Blast kills 1 in suspected Detroit pot grow

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Detroit police officers, in foreground, and Detroit fire department on the scene of an explosion in a commercial building on Somerset near Morang in Detroit on Tuesday evening.

 

An explosion Monday night at a commercial building at 11211 Morang near Somerset in Detroit appeared to be a pot-growing operation, said Deputy Fire Commissioner David Fornell. One person was killed, he said.

“The fire chief was on the scene and they’re trying to determine what was going on,” said Fornell. “Everything is unfolding right now.”

One fatality was reported, he said. Police closed Morang as they investigated the blast, which occurred about 8:30 p.m.

Later, at the scene, Capt. Mark Thornton said two people had been in the building before the blast. One person who was visiting from New York, left to move a car and when he got to the vehicle, he told authorities, he heard an explosion, which killed the person inside, Thornton said.

The incident appeared to be “some type of explosion or failure of a settling tank,” Thornton said. He would not explain more or say if it was a marijuana growing operation. Authorities were trying to determine what the property was licensed for, Thornton said.

Detroit police officers, in foreground, and DetroitBuy Photo

Detroit police officers, in foreground, and Detroit fire department on the scene of an explosion in a commercial building on Somerset near Morang in Detroit on Tuesday evening. (Photo: Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)

The blast resulted when a tank containing oxygen, acetylene or nitrogen blew up, Thornton said. The explosion left a hole in the ceiling beneath where the tank sat, said fire authorities. The gray, cinderblock building remained standing on a street that includes a nearby apartment building and liquor store.

DTE was notified about the blast.

“DTE has been called to the scene to cut service to the location,” said Jennifer Wilt, a DTE spokeswoman.

Man barricaded in Detroit home with infant in custody

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Police were dispatched to 16100 Sussex at 3:15 pm Monday for a shooting. Officers spoke to a 29-year-old male, who told them he was walking with his ex-wife on Puritan near Coyle when an acquaintance of the ex-wife pulled up in a white SUV and fired shots at the man. The 29-year-old man was struck and taken to a local hospital, where he was listed in temporary serious condition.

 

A gunman who barricaded himself in a home with an infant inside on the 15400 block of Sussex after an alleged shooting on the same block Monday has been taken into custody without incident, according to Detroit police.

A release from the Detroit Police Department said the infant was not harmed.

Police were dispatched to 16100 Sussex at 3:15 pm Monday for a shooting. Officers spoke to a 29-year-old male, who told them he was walking with his ex-wife on Puritan near Coyle when an acquaintance of the ex-wife pulled up in a white SUV and fired shots at the man. The 29-year-old man was struck and taken to a local hospital, where he was listed in temporary serious condition.

The suspect fled. During the investigation, police located him in the 15400 block of Sussex. The suspect barricaded himself inside the home. Officers were able to negotiate with the suspect to surrender. It was unclear what time the gunman surrendered.

Three squad cars were at the scene in the 15400 block of Sussex while the incident unfolded. Two officers remained in one car, and two officers emerged from the house on Sussex. They said they could provide no information on the incident.

Detroit seeks to develop historic apartment buildings

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The Lee Plaza has been vacant since 1997. When it was built in 1928, the architecturally significant building housed one of the city’s luxury apartment hotels featuring concierge and room service.

 

For decades, two historic buildings in the city have sat abandoned among many others as symbols of the city’s decline.

The city hopes to change that as it requests redevelopment proposals for the historic Lee Plaza on West Grand Boulevard and Woodland Apartments on Woodland Street. Combined, the developments would bring a total of 250 mixed-income units to the city.

“This redevelopment is part of our strategy to grow the city in a way that is equitable and includes everyone,” said Arthur Jemison, the city’s director of housing and revitalization, in a statement Monday. “Our goal here is to attract new residents with newly renovated apartments that include affordable rents and retain long-time residents in the area by supporting projects that will spur additional investment and create strong anchors in the neighborhoods.”

The city’s request comes after a $1.7 million transaction earlier this year with the Detroit Housing Commission that included the transfer of the apartment buildings to the Detroit Building Authority.

The transfer benefits the housing commission because it removes an unoccupied property from its books and increases its access to additional capital, rental assistance, government vouchers, Jemison said.

“Us getting the housing commission to be healthy is a huge priority,” he said.

A previous developer, Detroit native Craig Sasser, announced in 2015 a $200 million plan to develop Lee Plaza, but that deal never materialized.

At least five or six local and national developers have expressed interest in the property prior to the city announcing it would take bids, Jemison said.

According to the city, developers interested in renovating Lee Plaza or the Woodland Apartments should be prepared to set aside more than 20 percent of each building’s units for individuals making $38,000 a year or less.

The Lee Plaza has been vacant since 1997. When it was built in 1928, the architecturally significant building housed one of the city’s luxury apartment hotels featuring concierge and room service. It’s in the NW-Goldberg neighborhood, near New Center. The city is asking $295,000 for the building and surrounding land.

