Man shot in foot at Detroit strip club

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Crime tape.

 

Detroit police responded to a shooting early Saturday at a strip club on the city’s northeast side.

At 1:30 a.m., police dispatched to the Erotic City Gentlemen's Club, located at 19326 Conant Street, on reports of an injured victim. 

Upon arrival, they found a 22-year-old male victim who suffered a gunshot wound to his right foot. Police said he was privately taken to the hospital and is in stable condition. 

The victim told police he was sitting inside a vehicle outside Erotic City when two suspects approached and began shooting. 

Police are still looking for two male suspects who fled the scene armed with handguns. 

No further information has been released on the suspects.

Judge strikes down Detroit’s medical pot initiative

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Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Robert Colombo

 

A judge on Friday overturned a medical marijuana initiative Detroit voters approved last year that would have changed city zoning rules.

In his decision late in the afternoon, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Robert Colombo also rolled back part of another initiative voters also passed in November that changed the distance requirements between medical marijuana facilities and other dispensaries, parks, day-care centers, liquor stores and arcades.

Colombo’s order came hours after he denied two lawsuits filed in December to throw out the proposals.

Colombo said in court Friday he would allow the city to challenge the medical marijuana initiatives. Citizens for Sensible Cannabis, which petitioned for the proposals last year, became the defendant in the case. James Noseda, a city attorney, filed the city’s claim Friday.

The city’s law department wanted the court to toss the voter initiatives because “one cannot zone by voter initiative,” Detroit Corporation Counsel Lawrence Garcia said earlier this week.

In his ruling, Colombo said a state Supreme Court case “dictates that the citizens of a home rule city cannot, absent compliance with the (Michigan Zoning Enabling Act), employ a voter initiative to rezone property.”

The city of Detroit was initially listed as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by two residents — Marcus Cummins and Deborah Omokehinde — and another claim by VK Real Estate Holdings III LLC, which represents a property seeking a permit to operate a medical marijuana caregiver center.

Colombo said the court added Citizens for Sensible Cannabis as a defendant because the city of Detroit also wanted the voter-approved initiatives thrown out.

“What was very clear to me was that we did not have an actual controversy because the city of Detroit actually agreed with the position of the plaintiffs,” Colombo said.

Garcia said Friday night the city “is pleased with Judge Colombo’s order and opinion granting the city’s motion for declaratory judgement as to the voter initiatives that involve zoning.”

In their lawsuit, Cummins and Omokehinde asked the court to declare the medical marijuana initiatives unconstitutional.

The pair argued the measures made “a substantial portion of residential and commercial property valueless” by allowing more medical marijuana facilities to operate. They also said they believed the zoning expansion allowed in the proposals was illegal.

“We’re not anti-marijuana, we just want regulations,” said Cummins, who is considering appealing Colombo’s decision. “We’re not trying to see (medical marijuana facilities) on every corner, and our kids deserve better than that.”

During the hearing, Colombo said he believed Cummins and Omokehinde failed to establish their standing in the case.

“The fact that they are taxpayers and owners of real estate in Detroit does not establish any special injury distinct from any other taxpayers or residents in the city of Detroit,” Colombo said.

In the VK Real Estate Holdings III LLC lawsuit, the business argues that zoning laws can’t be altered by voters and the city of Detroit should not have allowed the initiatives to appear on the ballot.

But Colombo said the lawsuit failed to demonstrate how the plaintiff would be exclusively impacted by the voter initiatives.

“The allegation that the state might not approve their license is true of anyone who may apply for a license,” Colombo said. “There is no special interest.”

Jonathan Barlow, spokesman for Citizens for Sensible Cannabis, said Detroit blindsided him in the case because he thought city officials were neutral on the medical marijuana issue.

Detroit, he said, has tried to “control” the medical marijuana industry as opposed to working with residents.

“If there was ever a time where the citizens should be happy, it’s now,” Barlow said after the hearing. “Simply because their will is actually being heard versus a select few who have been civically engaged and have the ear of the elected officials.”

Barlow said his group is considering an appeal but “it’s still depending on how much engagement really takes place with the city and the industry. Prior to this, there’s been little conversation between the actual elected officials and industry stakeholders. There is still opportunity for some type of resolve to take place for long term success.”

