Remembering the Casualties

Nightmare in Detroit (1968)

During the 1967 Detroit Uprising, civilians, civil servants, and even children and teenagers lost their lives due to the ever-heightening fear and violence that ensued during those dark days in July. While the number of those who died is still highly disputed, the official total is 43 dead, a number produced by the Detroit Police Department's Homicide Bureau and accepted by the city's mainstream newspapers. Our additional research in African American media sources and government documentsresulted in a death toll of 47, as found on this page and in the interactive map on the previous page, which is probably still an undercount.

This page is a tribute to the lives and memories of those who lost their lives, featuring brief life stories as well as accounts of how they died. Many accounts of the cause of death are contradictory, as law enforcement as well as civilians witnesses might have had incentives to distort or fabricate the stories. Reports from the Detroit Police Department and National Guard--officially responsible for 22 and 10 fatalities, respectively, but likely responsible for more--often omitted crucial details in order to disguise liability or guilt, and often criminalized the deceased by blaming their alleged 'looting' and 'sniping' for the outcome. It is also important to emphasize that even if some of the deceased were indeed looting from stores, most were unarmed and shot in the back as they fled, and stealing merchandise was a misdemeanor offense in a state without capital punishment--hardly justification for an execution in the street by DPD officers or National Guardsmen. The prosecutor justified these killings, however, because "breaking and entering" was a felony-level offense, and both DPD policy and Michigan law permitted use of force to stop a "fleeing felon."  

The book Nightmare in Detroit: A Rebellion and its Victims, by investigative journalists Van Gordon Sauter and Burleigh Hines, provided valuable accounts from witnesses to many of these fatalities, and from friends and family members of those who lost their lives, resulting in an important corrective to the initial incident reports in the Detroit newspapers, which came directly from the Detroit Police Department. 

July 23

Krikor (George) Messerlain

Armenian immigrant who moved to Detroit at age 20. He owned his own shoe repair shop on Brush Street, which was a primarily African American neighborhood. After a brutal assault by an African American man trying to rob him, he left Brush Street and took a store on Linwood, which was connected to a clothes cleaning shop run by Armenians. He enjoyed living simply out of the back of his store, frequently read books, drank beer, and discussed life in the old country with some cronies. His relatives described him as someone who “didn’t know how to back off when he was challenged.” (16). This quality is what ended up costing him his life.  When his relatives started leaving Detroit for the suburbs, he insisted on staying. On Saturday, July 23, a gang of African American youths were rampaging down Linwood and stopped in the cleaning shop where there were tons of pressed shirts. Messerlain, who didn’t know how to back down, went over with his twenty-inch saber. He would not allow any of the looters to get in the stores that he and his fellow owners worked so hard to maintain. The looters told him to get out of the way, but he didn’t, so they proceeded to break windows and head for the clothes. Messerlain started swinging his saber and was then seen by neighbors lying on the sidewalk and being clubbed by a heavy table leg. As the neighbors yelled for the boy to stop, some of the youth’s friends grabbed the makeshift club out of his hands and they ran away. Messerlain died on July 27. On August 14, the police arrested a 20 year old boy who arrived in Detroit from Alabama six weeks before the uprising took place. He was charged with the murder of Krikor Messerlain.

Willie Hunter and Price Williams

Willie Hunter and Prince Williams were best friends. Although they were six years apart in age, they were inseperable. Willie was born in Georgia and Prince in Alabama. Both of their families moved to Cincinnati, where they met and became best friends. Willie married his wife Louise after they moved to Detroit, and Prince followed them. Willie worked at the Ford Motor Plant.  Prince was a Marine veteran who was planning on giving marriage a second try, as his marriage with Mary his first wife did not work out. Willie and Louise had two daughters, Heidi and Tracy; with a growing family, they had plans to move to a bigger place on Garland Street in the summer of 1967. Louise last spoke to Willie on July 20. Three days later, she received a phone call from a friend of theirs, Mrs. Cunningham, in which Louise was informed that Willie had been killed, and so had Prince. Although much of this information on how they died is ambiguous, neighbors claim that the two of them were messing around at 1734 Seward and then again spotted walking in the area near Brown’s drug store at 8202 Twelfth where there had been looting and general disorder due to the uprising. Their bodies were found in the store three days later and official reports say they died of asphyxiation. Since it was the first day of the uprising and one of the most popular areas in Detroit, it was hard to keep track of everything happening. It’s hard to say whether or not Willie and Prince partook in any looting activities, but Louise finds it hard to believe, as both of them had so much to look forward to. Willie was going to be moving later that summer and Prince was planning on getting married soon, Louise said they had every reason to stay out of trouble.

Sharon George

Sharon was a 23 year old pregnant woman from Detroit. She had two children, Donna and Richard, from her first marriage to her husband who died in an unsolved murder case. She was married to a man named Ross, a friend of her two brothers, and working as a dancer at the Hollywood Ballroom. Whites began leaving the area, but there was little friction between the two races. On Sunday, Ross, Sharon, and her two brothers were giving a ride home to some African American boys when on the way back, they encountered a crowd of African Americans blocking the street and supposedly beating a white man. As Sharon was due in December, she begged her husband to get them away from the crowd. As they made their way through the scene, a shot was fired and hit Sharon, Ross, and one of the brothers. Sharon died at the hospital later that night, while the other two recovered from the gunshot wounds.