The Woodland Apartments was built in 1923 on Woodland Street, just east of Woodward and north of the Boston Edison neighborhood. It’s also been vacant since the 1990s. Interested developers can either renovate the building or demolish it and redevelop the site, city officials said.

“We’ve seen progress in the areas around both Lee Plaza and Woodland Apartments,” Mayor Mike Duggan said in a statement. “While these are challenging projects, these buildings can become major anchors in these communities.”

The city expects the redevelopment of Lee Plaza to take between two and five years while the Woodland Apartments could take between one to three years.

Both projects could be eligible for low-income housing tax credits, and the city is considering investment in both properties with federal HOME Investment Partnerships Program and community development block grant funds.

Lee Plaza also qualifies for federal historic tax credits because the property is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Michigan 8 could face prison over Trump protest

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Payton McDonald of Ypsilanti, 24, was one of more than 200 people arrested on Jan. 20, 2017, during demonstrations that sometimes turned violent during the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

 

Eight Michigan residents are awaiting jury trials this summer and face up to decades in prison after participating in an Inauguration Day protest against President Donald Trump in Washington, D.C.

When Trump was sworn into office on Jan. 20, so-called “black-bloc” protesters dragged trash cans and newspaper stands into the streets as well as smashed windows at two Starbucks, a Bank of America and a McDonald’s restaurant. Because most were wearing black or dark colors, many obscuring their faces, a superseding indictment alleged in the Superior Court of the District of Columbia that they acted in unison.

An initial group of six protesters from other states started standing trial on Nov. 20, and the court proceedings are continuing. They are among 187 people facing felony rioting charges and potential prison time after the protest.

Police emphasize the property damage that occurred on Inauguration Day, while protesters and other groups point to what they consider severe police retaliation for the actions of a few protesters.

“The police swept everyone up — regardless of intent or regardless of demeanor, including members of the National Lawyers Guild,” said Payton McDonald, a 24-year-old Ypsilanti resident who was one of more than 200 people arrested that day. “These people were attacked and beaten. It didn’t matter. I myself was there to investigate.”

McDonald is awaiting a June 2018 jury trial over felony rioting charges, according to D.C. court records. He has pleaded not guilty and has a court-appointed attorney.

Six others from the state will be tried as a group in July and one more in August, court records show.

Police argue that they have made distinctions between peaceful protesters and those who were arrested.

“Unfortunately, there was another group of individuals who chose to engage in criminal acts, destroying property and hurling projectiles, injuring at least six officers,” Metropolitan Police Departmkent spokeswoman Karimah Bilal said in an email.

“Over 200 rioters were ultimately arrested for their criminal actions, and the bulk of them are pending prosecution after being indicted by a grand jury.”

But demonstrators were arrested for “simply being present in the vicinity of something that is seen as problematic by the state, such as being near people who had anti-capitalistic rhetoric” or those “who may or may not have broken windows,” McDonald said.

To him, the charges are a “trumping-up of the criminality ... simply to create a bogey man to peg us as terrorists, provocateurs or otherwise demonize us.”

“A majority of the people who were kettled were journalists, medics, people who were dazed and confused from being attacked indiscriminately from the police,” he continued. “No one that I saw had committed any act of vandalism.”

Other Michigan defendants declined to speak with The Detroit News.

187 face rioting charges

After arresting more than 200 people, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has dismissed charges against 20 individuals and 20 others have pleaded guilty, according to the U.S. Department of Justice and the superseding indictment. That leaves 187 defendants who still face felony rioting charges related to destruction during the demonstration.

Prosecutors argued in November during the first trials that a group called Disrupt J20 helped organize the protests. While there was no evidence that the first six on trial destroyed property, each played “a role in the violence and destruction moving together through this city,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jennifer Kerkhoff, according to the Washington Post.

But groups including the American Civil Liberties Union said the protesters are being indiscriminately charged for the actions of a few.

The local District of Columbia ACLU filed suit against the Metropolitan Police Department and others over what they consider the force’s heavy-handed attempts to control the crowd. The group’s lawyers argue that the police response and mass charges send a “chilling” signal to peaceful dissenters.

An “overwhelming majority” of protesters were peaceful and did not damage property, according to the ACLU, while police used pepper spray, tear gas, flash grenades, concussion grenades and smoke flares to disperse demonstrators. The ACLU said police continued using pepper spray, tear gas and the other nonlethal weapons against protesters who were already detained.

The Metropolitan Police Department said it will investigate any potential police misconduct that day but notes protesters injured six police officers.

Police tactics challenged

According to the indictment, McDonald was among those originally charged with felony inciting or urging to riot near Logan Circle in Washington.

The prosecution argued that the demonstration constituted a riot because the participants wore black or dark clothing to conceal individual members’ identity “in an effort to prevent law enforcement from being able to identify the individual perpetrators of violence or destruction.”

On the morning of Jan. 20, protesters pulled newspaper stands, trash cans and signs into the streets and blocked vehicles. A limousine was also set on fire, the indictment said.