The medical marijuana ballot proposals passed in November replaced the ordinance Detroit City Council approved in 2016.

Funeral Tuesday for DPD officer killed in crash

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Darren Weathers, 25.

 

Information on the funeral for a Detroit police officer who died in a car crash on the city’s southwest side Tuesday was released Friday.

Detroit Police officials said a vigil for officer Darren Weathers will be held at 5 p.m. Saturday at the Second Precinct, 13530 Lesure near Grand River Avenue and Interstate 96.

They said viewing for Weathers will be 5-8 p.m. Sunday and 2-8 p.m. Monday at Rosedale Park Baptist Church, 14179 Evergreen. The funeral will be held at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Second Ebenezer Church, 14601 Dequindre, according to officials.

On Tuesday, Weathers, 25, was on Michigan Avenue near Clark on the city’s southwest side, traveling in an unmarked police vehicle, according to authorities.

Police Chief James Craig said Weathers, affectionately called “Lucky,” was alone in the vehicle at about 11:35 a.m. when the accident occurred. It’s not clear what caused the crash, he said.

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Officer Darren Weathers crashed his car at Michigan Avenue and Clark. Investigators aren’t sure if he was part of a training exercise. (Photo: Max Ortiz, The Detroit News)

Weathers was part of the Detroit Police Department for less than two years. He attended Crockett Career and Technical Center and served in Afghanistan from 2012 to 2015. He also has a young daughter who was traveling from Georgia to stay with him this week. 

“He was just a stand-up guy since we were younger, stood by and on his word, a true hero, one of few police officers that was really for the people in urban communities,” said his cousin Mykel Weathers. “A great father, just a life gone too soon.”

Traffic fine decline saps local coffers in Michigan

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The number of tickets issued in Michigan has plummeted over the past three decades, a decline experts attribute to overall staffing shortages.(Photo: Robin Buckson / The Detroit News, file)

 

Cops across the state are writing a historically low number of traffic tickets — good news for motorists but bad news for courts and municipalities that depend on the revenue they generate.

The number of tickets issued in Michigan has plummeted over the past three decades, a decline experts attribute to overall staffing shortages. From 2006 to 2016, the most recent year for which statistics are available, there was a 45 percent drop-off in traffic ticket cases handled by district courts statewide, per the State Court Administrator’s Office.

The 1.38 million traffic citations handled by Michigan’s district courts in 2016, including pending and reopened cases, is the lowest since at least 1982, when there were 2.3 million total tickets. Reports prior to 1982 were formatted differently, making comparisons to later years difficult.

In some Metro Detroit district courts, which handle civil traffic violations, the declines have been sharper. Tickets in Inkster’s 22nd District Court dropped 80 percent from 2006-16. Detroit’s 36th District Court, which annually handles the most tickets in the state, is down from 320,824 to 147,893 traffic cases during that time, a 54 percent drop.

The lenient traffic enforcement has not led to more accidents. Crashes, injuries and traffic-related deaths were all slightly down from 2006-16, according to Michigan State Police, with only a 1 percent drop in the state’s population.

While the decline in ticket-writing is good for motorists, it’s resulted in less money for courts and municipalities. The state House Fiscal Agency estimates statewide ticket revenue has dropped from about $150 million in 2006 to about $100 million in 2016.

“This issue is really a symptom of a much larger issue,” Michigan Municipal League spokesman Matt Bach said. “It is related to the fact that Michigan has consistently disinvested in its communities in the last decade. Since 2002, Michigan is the only state in the nation to decrease its revenue to municipalities.”

Experts say a well-documented police manpower shortage is largely responsible for the decline.

“The backbone of our police department is response to the community, doing police runs,” said Dearborn Heights deputy police chief Michael Petri, whose officers wrote 59 percent fewer tickets from 2006-16. “We’ve got to protect our citizens, so when you don’t have enough officers, traffic details get cut.”

The number of officers in Dearborn Heights has dropped from 86 in 2006 to 44, Petri said. Inkster, which had the biggest drop in tickets over the 10-year period in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, lost 56 percent of its police officers from 2006-16, according to FBI manpower data.

