Detroit police chief, others blast 'compassionate release' of suspect in officer's slaying

A man accused of killing Sgt. Elaine Williams was released on bond for medical reasons, a judge allowed


By Nour Rahal
Detroit Free Press

DETROIT — Police Chief James Craig, along with a fallen sergeants' family and community activists, is asking Wayne County Circuit Court to reconsider the compassionate release of a suspect accused of murdering a 14-year police veteran during a domestic shooting.

Detroit Police Sergeant Elaine Williams was shot and killed in her Garden City home by suspect Eddie Ray-Jr. Johnson on Jun. 2, 2019. Johnson was charged with first-degree murder and felony firearm in connection to Williams' death, according to police. He is facing life in prison.

On April 1, Johnson was issued a $10,000 cash bond and released on a GPS tether, for medical reasons by Wayne Circuit Court Judge Lawrence Talon, Craig said. Johnson was then directed home following his medical treatment.

"She was shot five times," Craig said. "One of her two sons remained in the home when this incident occurred ... the defendant, Eddie Ray-Jr. Johnson, took his biological son out of the residence to a location nearby prior to initiating the attack on our beloved sergeant, Elaine Williams."

Issuing low or no bonds has become a common practice among some judges and magistrates in Wayne County, Craig said. The low bond decisions lead to the release of violent predatory criminals, making neighborhoods unsafe.

"District court judges and magistrates are confusing non-violent misdemeanors with violent criminals," he said. "There are just too many cases like this."

Williams' sister, Keisha Kembel, spoke during a news conference Monday, saying her family is horrified by the judge's decision and they are asking the court to reconsider.

"Her life is worth more than any bail amount, and definitely worth more than $10,000," she said. "She doesn't get a chance to watch her boys grow up and be there for key moments in their lives. She wasn't able to be there for my nephew's 13th birthday see him graduate from middle school or my younger nephew graduate from kindergarten."

This decision has opened a wound that is yet to heal – with ongoing court dates and a pending trial, Kembel said.

"We have to question: did the judge take into account the emotional effect and the physical effects of this decision only Elaine's sons?" said Donna McCord, a friend and coworker of Williams. "What message does that send to other victims who are living in fear and are already reluctant to come forward and follow through a prosecution. What does that this decision say to them in regards to our criminal justice system, and protecting them from the possibility of their offenders being released and committing more crimes?"

McCord said she and her coworkers feel offended by the court's decision.

"I heard a word today that really, really bothered me: a compassionate release," community activist and pastor Maurice Hardwick said. "Well, where's the compassion for her family? Where's the compassion for her children?"

The decision surrounding Johnson's release has put Williams' family in danger and made them feel unsafe, Hardwick said. The suspect has already proved himself to be a violent threat.

"This is domestic violence against a woman, an African-American woman, an African-American hero," he said. "And these judges will start being held accountable, or otherwise, a community activist will be in front of your doorstep. I'm humbly asking you to please reconsider this bond."

The $10,000 bond is a joke, Hardwick said. The decision should have never taken place.

"This is not acceptable and I'm going to continue to support and advocate for the victims and families of our communities," Craig said.

(c)2021 the Detroit Free Press

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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