With a Michigan State Police trooper in the spotlight for the alleged murder of an unarmed teen who was riding through a Detroit neighborhood on an ATV, it can be easy to forget that the Detroit Police Department also notched a killing of at least one unarmed teen in 2017.
The department had gone about 18 months without killing any citizens, when, in February, Officer Jerold Blanding chased 19-year-old Raynard Burton behind a house and shot him after an alleged struggle. Officers said they pursued Burton, who later turned out to be a carjacking suspect, because he’d been speeding. When Burton crashed into and ran from his vehicle, Blanding eventually left his partner behind to go after him on foot. Once out of view, Detroit police said the teen “lunged” at Blanding in an attempt to grab his gun, causing him to fire the single, deadly shot.
Last week, as the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office doled out murder and misconduct charges to local law enforcement officers accused of acting inappropriately throughout the year, it declined to charge Blanding in Burton’s death. With no eye witness accounts or body- or dash camera video apparently available for the Detroit police-led probe into the officer’s actions, the county prosecutor described signs of a close-range bullet wound as corroborating Blanding’s version of events and determined the shooting was justified.
It’s the third time Blanding, a more than 20-year veteran of the Detroit Police Department, has been cleared of wrongdoing in the shooting of a citizen. The two previous off-duty and non-fatal encounters have prompted excessive-use-of-force lawsuits against the department, with one suit resulting in a six-figure payout for a victim and the other still pending. Blanding was never charged by the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office in those shootings. He was, however, found by the Detroit Police Department to have inappropriately used force in a 2010 incident, according to a list of citizen complaints filed against him and obtained through the Freedom of Information Act. He was also disciplined early in his career for shooting a pigeon with his department-issued Glock, according to a report by the Detroit News. By the time Blanding killed Burton in February, he had made his Instagram handle “FatalForce.”
In the more recent non-fatal shooting at the heart of a civil rights suit against DPD, Blanding is accused of unloading more than a dozen bullets into the vehicle of an unarmed Detroit resident who was involved in a domestic dispute with the mother of his child. According to victim DeMar Parker’s account of the 2015 incident, his child’s mother was dating a Detroit police officer who apparently called two of his fellow officers for help, one of whom was Blanding.
When the un-uniformed officers arrived and began to close in, Parker said he ran to his car and took off, driving a few blocks before turning the car around to head back in the direction of his home. He said he decided to return using the same road in an effort to get the license plate number of the vehicle in which the officers had shown up.
As Parker headed back down the street, he said one of the officers stepped into the middle of the road and pointed his gun directly at him. Parker said he swerved to avoid him when Blanding, who Parker said had been standing on the sidewalk, suddenly opened fire.