Some cops say they’re being scrutinized by citizens more than ever, making officers reluctant to pull over motorists for minor traffic infractions.

“It’s getting so some officers would just as soon not stop a car,” said James Tagnanelli, president of the Police Officers Association of Michigan, the state’s largest police union.

“Every car has two or three people with cellphone cameras in it now, and they’re videotaping the officer’s every move, and being confrontational,” Tagnanelli said. “It’s not like the officers have anything to hide, but that can be very distracting, and it can take their focus off the matter at hand.

“Add that to all the things that can go wrong in a traffic stop, like a vehicle striking an officer, and you can see why a lot of officers say it’s not worth it to stop people for things like going a few miles over the speed limit,” he said.

Ten years ago, the National Motorists Association ranked Michigan as the worst state for speed traps, based on the number of citizen complaints the organization received. But that’s changed, said Jim Walker, legislative director of the group’s Michigan branch.

“Michigan has become a lot less of a speed trap state,” Walker said. “It’s not perfect, but at one time we were one of the worst in the country, and now we’re hearing a lot fewer complaints.”

Exceptions to the rule

But drivers beware: In a handful of Metro Detroit communities, the number of tickets written over the past decade has skyrocketed.

Statistics for individual police departments were not available from the State Court Administrator’s Office, and many district courts serve multiple communities. Of the 43 district courts in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties, only seven saw increases from 2006-16.

“I got pulled over twice on Coolidge (in Lincoln Park) for speeding,” Allen Park resident Ken Fuller said. “They have a speed trap over there, and they pull people over one by one. The last time, they said I was going 10 mph over the speed limit, but I know I wasn’t.”

Fuller said he paid the $195 fine anyway.

The 25th District Court, which encompasses Ecorse, Lincoln Park and River Rouge, saw a 68 percent jump in traffic citations since 2006. Hamtramck police wrote 65 percent more tickets during the period. Other than Ecorse, phone calls to those police departments were not returned.

Ecorse police Chief Mike Moore said he doesn’t have statistics going back to 2006, but said the number of tickets written by his officers has stayed about the same since he became chief in 2013.

“We had a meeting awhile back where we discussed this,” Moore said. “Lincoln Park is bigger, so they write the most tickets; and while River Rouge is smaller, they also write more than we do.”

Moore said he redeployed his lone traffic officer five years ago to a narcotics task force because of manpower issues, adding that his department has 18 full-time officers. Ecorse did not submit manpower data to the FBI in 2006, and Moore said he’s not sure how many officers were in the department before he arrived.

“I’d like to have at least 10 more officers,” he said. “Our manpower is horrific.”

How speed limits are set

Walker agreed the drop in tickets is partially due to fewer police on the roads, but he also credited citizens being aware of laws that require road authorities to set speed limits according to a specific formula.

A law passed in 2006 requires communities to set limits based on the speed at which 85 percent of drivers are traveling at the time a study is conducted. Limits are also based on the number of driveways or cross streets that intersect a given stretch of road. If no study is done, a 55-mph limit applies by default, except in some cases such as subdivisions or business districts.

Walker and others complained to The Detroit News in the years following the passage of PA 85 that municipalities were not following the law. A new law, which passed in 2016 and went into effect Jan. 5, mandated the same formula to set speed limits. Walker said more communities are adhering to it.

“By no means are all the speed limits fixed yet, but those that haven’t been fixed are subject to challenge, and if you’re in a real court with a real judge who can actually read the law, it’s clear whether it’s a legal limit or not,” Walker said. “Police know the word has gotten out that these artificially low speed limits are being challenged, so they’ve slowed down on writing tickets on those roads.”

In April, the Michigan Department of Transportation and Michigan State Police identified 900 miles of non-freeway state highways for speed limit increases to 65 mph, and 600 miles of freeway for speed limit increases to 75 mph. Most of those increases were in the northern part of the state, with none in Metro Detroit, MDOT spokeswoman Diane Cross said.