July 24

Walter Grzanka

Grzanka was a 45 year old man whose parents were both Poland natives. They moved from Memphis, Michigan to Detroit as their kids became interested in city factories. Although he was a military policeman in the service and once worked as a private guard, Walter was considered the black sheep of his family due to his drinking and countless run-ins with the police. There are numerous anecdotes of his run-ins with the law, one of which included him riding off on a policeman’s motorcycle. On July 24, there were rumblings of the looting, so Grzanka and some of the men from his building went down the block to see what was happening. Just before midnight, they heard glass windows breaking as African Americans were breaking into Temple Market. An African American looter saw Grzanka peering through the windows and handed him several containers filled with goods. As Walter made a third trip and went into the store, the store owner Hamid Audish Yacoub saw what was happening to his store, drove up with his .22 revolver, and fired shots at Walter. He fired into the store two more times before driving away. Walter died 25 minutes after the shooting.

Julius Dorsey

Dorsey was a 55 year old man who moved to Detroit from Memphis, Tennessee. With an athletic build and an impressive fashion sense, everyone thought he would do great things. When he left a failed marriage and in search for a better life in Detroit, he moved in with Mrs. Viola Smith who “taught him the ropes” of Detroit. She helped him get a job at a convalescent home, but he eventually realized his desire to be a guard after seeing one of his neighbors get ready for work. He trained and was assigned on July 24 to work a post two doors down from his house that included a small grocery store and another store across the street. He was desperate to prove his worth through work and desperately wanted to do a good job and make money. The night he took his post, many groups of men tried to come loot the store, but Dorsey stopped them. Mrs. Smith watched everything unfold and would shout at him to come home since he was just making enemies for himself. Dorsey stayed as more looters arrived, and even fired three shots in the air due to his frustration. He told a neighbor “I feel my life is in danger. I’d better get home and rest.” He got home, but Mrs. Smith mentioned that a woman down the street had said some men were planning on taking his gun away from him, which enraged Dorsey. After returning, he felt the need to go back to his post and do his job to check up on the store; he did so three times. On the third trip back, the National Guard arrived on the scene and suddenly there was a crash and gunfire. Dorsey had been shot in his guard uniform. While official records list his death as a mystery, he was apparently killed by a guardsman.

Clifton Pryor

Clifton Pryor never had a bad word said about him. He was a hard worker and a good father who was from the Tennessee Appalachians but settled with his family in Detroit during warmer seasons to work for a roofing company. On Sunday, Pryor and his neighbors become concerned about the dangers of their neighborhood, specifically at 667 W. Alexandrine. The men of Pryor’s apartment began talking about the sparks flying and fires erupting and discussed going to the roof with blankets and water to protect the building, to which there was much disagreement. Since the majority favored going up, six men including Pryor made their way up the fire escape to the roof. Pryor said, “I’m scared, I never saw anything like this before.” The men brought up a .410 Stevens shotgun for security. As one of the neighbors noticed on television that guards had been assigned to the streets in search of snipers, he went to warn the men on the roof. At this time, police has received word that a sniper was on the roof of 667 W. Alexandrine. As Pryor approached the second/third floor landings, he came under the glare of a large porch light, and a single shot rang out as Pryor’s friends tried to find him. He was shot dead. Pryor was announced to be a sniper with a shotgun, to which his father traveled from Cookeville, Tennessee in order to prove Pryor’s innocence. He produced witnesses who opposed the contention that his son was a sniper; these witnesses stated that the guardsman who shot Pryor was lying when he claims he yelled “halt” before firing. Many believe this incident was preventable if the officers and guardsmen gave warning or even spoke one word. In the words of Pryor’s father, “Everybody down home knew he was no sniper, but no matter, I owed it to him to clear this up.”

John Ashby

John Ashby was a well-respected 24 year old firefighter. He was seemingly and luckily around when fires or other emergencies occurred, and always went the extra mile to ensure everyone was taken care of. He was married to a woman named Kathleen, and they had a very enjoyable life together. He was attached to Engine 21, which operated at the heart of a Detroit slum. He was transferred to another engine for a while, but was asked on Sunday to assist Engine 21 with what was just “an incident” on Grand River and Twelfth. His wife had a bad feeling and a premonition that something was going to go wrong. As he arrived and began putting out a fire set by an arsonist to a supermarket, he discovered a hot spot in the store and moved up a step on the ladder to launch the high pressure hose on the right area. As he rose, his metal helmet grazed a 4,800 volt electric wire and parts of Ashby’s body were seared by the current and stopped his breathing. He spent several days in the hospital with many good signs along the way, however on August 5 Ashby died. He died doing what he loved and those around him said “He could never get enough fires, never enough work. There are firemen who come and go, but John was a good man.”

Herman Ector

Herman Ector was a 30 year old African American man whose death exemplifies the madness that Detroit experienced during this time. He was a model young man his whole life from a very Catholic family from the Northwest side of Detroit. He was tough, yet always very mature for his age. After some time in the Army, he returned to Detroit where he worked hard in a plant and always looked after his family. When the uprising started, he and his cousin Vincent were passing a grocery store when they saw young African American boys being assaulted and harassed by private guard Waverly Solomon. Herman walked over to his friend’s car nearby and said “He ought to stop treating them like that.” The guard heard and walked over to Ector and proceeded to shoot him according to witnesses. Official records classified him as a looter, but personal account and witnesses disagree. Solomon was charged with first degree murder because his guard service had not been hired to guard the store; he was there on his own accord and had no right to be there. However, charges were later dropped.

Fred Williams

Fred Williams was a 49 year old African American who moved from Arkansas in the late 1940s. He and his wife Louise settled down on Goodwin Street and lived a very simple life. Williams couldn’t read or write very well due to his lack of schooling, but worked in construction and was very proud of the home he owned. Although to some it was just a typical frame house in a lower-middle class neighborhood, he regarded the house as a mansion. As the uprising began sweeping through neighborhoods, Williams worried that the fires would engulf his home. He moved some of their belongings into a yard down the street; he was very angry and worried for his beloved home as he saw the flames come closer to his house. As he moved his belongings, the fire jumped and dislodged some of the wires on the telephone poles above; As the electrical wire began jumping around on the ground, it hit Williams and killed him instantly as he was still grabbing at his possessions on the ground.

