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Monday, July 25, 2022

Failed Policing Leads to Vigilantism

     In the summer of 2013, Mary (not her real name), a 15-year-old with Down Syndrome worked a few hours a week at a coffee shop in southwest Detroit called Cafe Con Leche. On July 17 Mary did not show up for her two-hour shift that began at 3:30 PM. The shop's owner, Jordi Carbonell, called Mary's legal guardian who lived a few blocks away. (Mary's mother had died of cancer in 2006.)  The legal guardian informed Mr. Carbonell that Mary had left the house on time for her four-block walk through the Hubbard Farms neighborhood. Shortly after Mr. Carbonell's call, Mary walked into the shop. When asked why she was late Mary said she had been with a friend.

     That evening, Mary shocked her legal guardian by telling her that she had been raped that afternoon by a neighborhood man named Bill (not his real name) who invited her to his apartment. According to Mary, Bill had kissed her, told her to undress then raped her. She said he used his cellphone to take photographs of her in the nude.
     Bill, who referred to himself as Super Fly and an Aztec Warrior, was known in the neighborhood for his strange and often confrontational behavior. The 43-year-old was generally disliked by residents of the area who considered him an oddball. He had big, puffy hair and walked around in shorts and high socks. In January 2012 a judge had committed Bill to a mental health facility. According to a psychiatrist who treated him there, Bill was severely depressed. The doctor had written: "He feels hopeless and helpless. He plans to kill himself by hanging."
     Mary's guardian reported Mary's claim of rape to the Detroit Police Department on the day the girl reported the crime to her, July 17, 2013. A member of the sex crimes unit asked a medical technician to gather physical evidence from Mary for possible DNA analysis.  Because of the complainant's limited communication skills, a detective,  five days after the complaint, brought in a specialist to question her. 
     Mary's guardian became concerned when twelve days passed without anything happening in the case. On July 29, twelve days following the alleged crime, police officers took Bill into custody. When detectives questioned him he refused to cooperate. Before booking him into the Wayne County Jail an officer swabbed his cheek for a DNA sample. 
     The lead investigator on Mary's case asked the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office to charge Bill with rape. An assistant prosecutor in the office, in denying the request, asked for more evidence. The prosecutor recommended that detectives search Bill's apartment. (Apparently the police didn't search the apartment when they took Bill into custody.) 
     On July 31, 48 hours after taking the rape suspect into custody, the police, without a criminal charge had no choice but to release Bill back into the community. Two days later, 16 days after the rape report, police officers searched Bill's apartment. They seized a bed sheet, a blanket and a cellphone. 
     On August 5, 2013, Mary's guardian and members of the community who were following the case with great interest were surprised to learn that the officer in charge of the investigation, 19 days after the rape report, had just sent Mary's rape kit to the Michigan State Police Laboratory for analysis. At this point in the investigation detectives couldn't even prove that the complainant had engaged in sex. 
     In response to criticism and neighborhood outrage over the way the case was being handled, a Detroit police administrator blamed the rape kit submission delay on the fact that during this crucial period in the case the sex crime unit moved its offices to a new headquarters. When it became obvious that this excuse only created more anger and frustration in the community, the police administrator promised an internal investigation. This did not silence the critics. As far as neighborhood residents were concerned a rapist lived among them under the nose of the police. Instead of handling a rape case properly, investigators were focused on moving their offices. In the Detroit Police Department the crime of rape was obviously low priority. 
     On August 11, 2013, 24 days after Mary's rape report, a man on a bicycle carrying a baseball bat rode up to Bill as he walked along the street not far from his apartment building. "You like raping little girls?" the man asked as he began whacking Bill in the legs with the bat. A witness to the assault called 911. After the beating, as he limped along the sidewalk back to his apartment, Bill was attacked by five men who as a group punched and kicked him. By the time Detroit Police officers arrived at the scene Bill was on the ground and his assailants were gone. An ambulance took Bill to a nearby hospital.
      When released from the hospital Bill did not return to his dwelling. On the night of his beatings someone broke into his apartment and spray-painted "rapist" on the outside wall near the windows to his residence. The next day the building owner hired an armed security guard to make nervous tenants feel safer. 
    No arrests were made in connection with the assaults on the neighborhood rape suspect.

     This Detroit rape case split the neighborhood into two camps. One group was in support of the vigilantism while others deplored the idea of citizens taking the law into their own hands. One thing they all agreed on was this: the Detroit Police Department, by bungling the investigation, had created the environment for vigilantism. 
     Bill was never charged with rape.


  1. So far this is a difficult case. Depending on the communication and cognitive level of a person with Down Syndrome, it requires more work to get information from them. They are not always able to completely understand questions or answer them. Police in this case will have to be cautious in how they ask her questions and they need to be clear about her responses.

    The alleged rapist is also developmentally delayed, this makes it difficult as well. How much of a developmental delay does he have?

    The vigilantes are equally as guilty as the alleged rapist. It is not for the bullies in the neighbourhood to create their own style of justice and community policing. Didn't we already go through this with the Zimmerman case? The same applies here as well: LET THE POLICE DO THEIR JOB, YOU ARE NOT A COP!

    It is not alright to beat up or threaten a developmentally delayed person. They also have no right to break into his house.

    Hopefully they have taken away this guys phone (if he indeed had taken pictures of her) so she is not subjected to further victimization and humiliation.

    So much for her privacy. Why does the whole neighbourhood know who the victim is?

    1. I have to say you are one who would rolled if not worse within the first couple days if you ever lived in Detroit, DC or down town Chicago. By the way. Don't go and attack someone for watching you. You may be the one that gets hurt or worse.