The amount of revenue a municipality or court is allowed to keep from traffic tickets depends on the violation. Based on the Michigan Vehicle Code, there are three types of revenue garnered from traffic tickets: fines, court costs and statutory assessments. Depending on whether a ticket is written for violating state statutes or local ordinances, a portion of revenue is earmarked for the state’s library fund, or the justice system fund, which pays for police training.

Prosecutors and traffic cops often cut deals with motorists who are stopped for speeding, allowing them to plead to an impeding traffic ticket instead. The fines are often higher, ranging from $150-175 in most communities, and in exchange the driver gets no points added to his or her driving record. If the offenses are written as local ordinance violations, municipalities and courts may keep a bigger cut of the cost.

John Nevin, spokesman for the Michigan Supreme Court, which oversees lower courts, said impeding traffic tickets are included in the district court ticket statistics, so the trend of writing more of those violations has not impacted the overall decline in citations.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig said police departments that aggressively ticket motorists risk straining police-community relations.

“I’ve worked in police departments where you had to explain if your traffic ticket numbers were low, but that’s not a priority here,” Craig said. “If you go into a neighborhood where people have limited incomes, and they’re getting a ton of $200 tickets, what impact is that going to have? Our officers are given a lot of discretion to give warnings to drivers. There is no mandate that they write more tickets.”

Michigan Bichon struts into retirement after winning at Westminster

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Handler Bill McFadden shows Flynn, a bichon frise, in the best in show competition during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018, at Madison Square Garden in New York. Flynn won best in show. (Photo: Mary Altaffer, AP)

 

Like other canine brethren who've walked the ring and won, Flynn has taken his last strut and is retiring.

The Bichon Frise, who grabbed best in show at the Westminster Kennel Club on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden in New York City, heads into retirement in Plymouth in March, after he turns 6, his owners say. 

Some say that's young, but Flynn's put in a lot of hours to reach the coveted title at Westminster, co-owner Lorrie Carlton said, even reaching best in his non-sporting group at the revered sporting event last year. 

It hasn't been easy. The little powder puff entered 155 dog shows in 2017 before he became the 142nd dog to win the Westminster title this week. He's won 44 best in shows for non-sporting before Tuesday.

"After being on the road for three years, he's coming home in a few weeks and he's retiring. We’ll have puppies from him," said Carlton. 

Handler Bill McFadden poses for photos with Flynn,

Handler Bill McFadden poses for photos with Flynn, after the bichon frise won best in show during the 142nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, Tuesday. (Photo: Mary Altaffer, AP)

Carlton and her husband, veterinarian Larry Letsche, have lived in Michigan since 1989. Carlton said her parents were breeders and she grew up in the business, watching her parents work at Belle Creek Kennels. She then became  a professional handler. 

"The minute you live with a Bichon, you become smitten," Carlton said. "He's a beautiful representative of the breed and he really came out of the blue in this competition because he stole their hearts."

The white powder puff beat nearly 3,000 other dogs and 202 breeds for the title. The choice was a surprise to most of the crowd at the Garden, with many fans falling silent when Flynn was picked. They had been loudly shouting for their favorites but fell into stunned silence when judge Betty-Anne Stenmark announced her choice, according to the Associated Press

Lorrie Carlton and some of her fluffy white powder

Lorrie Carlton and some of her fluffy white powder puffs. (Photo: Courtesy of Lorrie Carlton)

"It's the ultimate experience, like winning the Superbowl or the Kentucky Derby; no other win compares," Carlton said. "The lineup of dogs was so beautiful. Just an excellent and very elite group to win from." 

Carlton said as a breeder, she always knew Flynn would have a great career. 

"There's no way of know what a dog's full potential is before they're a year old but I noticed early with Flynn. He was the only boy in the litter," Carlton said. 

Now the top dog is coming home.

"Flynn loves the snow and adores people. He loves to have his belly rubbed and lifts one paw up when he's excited," Carlton said. "Flynn will be spoiled more than he already is.

The couple have  10 other Bichons, not all live with them. Owning one is a large commitment, she said. 

"I hope people don't go out and buy Bichons after seeing Flynn because they're a commitment," she said. "People should seek out the dog that's right for them, whether that's a pure(breed) or rescue."

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