Daniel Jennings

Daniel Jennings was a hard working husband and father of 14 children who grew up on the West side of Detroit. He worked in the construction field where he quickly was able to make his way up the ranks. He ended up being so successful that he was able to move his family from their house on Davison Street to a better located apartment in Mount Vernon. For the two weeks leading up to his death, he struggled to find construction jobs, to which he often blamed the uprisings for lack of work. On Monday, he headed down to the union hall to find work, but was disgruntled because there was no work. Witnesses claim he and two friends were discussing the madness that was happening and wondering how they would get by as they walked towards Stanley’s Patent Medicine & Package Liquor Store, a drug firm on John R. Owner Stanley Meszczenski was alerted that his store would most likely be hit during the day or night, so he closed it and kept guard of the store. Apparently one of the men (not Jennings) broke the glass front door and Jennings walked in. Jennings was shot and died before he reached the hospital. It was later said by the owner that he yelled a warning but Jennings still walked in, so the ruling was justifiable homicide.

Robert Beal

Robert Beal was an even-tempered African American man from Magnolia, Arkansas. He and his wife Earline came up north to make a better life for themselves but realized it was going to be hard to make a living for their two children when both had dropped out of school around sixth grade. Beal loved cars, and found a job in Pontiac at a Chrysler plant as a truck driver in the motoring division. One day, Beal went down to see if the reports of what was happening in Detroit were true. Reports say that Beal was seen in a looted auto parts shop, was told to halt but ran, and was shot by a policeman with a shotgun. There are conflicting stories about whether he was shot inside the autoparts shop or outside. Earline doesn’t believe that Beal would ever loot, given his calm and even-tempered demeanor.

Joseph Chandler

Joseph Chandler moved from Louisville, Kentucky to Detroit in efforts to pursue his dream of being a mechanic. He left his wife Dorothy and seven children at home and got a job at an auto plant. Friends say this job made him truly happy. He then lost this job and took a job in a factory. He had plans to bring his wife and children up. However, he was shot on the second day of the riot where police say he was looting a store. He was told to halt, but he allegedly ran. Patrolman David Senak and his parter reportedly shot Chandler, but he scaled a fence and the officers stopped pursuing him. He was found later dying under a car at the age of 34.

Herman Canty

Herman Canty moved to Detroit from Waycross, Georgia and left behind his ex-wife and son. In 1964, he got a car-washing job in Ann Arbor, and made this profession his life’s work. He met his wife, a Detroit native, and they had two children together. Canty worked hard to ensure his family had a good life. Every morning, he would drive a pickup truck to pick up the workers, as he was the foreman at the car wash. When he left the morning of July 24, he came back at around 9:30 AM, which was uncharacteristic; he said the fellows he was trying to pick up for work never showed up. He had heard that someone was breaking into stores and people were taking things. Canty left later that morning and said he was “going to see someone.” He took off in the truck and was killed by the police who said he along with others used the pickup to steal and loot from a supermarket. Witnesses say he was loading up the pickup with boxes from the supermarket. When police arrived, he jumped in the truck and drove away in a hail of gunfire. Herman, 46, was found dead in the driver’s seat after being shot in the neck.

Alfred Peachlum

Alfred Peachlum, 36, lived a content life with his wife Jimmie and his three children. He was an avid Detroit Tigers fan and even held box seats behind third base. Peachlum and his family lived in a nice large apartment and he worked as a welder in a General Motors plant in Pontiac. He never drank because of a stomach ulcer and was described as a “real homebody.” He didn’t go into work on Monday because of the riots, and his cousin suggested they take a ride. Jimmie did not want him out there because “those National Guardsmen have been taught to kill and they don’t care.” Around 4pm, a patrolling squad car noticed two looters inside, one of them being Peachlum. They saw something shiny in his hand and thought it was a weapon, so they began shooting at the men as they ran out of the store. The shiny object ended up being beef wrapped in tin foil. Peachlum was shot in the chest.

Alphonso Smith

Alphonso Smith was a “very special person” who admired old antiques and spent a lot of his time looking at them and collecting them. He worked at Little Harry’s Restaurant in Detroit; co-workers remember him as a “fine gentleman.” When the whites fled the city, Smith moved into the upper-middle class Margaret Lee Apartments where he lived with his nephew, Alfred Clayton. People were shocked when they discovered that Smith had been shot after found looting a sore with four other men. It is unclear whether or not he was killed on purpose of by accident. Some accounts say that an officer slipped and his gun discharged, killing Smith. Witnesses say that policeman didn’t slip, but rather fired through a window from outside the store. Investigations ruled it an accidental death without criminality. “Smith’s actions may have been another example of the change in personality undergone by many persons during the July madness.”

Nathaniel Edmonds

Nathaniel Edmonds was a 23 year old African American man with a zest for life. He never looked for trouble and always enjoyed life in its fullest capacity, while always willing to help his family along the way. He was one of five sons. He served in the army and then went on to work at Ford, known as a “darned good worker.” His brothers described him as “having a love affair with life.” After hearing about the trouble in Detroit, Edmonds headed to check on his relatives. As he, his brother, and cousin were making their rounds, an 1963 Oldsmobile approached them. Two white men with a shotgun, including Richard Paul Shugar, went up to his aunt’s house where they were at and confronted the young men about breaking into Shugar’s store. Shugar evidently didn’t own any store, and there was no evidence of Nathaniel ever breaking into any store. Nathaniel wasn’t going to take such accusatory treatment, and they got into a fight that quickly got violent. “This man won’t shoot me, I haven’t done anything,” said Edmonds. Shugar fired the shotgun and caught him in the left chest. The two men sped off, but a young boy caught the license plate. Shugar was arrested and charged with first-degree murder. An all-white jury convicted him of second-degree murder.

