A Detroit police officer was charged Tuesday in the slaying of a 7-year-old girl who was shot to death during a raid on her home that was being shadowed by a reality television crew.
Officer Joseph Weekley, a member of the Detroit Police Special Response Team, was indicted on an involuntary manslaughter charge following a yearlong Michigan State Police investigation into the May 2010 death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones. He also faces a charge of careless discharge of a firearm causing death.
A judge entered a not-guilty plea for Weekley at an afternoon court hearing. The involuntary manslaughter charge carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison.
"The shooting itself tears them up," Weekley's lawyer, Steve Fishman, said about shootings involving officers. "I don't think anybody realizes how their lives change. People think they're androids and robots, and they're wrong."
"He knows he was acting as a police officer in a dangerous mission," Fishman said of his client.
Aiyana was on a sofa on the first floor of a two-family home when Detroit police tossed a flash-bang grenade through a window and burst through the front door. Detroit police have said Weekley's gun accidentally discharged after he was bumped or jostled by the girl's grandmother.
The focus of the raid was Chauncey Owens, the fiance of Aiyana's aunt. Owens was wanted in the May 14, 2010, shooting death of 17-year-old Je'rean Blake outside a nearby convenience store. Owens was found in the separate upstairs apartment.
A film crew with the A&E Network's "The First 48" crime reality cable TV show was shadowing Detroit police on the raid. The Wayne County prosecutor's office also announced Tuesday that the show's principal photographer, Allison Howard, was indicted on perjury and obstruction of justice charges.
Aiyana's family has filed a lawsuit against the city and the Detroit Police Department.