Some protesters carried hammers, crowbars, metal poles, wooden sticks, bricks, rocks and other items that could be used to damage property, according to prosecutors.

Some demonstrators wore gas masks and goggles to protect themselves from tear gas, which can “eliminate or mitigate the effectiveness of crowd control measures that might be used by law enforcement,” according to the indictment.

The law enforcement and prosecutorial responses to protesters perceived as politically radical are becoming increasingly harsher, although muscular crowd control tactics are nothing new, said Michael Heaney, a professor of organizational studies and political science at the University of Michigan.

“This kind of authoritative response to an uncontrolled crowd is a longstanding problem that we’ve had in our political history,” Heaney said. But he said there’s been an increasing “aggressiveness” since 1999 when dealing with large groups of protesters.

“I mean, it is about intimidation,” he said, noting that even if the charges don’t stick, the legal costs alone can be “really debilitating.”

“So if you’re being charged, you’re being punished right now,” Heaney said.

“It’s only once the protestors do not disperse is when problematic issues develop,” said Blaine Koops, executive director of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association. An aggressive police response is usually triggered by aggression from protesters, Koops said.

But to McDonald, the police tactics and the threat of imprisonment are part of a broader system of injustice, violence and dehumanization.

Protesters were detained for hours without medical treatment or food or an opportunity to go to the bathroom, he said, a point echoed by the ACLU legal challenge.

“We see these formalized apparatuses for criminalizing even just political dissent,” he said. “I was not out there that day protesting Donald Trump. I was out there demonstrating against racism, fascism and capitalism.”

Big Sean: Free Detroit concert ‘the least I could do’

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People stand in line along Elizabeth Street People to get a wristband which equals a ticket and will get them into the Big Sean concert at The Fillmore in Detroit on Dec. 10, 2017. Free tickets were given to fans with proof of purchase of "Double or Nothing" on their phone. (Robin Buckson / The Detroit News)

 

You know Big Sean is from Detroit even when he isn’t in Detroit. That has a lot to do with why 2,900 people were willing to freeze — twice — to see him Sunday night at the Fillmore.

The show was free. That helped. And they like his music. But still.

“Some people hide it,” said Roderick Jackson, 23, a proud Detroiter. “He’s proud of it.”

So Jackson zipped a black parka over his black Big Sean hoodie, stood in line for two hours Sunday afternoon for a wristband and then stood in line for 21/2 hours along Elizabeth Street before he could muscle through the doors and help Big Sean celebrate the release of his new album with producer Metro Boomin, “Double or Nothing.”

Big Sean — Sean Anderson, back when he was racking up big GPA numbers at Cass Tech instead of big downloads on Spotify — announced the show Friday. If you’d bought the new album for $10, you were eligible to get in.

He took the stage shortly after 9:48 p.m. In front of a backdrop with a lighted “313,” he rolled into “Big Bidness,” the first of four straight songs from the three-day-old album. A crowd that was already mostly standing roared.

“None of this (bleep) would be possible,” he said shortly afterward — hey, it was a hip-hop show for grownups — “without this (bleeping) city behind me.”

The free performance, he said, was “the least I could do.”

Jayden Hanna and Jackson Gurman, a pair of 17-year-olds from Bloomfield Hills, had snagged their wristbands, then made sure they were first in line for the concert — at 3 p.m., four hours before the doors opened.

“Two chairs, blankets, hand warmers,” Jayden said.

“Phone chargers,” Gurman said. Their ultimate destination: “Front and center,” Jayden said, “right next to the barrier.”

Behind them stood the 3:02 p.m. arrivals, 25-year-old Emily Anton of Rochester Hills and her sister Angel, 17. The Antons, along with their Big-Sean-fan mom, not only buy his music, they helped his foundation hand out 5,000 Thanksgiving turkeys in River Rouge.

Zeno Jones, Big Sean’s day-to-day manager, said they struggled to find a sponsor for the show, which featured a guest appearance by rapper Kash Doll, who is on his 10-track album.

Puma stepped up, Jones said, after “other companies were shutting us down. They wanted us to do New York or LA.”

Big Sean lives in Beverly Hills now in an $8.7 million house he bought from Slash, the Guns N’ Roses guitarist. But no one at the Fillmore seemed to doubt where his heart was.

“Sean has a certain vibe. A certain aura,” said Stewe Clarke, 24, of Detroit, the 9 p.m. to midnight host on WGPR-FM (107.5). “He brings hope to the city — hope that you can make it from the city to a worldwide platform.”

The name of the city Big Sean wears on his sleeve was also written on the back of blue $40 T-shirts, and they were selling briskly, said Bill Blackwell of Blackbird Productions. The black hoodie, $60, sold out at a pop-up stand earlier in the day and had to be restocked.

“Of course,” Blackwell said, “the weather helped.”

But not nearly as much as the ZIP code. It was Big Sean’s homecoming, and everyone was invited to the dance.

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