Mike Williams

Mike Williams was a 16-year-old African American boy who lived in Highland Park. Little is known about Mike Williams, and he is not included in any of the official fatality totals. A Michigan State Police log states that Trooper Loren Toberts "shot two colored males in the act of looting a Westinghouse warehouse" at 2211 West Edsel Ford on the afternoon of July 24 because "they refused to stop on command." Mike Williams died on the scene at 5:40 pm. Roberts also shot William Moore, age 20, a resident of Middletown, Ohio, who was hospitalized at Receiving Hospital.

Charles Kemp

Charles Kemp was a 35 year old African American man. He and his wife Betty moved to Detroit in 1966 with their two young children. He got a job with a large construction firm where he traveled for jobs for quite a while before he began missing his family and got a job pumping gas in a filling station. The construction work promised him jobs near Detroit if he came back in August. Kemp decided to join in on the looting, but was a rather late arrival, which meant there were little items of value left. As he entered Borgli Brothers Market, he went for five packs of cigars and tried to salvage money out of an old cash register he found in the back. As he was trying to open the register, he saw police and National Guardsmen coming down the street, so he let the cash register fall to the ground and began running from the market. He was spotted by the patrol and three shots fired from the police car as Kemp was still running. His body was later found and had been hit in the back and the left knee. The cigars were used as evidence and the cash register was found to contain no money.

Richard Sims

Richard Sims was an enigma to most. He was married and had a daughter, but kept to himself in their apartment on the West Side of Detroit. Two months prior to the uprising, he moved out of his family’s apartment and into a room only six houses away, but nobody knew why. He didn’t speak to many people, and his wife made no effort to discuss the dynamic. On July 24, Sims picked up some friends tried to break into the Hobby Bar, which had been closed because of the riot. The police came down Linwood and must have seen Sims and the other man. They ran as the police jumped out of the car and pursued them. The police caught up with Sims and told him to halt; he was trying to enter the Adams household’s side door right next to the Hobby Bar when they shot him. Police reports make no mention of finding any weapons on Sims, so it is likely that he didn’t have any.

Frank Tanner

Frank Tanner was a 19 year old African American man who worked in a laundry on East Grand Boulevard. Every Friday he would take his paycheck to get cashed at Bobroffs, which operated as a department store, grocery store, and a bank. Bobroffs was four miles away from the looting on Twelfth Street, so he would just secure his store at night and hope his store would be protected as it was during the 1943 riot. However, Bobroff received word on that his store was being looted by people, including Tanner and some of his friends. At around 9:30 PM on Monday, Tanner and his friends were putting together a cardboard box filled with alcohol. The National Guard and police pulled up as Tanner was walking out with his box. Witnesses say they heard police and National Guard “shooting like gangbusters.” Joseph L. Metts, a witness, called the police at 7:45 the next morning to report a dead body he had noticed in the grass outside of his building. He had been shot 11 hours earlier by DPD, but was pronounced dead Tuesday morning.

Carl Smith

Carl Smith was a 30 year old white firefighter. He was described as a “gung-ho” firefighter who would enter a burning building without hesitation. He underwent an emergency appendectomy in the early summer, which took him out of commission for a bit to heal, which disappointed him as he missed many multi-alarm fires. He spent the time with his wife and four-year-old son Dwayne. When he saw how bad the fires were during the days of the uprising, he believed he had to go help his company which was in the thick of the flames. He sent his wife and son to some relatives and searched for a doctor who would sign off on his return to duty despite no being completely healed. No doctors were around, so he drove to track down his company. He joined in anyways despite pleas to go home from fellow firefighters. He called his wife every hour to confirm his safety, but then she stopped receiving calls so she knew something had happened. As the company was on the East Side of Detroit, the area came under “heavy sniper fire.” Police and National Guardsmen tried to find targets for snipers, but reports on the scene were amazed as it took the National Guard seven shots to hit a nearby streetlight. James Kerwin, a reporter for the Detroit News, believes that the snipers left after their initial shots, and that authorities had little leads on any real targets during the hour of gunfire that followed. Smith was hit with a bullet in the head as he dashed back towards the truck. Medical examiners determined that Smith was shot in the head moving on an even plane virtually parallel to the ground, although snipers were believed to be on rooftops. Smith could have been killed by a sniper, guardsmen, or policeman. “Most objective observers believe he was shot accidentally by a guardsman.”

George Franklin Shaw

George Franklin Shaw was a 26 year old African American male. He was shot in an argument with Charles (Tommer or Comner) at Wildemere and Edsel Ford Drive during the uprising.

July 25

 

Henry Denson

Henry Denson is a 27 year old man African American man from Detroit’s East Side. On July 24, Denson was hanging out with some friends; as they were driving, they encountered a National Guard checkpoint and were told there would be another one up ahead near Mack and East Grand Boulevard. They proceeded as they were instructed to, going slowly when they were stopped at E. Grand and Mack. As the light changed, one of his friends who was driving, Johnson, started to move the car forward. Someone said stop, and as he hit the brakes, a shot rang out and Denson slumped over in the passenger seat after being shot in the neck. Johnson leaped out of his car as it was still in gear and began screaming that the shooting stop. He was charged with “trying to run down the guardsmen and police, a charge refuted by witnesses.” Several witnesses stated that the men didn’t do anything to provoke the shooting “other than appear on the street after curfew in front of a trigger-happy National Guard.”

