In 2010 Aiyana Mo’Nay Stanley-Jones, a seven-year-old African American girl, was accidentally shot and killed during a raid that was conducted by the Detroit, Michigan Police Department’s Special Response Team. The killing contributed to raising national awareness of the ongoing issue of young unarmed African Americans being killed by police. It would also help inspire the creation of the Black Lives Matter Movement three years later.
Jones was born on July 20, 2002, to Charles Jones and Dominika Stanley in Detroit, Michigan. On May 14, 2010, Je’Rean Blake, a senior at Southeastern High School of Technology and Law was shot and killed near an intersection on Detroit’s east side. Later that day, Detroit Police identified Chauncey Owens as a suspect in the shooting and a warrant was issued for his arrest.
Two days later, on May 16, police arrived at the house where Aiyana Jones lived, hoping to find Owens. At the time Owens was the boyfriend of Jones’s aunt LaKrystal Sanders, who was also living at the house. Police fired a flash grenade through the front window. What occurred next has been disputed by police officers, bystanders, and neighboring residents. According to the police, Officer Joseph Weekley was the first police officer to enter the home. Weekley claimed after he got through the front door that Jones’s paternal grandmother, Mertilla Jones, attempted to slap away the MP 5 submachine gun that he was holding. The slap caused the gun to fire with the bullets striking young Aiyana in the head and killing her instantly. Mertilla Jones was held overnight by Detroit police and then released. She later explained that she reached for her granddaughter when the grenade came through the window and that is what caused her to hit the officer’s gun.
Aiyana Jones’s funeral was held on May 22, 2010, at the Second Ebenezer Baptist Church in Detroit where Alfred (Al) Charles Sharpton Jr. gave the eulogy. On October 4, 2011, a Wayne County grand jury indicted Officer Joseph Weekley for involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment with a gun. Weekley’s trial began in June 2013 and ended in a mistrial when a jury failed to reach a verdict. A retrial began on September 23, 2014 but on October 3, 2014, it was declared a mistrial after a second jury deadlocked on a verdict. On January 28, 2015, the remaining charge on Weekley, a misdemeanor for careless discharge of a firearm causing death, was dismissed. On May 21, 2016, nearly six years after Jones’s death, the Detroit chapter of Black Lives Matter organized the first rally in her memory.