Such tests have been conducted in some of Metro Detroit’s biggest murder cases, including one in which a Dearborn Heights man, Gregory Green, killed his two younger daughters and his teenaged stepchildren last September inside the family’s home.

Green was given a competency examination in October. The evaluation indicated Green was competent to stand trial, and he pleaded guilty in February to murdering the four children. Green was sentenced to 47-102 years in prison by Judge Dana Hathaway of Wayne County Circuit Court.

Green’s exam wasn’t his first, either. He also requested an evaluation in 1991 when he was charged with stabbing his pregnant wife, Tonya, to death. Green was convicted and served 16 years in prison; the results of that exam were not available in his court file.

Timothy Fradeneck stands during his arraignment, WednesdayBuy Photo

Timothy Fradeneck stands during his arraignment, Wednesday afternoon, April 15, 2015, in Eastpointe, Mich. Fradeneck, 38, was charged with first-degree murder in the deaths of his wife and children, whose bodies were found in their Eastpointe home. (Photo: Todd McInturf / The Detroit News)

Reene said he believes the growing demand for competency exams results from a lack of resources to treat the mentally ill.

“This really is not a surprise,” he said. “There just aren’t enough of the necessary services available. The (delay) can be very, very frustrating, depending on what side of the courtroom you sit on.”

Metro Detroit defense attorney Lillian Diallo said many of the defendants who are undergoing competency exams have mental illnesses that have not been diagnosed.

“There is a whole jail system of people who are undiagnosed, untreated or have been diagnosed and (are) not being treated,” she said. “You start seeing things that the safety net might not be able to catch. (Defendants) are not being treated. They are being shuffled through the system.”

Diallo said lawyers have a “duty” to request a competency examination when they are not certain of a client’s ability to understand and to take part in his or her own defense.

Sometimes, she said, it is difficult for attorneys to communicate with defendants who demonstrate obvious signs that they might be mentally ill or unable to understand what is taking place in court.

“When you talk to them, you don’t understand what they don’t understand,” Diallo said. “They have to be able to assist in their defense.”

Birmingham psychiatrist Dr. Gerald Shiener, who has conducted many competency exams, said the increase in demand results from the “underfunding and dismantling” of Michigan’s mental health care system.

Shiener said the increasing availability of firearms coupled with the lack of treatment for the mentally ill is causing a “perfect storm” of violent crimes that are clogging the justice system.

Debate continues on whether defendants who exhibit extremely violent behavior are correctly diagnosed by the tests.

Michigan law states that a defendant is deemed competent to stand trial if the person is able to assist their lawyer in their defense by their ability to perform tasks “reasonably” necessary to prepare for their defense for their trial. Conversely, the defendant is considered incompetent if their mental condition makes them incapable of understanding the court proceedings.

In one especially notorious case, Mitchelle Blair was sentenced to life in prison in 2015 for killing two of her children and placing them in a freezer in the family’s home. Blair was ordered to undergo a competency exam but refused a criminal responsibility exam, which determines the person’s state of mind during the alleged crime.

After her competency exam, at least one doctor declared Blair, 38, fit to stand trial, but the defendant objected and insisted during a hearing that she wanted to plead guilty, which she eventually did.

“This (exam) is irrelevant,” Blair said at the time. “I know my rights, I’m pleading to life in prison.”

She eventually was allowed to plead guilty.

Shiener, who performed a competency exam on Blair, determined she was competent to stand trial.

“She understood the charges. The roles of the people in the courtroom. She understood the penalty,” Shiener said.

In some cases, defendants are found incompetent and treated before they are tested again to see if their competency has been restored. Michigan has 19 months before a person can be deemed permanently incompetent.

That individual can continue to be treated until his or her competency is restored. In rare cases, criminal charges can be dropped eventually if a defendant is not found competent.

In the case of Detroit mom Deanna Minor, whose 2-year-old son was found dead in her apartment near Wayne State University in May 2016, an exam in August found her incompetent to stand trial. Case workers had complained that the mom, in her late 20s, was acting irrationally weeks before the boy was found dead in a bedroom of the apartment on Trumbull Avenue.

Minor has been charged with felony murder, second-degree murder, first- and second-degree child abuse and failure to report a dead body in connection with her child’s death. She is due back in court in August.

2 sought in west Detroit carjacking

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Surveillance images of two suspects who allegedly carjacked a 28-year-old man early Friday on the city’s west side.

 

Detroit police are working to find two people wanted in connection with a carjacking reported early Friday on the city’s west side.

An armed man and an accomplice allegedly approached a motorist at about 1 a.m. in the 14800 block of W. Seven Mile, ordered the 28-year-old to drive his red 2014 Chevrolet Cruze near Lauder, then forced him out, investigators said in a statement.

The victim was not injured in the incident.

To generate tips from the public, authorities released surveillance images of the suspects Friday.

One is described as an African-American man in his early 20s, 5-foot-5, 130 pounds, with a dark complexion. He was last seen armed with a handgun.

Surveillance images of two suspects who allegedly carjacked

Surveillance images of two suspects who allegedly carjacked a 28-year-old man early Friday on the city’s west side. (Photo: Detroit Police Department)

The other suspect is described as a black male in his 20s, 5-foot-9, 170 pounds, with a light complexion.

Anyone with information is asked to call Detroit Police Commercial Auto Theft Detectives at (313) 596-2555. Anonymous tips can also be submitted through the DPD Connect app or contacting HEAT at (800) 242-HEAT.

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