Manuel Cosby

Emanuel Crosby grew up in the Sojourner Truth Apartment, an area of low income housing for African Americans. He lived with his mother and 10 other siblings, and Manuel was one of the oldest. He dropped out of high school and fought in the Korean War. When he returned, he held jobs at a hospital where he was very well-liked and then went on to work for an African American convalescent home. He was soon married and had a son. His mother fell ill when he was 26 and returned to the projects until his mother was well again. On July 25, Manuel was standing outside at the projects when of of his old friends told him that people had broken into the N & T store and that they should go looting. Manuel held back because he felt like he was too old for that stuff, but as everyone decided to go, he gave into the temptation and followed. Someone had alerted the police about the looting, so they arrived on the scene; Manuel was fired at three times before he was hit the in shoulder and had been killed.

Ronald Evans

Ronald Evans was an African American man who graduated from Highland Park High School. His mom always ensured he had everything he needed and would always be there to take care of him, get him out of trouble, and forgive him. His mother, Mary, “never knew him to bother anyone.” The family moved to Detroit proper into a flat right around the corner from a dime store owned by a friend Juanita. Mary had convinced her sons to stay in during the first two nights of the riot, but because Ronald had just celebrated his 24th birthday and really wanted to go out on the night of the 25th. While the other son Robert Jr. listened, Ronald headed out with his friend William Jones and some others. Police believe they busted into Juanita’s store. Soon, the building was surrounded by cops; they caught Ronald and Walter and said they were lookouts for the other two men inside who were looting. Police unleashed gunfire on Ronald, as he bolted from the scene and ran towards his home. Witnesses say Ronald was cursed and yelled at before he ran and had been forced to lie down on his back before he jumped up. He was shot at 14 times.

William Jones

William Jones was a friend of Ronald Evans who was with him on the third night of the uprising. He was a 32 year old African American from Birmingham, Alabama, but few people in the neighborhood knew much about him. They knew he arrived recently, but didn’t have insight on what he did or if he had family. He went with Ronald to Juanitas on the night of July 25 and according to police he served as a lookout with Ronald for the two other men looting inside. As many shots were fired, Jones was killed. Reports vary, but police say Jones ran through the front door and was shot outside. Witnesses assert that Jones’ body was later removed from inside the store.

Jerome Olshove

Jerome Olshove was a policeman from a family of policemen, including his father. He was great at his job and “never regretted being a policeman.” He loved the people more than anything, and his precinct including Wayne State University as well as slum neighborhoods. On Tuesday morning at 3AM, looters were inside of an A & P supermarket; a National Guardsman fired at the looters and shot a looter in the face. This was when Olshove’s car pulled up, and he pursued the two looters inside. One of the arrested looters, Danny Royster, tried to retaliate and both the looter and another police officer Roy Stone reached for the officer’s shotgun when it discharged. The blast caught Olshove in the stomach, which killed him. He was the only member of police killed during the uprising.

Roy Banks

Roy Banks was a 46 year old African American man from Washington, D.C. He was married to 66 year old Essie Banks. He lived a free and simple life and lived by the code: “Do as much as you can to be as useful as you can, and let tomorrow take care of itself.” He and Essie were both deaf. Banks was a whiz at fixing things, and went out of his way to help those around him with whatever needed fixing. Although the landlady warned Banks that the bus on Crane and Mack may not be operating due to the uprising, Banks still headed to work as usual to catch the 4:30 bus. He either forgot the landlady’s warning or was just so excited to have a job after 5 months of unemployment that he just didn’t care. A witness Charles Bowens said it was silent that morning. He heard Banks walking down the street when someone yelled, “Shoot the sonofabitch, he’s got no business out here anyway.” They he saw National Guardsmen outside and heard many rounds of shots fired. They weren’t sure who was shot, but later Banks’ body was found near a pickup truck around the corner. Bowens never heard any warning to halt, but did hear the guardsmen just standing around smoking, laughing, and talking after the shooting. Police reports list Banks as a possible looter and states that he was seen at a Tavern on Mack. The tavern owner said he was already closed and that nobody had broken in so that couldn’t have been true. Bowens even said, “ I saw everything but the actual shooting and I know which way he was coming from. And it wasn’t from Mack. He was heading toward Mack.”  Bowens places the death completely on the National Guard and said they were “awful jittery.” Everyone who knew Banks knew that he could never have been a looter and was just heading to work.

Arthur Johnson

Arthur Johnson was a 36 year old African American man who had dropped out of high school. Not much is known about Johnson, but his luck in recent years seemed to be bad and he was drifting. He had just separated from his wife and began to hang around his old school-buddy, Perry Williams. They went out on July 25 to see what was going on in the uprising. They ended up standing outside of an already burned and looted pawn shop when a police car came by. The two men ran into the shop as the policemen unloaded endless bullets into the building walls and windows and just kept driving. A witness told them they could come out now, but neither ever emerged. Police reports later claim that as three policemen went to search the building, they were attacked by Johnson and Williams. Both had been killed, Williams by Giacobozzi and Johnson by Zazula.

Perry Williams

Perry Williams was a 33 year old man from South Carolina who moved to Detroit at age 3. His family had lived in poverty his whole life, Williams had dropped out of high school, and led a troubled adolescence. He married his wife at age 18 and switched from odd job to odd job until he held a welding job in Pontiac, Michigan. Perry and Arthur Johnson were school friends that could not be separated. They went out on July 25 to see what was going on in the uprising. They ended up standing outside of an already burned and looted pawn shop when a police car came by. The two men ran into the shop as the policemen unloaded endless bullets into the building walls and windows and just kept driving. A witness told them they could come out now, but neither ever emerged. Police reports later claim that as three policemen went to search the building, they were attacked by Johnson and Williams. Both had been killed, Williams by Giacobozzi and Johnson by Zazula.

Jack Snydor

Jack Snydor was a 38 year old African American man. He lived not too far from Twelfth Street with his common-law wife Zella Mallory. He went to get some break on Tuesday and returned drunk. He pulled out a 32 caliber revolver that he kept in the apartment and wanted to see if it worked, so he shot it out of the apartment window. It worked. Policemen and National Guard arrived on the scene and stormed the building until they reached Snydor’s room. Patrolman Roger Polke was immediately hit by a bullet to the abdomen. Polke’s colleagues sent a torrent of fire into Snydor’s apartment and Mrs. Mallory fled with them. Snydor went into the bedroom. With officers and guardsmen out of the building, they bombarded the apartment with tear gas and bullets. When they entered again, the found Snydor’s dead body three floors below on the ground. He had been hit and either fell or stumbled from the window. After the uprising, people refused to talk about Snydor, allegedly due to threats by Black Nationalists who ordered not to say anything negative about him. He was the only confirmed sniper to die in Detroit.

Tonia Blanding

Tonia Blanding was an innocent African American four year old girl. She lived right on Twelfth Street and spent most of her time dancing back and forth in her floral dresses on the corner. She loved finding people to play with and spent a lot of time at a nearby beauty shop. Once the uprisings began, Tonia was forced to stay in the house in the dark with her family waiting for the chaos to pass. There were many theories of snipers in the darkness shooting at police and National Guardsmen, so the forces were ready to pursue the snipers. A tank rolling down Twelfth Street was fired at and turned in the direction from which the shot came. Tonia was huddled in the darkness playing with a toy. She was with her uncle, cousin, mother, and several other children. Someone, police say it was her father, others say it was her uncle, lit a cigarette. Guards had warned people to keep their apartments dark; at the sight of a light, the tank commander ordered the tank to turn around towards the apartment right as the man struck the match. They thought the match was fire from a weapon, so the fifty-caliber machine gun shot fire into Tonia’s apartment building. After several rounds of fire, residents were pleading them to stop, as someone had been hit. Everyone evacuated the building except for Tonia. The ambulance took a very long time to pick up Tonia’s body. The presumed sniper they thought was hiding had escaped according to police. It still has not been explained why the tank would be turned on the apartment building and one high official from DPD said, “The little girl’s death was regrettable.”

July 26

John  LeRoy

John LeRoy, 30, moved to Detroit from Cleveland, Tennessee when he was just a boy. He dropped out of high school and began employment at a junkyard. When he fell in love and married his wife, he decided he needed a more stable and lucrative job, so he began working in Chrysler’s stamping plant. He and his wife settled down in a middle class community on the East Side. Their close family friends were the Dunsons, who they often hung out with. Charles Dunson was especially bitter about the uprising and “bitter at the National Guard for what he calls the outright murder of his friend John.” Charles Dunson claims that the National Guard were laying in wait for them during the uprising. A bunch of the men were driving their friend Ronald Powers home when they were stopped at a National Guard checkpoint. The Guardsmen told them to take another route and that there was a sniper in the area. They drove to their destination street when they spotted a jeep parked in the middle of the block and thought it was another checkpoint. All of the sudden shots were firing from the National Guard. The men were shouting that they weren’t doing anything, but the shooting persisted. Everyone in the car had been hit and they were all forced to lie on the ground until ambulance arrived on the scene. LeRoy had been hit two times and maybe even a third time when he was lying on the ground. His death, as his friend Charles Dunson puts it, was an ambush. He said, “I believe they left after we did and then waited on us. Someone said they yelled for us to halt but I didn’t hear any such command. And, then, when I did stop, they still shot us to pieces.”

Aubrey Pollard

Aubrey Pollard had a room at Algiers Motel at age 19. He worked as a welder for Ford, but had recently been laid off and had been hanging around his father’s house just watching television. Around midnight, Aubrey, Fred Temple, Carl Cooper, and two white girls Julie Hysell and Karen Malloy, were partying in the motel annex. All of the sudden, 10 policemen and National Guardsmen stormed into the annex allegedly in search of snipers. Pollard was shot more than once at a range of fifteen feet or less by a 12-gauge double-0 buckshot while lying or kneeling. Patrolman Ronald W. August was charged with killing unarmed Pollard, but at the trial insisted it was in self-defense. The judge declined to accept August’s story and bound him over for trial on a charge of first-degree murder. Very few people believe the story that these officers were acting out of self-defense, and many feel as if they were “blatantly massacred.” More details here.

Fred Temple

Fred Temple was a creative 18 year old with ambition; he worked at Ford but had plans to enter night school in the fall of 1967. He enjoyed music and often hung out with his musician friends known as the Dramatics. They were currently playing at the Fox Theater and kept a room at Algiers as a place for downtime in between their shows. Fred helped them backstage with costumes and instruments. Around midnight, Aubrey, Fred Temple, Carl Cooper, and two white girls Julie Hysell and Karen Malloy, were partying in the motel annex. All of the sudden, 10 policemen and National Guardsmen stormed into the annex allegedly in search of snipers. Temple was shot more than once at a range of fifteen feet or less by a 12-gauge double-0 buckshot while lying or kneeling. Patrolman Robert N. Paille admitted to shooting Temple and was charged with murder. Charges against him were dismissed after the statement was ruled inadmissable, and Paille’s lawyer argued that there was no evidence that associated him with Temple’s death. Very few people believe the story that these officers were acting out of self-defense, and many feel as if they were “blatantly massacred.” More details here.

Carl Cooper

Carl Cooper was 17 and worked as a spot welder and had also been laid off like his friend Aubrey Pollard. He was a very “snappy dresser” and worked to make sure the six younger children in his family were all attending school and staying out of trouble. Carl loved to go swimming at the Algiers Motel pool and loved to go there to shoot craps. Around midnight, Aubrey, Fred Temple, Carl Cooper, and two white girls Julie Hysell and Karen Malloy, were partying in the motel annex. All of the sudden, 10 policemen and National Guardsmen stormed into the annex allegedly in search of snipers. Cooper was shot multiple times while unarmed at close range by a 12-gauge shotgun. No charges were brought after Cooper’s death. Very few people believe the story that these officers were acting out of self-defense, and many feel as if they were “blatantly massacred.” More details here.

Helen Hall

Mrs. Hall, 51, was sent to Detroit for work to take inventory on a company acquired by her company Faria. She was happy to make the trip from Connecticut because she could spend some time with her daughter who lived in Illinois. She also had a son in the navy stationed in Hawaii as well as a 13 year old son. After visiting with her daughter, Hall headed for Detroit and checked into the Harlan House motel. Helen had heard about the violence that began popping up; although she didn’t condone violence, she said she could see why they were doing it, as she always rooted for the underdog. Wednesday morning rolled around, and the motel residents were in the middle of gunfire. Hall had been consoling 24 year old Lisa Poirier in the motel dining room. At 1AM, she walked from her room to Lisa’s room and they talked. Hall went over to the tall hall windows and opened the curtain. Behind her was a globe light fixture, which illuminated the hallway as they looked out on tanks across the street. Before they knew it, Mrs. Hall was shot in the chest by a high-powered rifle. Miss Poirier fainted upon just dodging a second shot through the window. Mrs. Hall was pulled away from the window and tried to speak, but could not. She was dead upon the ambulance’s arrival. Police believe that a sniper was responsible for Helen Hall’s death, but the Chief of the Criminal Division of the county prosecutor’s office believe that a National Guardsmen fired the fatal shot, as did Mayor Cavanagh.

Larry Post

Larry Post was a 26 year old National Guardsman and Ford employee in the research and design center from Detroit. He was a bachelor who lived with his parents and loved working on his cars. He didn’t have the patience for those who didn’t hold a job or live by the rules of the law. He believed that the actions on Twelfth Street were inexcusable lawlessness. His squad was summoned to respond to the events of the uprising. His unit received lots of opposition. He reported back to his family that he often had to fight hand-to-hand with looters on the street. They taunted, cursed, and even spit on him. On Wednesday morning, Post’s unit was assigned to an area with rumored snipers. Larry yelled for a driver to halt and fired his carbine in the air. He simultaneously felt a bullet tear into his body. Investigators say Post was shot when a car with three men ran the blockade. They supposedly ignored orders to halt and the Guard opened fire. The men, who claimed to be sightseeing, said there was no blockade or commands to halt. Larry’s death was ruled that he was shot by an unknown person. He died two weeks after battling for his life in the hospital. The three men arrested from the roadblock were charged with assault with intent to murder. They were brutally beaten by police while in custody, and the charges were reduced to violation of curfew with two of the men getting six months probation and one receiving a suspended sentence.

George Talbert

George Talbert was a 20 year old African American from Detroit. He had a wife Barbara and two kids and took very good care to ensure they never had to go on welfare. He worked many different jobs including as a production worker in Pontiac and at a television repair firm. During the summer of 1967 they traveled to New York and frequented Belle Isle where George enjoyed fishing. He dropped out of high school, but was planning on returning to school to learn a trade. His father, Willie, attests to George’s personal character as “never a rough boy” and that “you couldn’t fault that boy of mine.” On Wednesday during the uprising, Talbert and a friend Lance Smith decided to head down Twelfth Street to see the damage. Upon arrival the area was tense, filled with National Guardsmen on edge looking for supposed sniper fire. George and Lance had parked their car and began walking down LaSalle Gardens South towards Twelfth Street. Witness Julian Witherspoon said he saw the men walking down his street when one of the guardsmen raised his rifle and let out a shot. The bullet took Talbert to the ground and then hit Lance in the shoulder. A priest onlooker ignored the Guard’s orders to stay back and administered last rites. The Guard said they couldn’t take the men to the hospital and that the police was coming The police never came, so the priest called them and they had been ordered out of the area by the National Guard. The two boys were finally taken to the hospital. Talbert told his wife and father that he was shot by a sniper, but didn’t know what actually happened. Guardsmen told police that the boys had threatened them, but people on LaSalle Gardens don’t believe their stories. Talbert and Smith weren’t breaking the law, out past curfew, or armed. Guardsmen actually broke orders by Lt. Gen. Throckmorton when they shot Talbert. He died ten days after the shooting at Henry Ford Hospital.

Willie McDaniels

Willie McDaniels was a 23 year old African American from Birmingham, Alabama who moved to Detroit for a better life. He was very artistic, creating rooster wall plaques that would eventually be manufactured by his company. He mainly worked as a laborer and sometimes worked another job at night in order to get ahead and save so he and his wife could buy a house for them and their two children. By Wednesday, McDaniels was feeling confined from not being able to go to work during the uprising, so he and a friend went to see how the city looked. They were walking when gunfire broke out, supposedly by snipers. After the gunfire was over, McDaniels was found dead on the ground with a bullet hole in his right temple. It is unclear whether or not he was killed by snipers, but neighborhood residents say there were no snipers. It is also unclear whether or not McDaniels was participating in looting; some bystanders and his family insist he was not looting, but one of the five looters arrested during this gunfire said she saw him carrying out two lamps. Mrs. Gloria McDaniels refuses to believe this woman because she knows he worked for what he wanted and wanted to buy a home so he wouldn’t do anything to sabotage that.

Julius Lust

Julius Lust was a 26 year old white man from Detroit. People seldom could talk about him without mentioning his love for cars. Lust always fixed cars for his neighbors free of charge. He dropped out of high school to work as a carpenter and begin a family. He, his wife Donna, and three year old daughter lived in a modest home on the outskirts of Detroit. At the time of the uprising, Lust and some friends from the neighborhood were working on a hybrid car. He had told two of his friends that a junkyard employee Dean Turley had given him permission to enter the yard after hours to obtain the car piece he needed. People across the street were yelling at him not to go in fear of the activity occurring around them. Lust and his two friends climbed the back fence at around 9pm in search of a plastic shift-selector housing when a store guard across the street noticed them and told a passing police car a distorted story of what was happening, including that there were four men (one African American) and said one man was carrying a revolver. Lust only had a wrench. Two of the policemen, Robert Wrathell and Frederick Robinson, came out with rifles and ordered Lust to stop. Both claim he started to run while raising his left arm. They thought the wrench was a gun, so they fired into the yard, shot, and killed Lust. Turley denies that he gave Lust permission to enter, but the family is convinced someone must have given him permission and that the police were too quick to fire. The part he was after was $5 or $6, and the owner  said they could have worked out a fair price.

Albert Robinson

Albert Robinson was a 35 year old African American man from Hamtramck. He was a high school dropout who worked as a painter as he was drafted in the Michigan National Guard. After serving in the Army for two years, he came home and decided to work as a metal finisher at a Chrysler plant in Warren. By this time he had an estranged wife and child who he left out in New Jersey where he had met his estranged wife during his time in the Army. On July 26, Robinson’s wife had come out to Detroit to discuss reconciliation, but he was dead. Guardsmen say they entered Robinson’s apartment on the West Side upon hearing of sniper activity in the building. When they entered, Albert was in the hallway taking out his trash; the Guardsmen yelled at him using racial slurs and Robinson said he didn’t have a gun. He was knocked to the ground, bayoneted several times, and then fatally shot. The police report fails to mention that National Guard entered the building, but they admit to doing so. The Guardsmen also stated that Robinson tried to grab the sargeant’s weapon, but an attorney who investigated the situation says that is ridiculous because any person would be a fool to do that in the presence of such a weapon.

July 27

William Dalton

William Dalton was a 19 year old African American man from the West Side of Detroit. Dalton was a standout in his family; he had tons of friends and some said he could sing better than Smokey Robinson. He dropped out of high school in the 11th grade and began working. He was scheduled to take a physical for the Army in August. On the night of July 27, he went over to see how his friends were doing in their old neighborhood around Grand River. Willie had been stopped on the street by police after the 9:30 curfew. They accused him of being a curfew violator, a looter, and an arsonist and pinned him up against a tree to search him. He told them he wasn’t doing anything and one patrolman told him, “Shut up you sonofabitch, or I’ll blow your goddamn brains out. I oughtta do it anyways. Why don’t you run?” Dalton did not run. They marched him toward an alley and a patrolman shot him in the chest and stomach at a 10 foot range and then left the scene.

July 28

Palmer Gray Jr.

Palmer Gray Jr. was a 21 year old African American from Detroit. He was shot and killed by Patrolman David Senak after reportedly pointing a rifle at Senak.

July 29

Ernest Roquemore

Ernest Roquemore was a 19 year old high school dropout from Detroit. He and his family were pretty close until he started becoming friends with people who led him in the wrong direction. He began holding pills for friends and his father became very suspicious. Ernest was very afraid of physical pain and convinced his physician at his physical for the Army/Navy that he was mentally insane to escape going to Vietnam. He left his family’s house after they had tried to send him to live with his aunt down south and when they tried to get him a job at a cab company garage. He moved to a flat less than two blocks from his family home, and his family said they could tell he was scared about the uprisings and would mask his fear with jokes. One day, paratroopers showed up at his apartment building upon reports that loot from the uprising had been found there. Some paratroopers ran in through the front while others entered from the back shooting. A young man rushed down the hall with a radio in his hand, but the paratroopers thought it was a gun, and began shooting when Ernest ran into the line of fire. He was shot in the back and killed instantly. While this is what police reports say, the Roquemore family believes they are just trying to cover up and justify a homicide.

August 10

Clifford Swint

Clifford Swint was a 56-year-old African American male who was arrested during the Uprising on the charge of public drunkenness. He was injured in custody in unclear circumstances. Civil rights groups attributed his death to police brutality and demanded an investigation. 

For a comprehensive visual map highlighting the locations of these casualties, follow this link here. 

Sources:

Van Gordon Sauter and Burleigh Hines, Nightmare in Detroit: A Rebellion and its Victims (Henry Regnery Company: Chicago, 1968)

"Incidents Reported at the Time of the Detroit Riot to Congressman John Conyers and the Detroit Branch of the NAACP," n.d. [August 1967], Folder: Civil Liberties - Blacks - Michigan - Detroit - 1967 Rebellion, Subject Vertical Files, Joseph A. Labadie Collection, Special Collections Library, University of Michigan

Detroit Police Department, "Deaths Due to Civil Disorder," Box 319, Folder Detroit Riot, George Romney Paprs, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan

Michigan State Police, "Racial Disturbances-Detroit," July 24, 1967, Box 319, Folder: Detroit Riot General, George Romney Papers, Bentley Historical Library, University of Michigan

"A Time of Tragedy," The Detroit News, August 11, 1967

"The 43 Who Died," Detroit Free Press (Sept. 3, 1967)

"Probe Death," The Michigan Chronicle, August 12, 1967

Prev Next