Police Homicides + Shootings 1964-66

DPD "Use of Firearm" policy

Racial Geography Map of Police-Involved Homicides and Shootings of Civilians, 1964-1966

Between 1964 and 1966, Detroit police officers shot and/or killed the 31 civilians listed on the map below. The 14 fatalities specifically identified by our team through laborious archival and newspaper research represent slightly more than half of the 23 officially acknowledged police-involved killings during this time period (DPD did not release identifying data), and even this official total is certainly an undercount. The map also includes 17 identified instances of nonfatal police shootings of civilians. Click on the dots to learn more about each incident.

DPD official count of police and civilian fatalities

Key Findings

 

 

14 Homicides at the Hands of Detroit Police Officers, 1964-1966

Detroit News, 2/17/1964

James (Johnny) Williams, a 41-year-old African American male, was shot and killed at his home by patrolmen on February 16, 1964, at about 10:30 p.m. Patrolmen Sidney Oram, Lawrence F. Sebastian,  Donald Zielinski, and Terrance Wright were called to Williams's home after a report that Williams had threatened to shoot his cousin Minnie Carter earlier in the evening. It was reported that around 10:00 PM that night, Williams had gone to Mrs. Carter's home looking for his wife, Mary, with whom he had an argument. The police officers reported that Williams was seen holding a shotgun when they arrived to his porch, and Patrolman Sebastien spotted the gun and yelled to warn Patrolman Oram that he possessed a weapon.  Patrolman Sebastien claims he began to fire when he saw the door open and Williams aiming his gun at the officers. It was later discovered that Williams's weapon was empty, although live shells were found in another room. The patrolmen fired ten shots at Williams, who was reported dead on arrival to Detroit Receiving Hospital with bullet wounds in the chest, side, and forearm.

Detroit News headline about Clifton Allen killing, 7/3/1964

Clifton Jerome Allen, a 17-year-old African American male, was shot in the head and killed by Sergeant Louis Causi on July 2, 1964 at 10:47 p.m. Causi shot Allen while he was running away from the site of a suspected burglary at a medical supply firm called Sanborn Co. The telephone caller reported to police that $1.83 had been stolen from a petty cash box; however, no money was found on Allen or his partner Charles Clay (who was believed to be Allen’s lookout while he broke into the store). Sergeant Causi reported that he fired a warning shot into the ground after he identified himself as a police officer and shouted for Allen to halt while chasing him through an alley. He fired the final shot from his revolver at Allen from 100 feet away after Allen allegedly ignored his orders and continued to run. Sergeant Causi reported that he thought Allen had escaped and returned to his partner, Lt. Clarence Cesare. Sergeant Causi and Lt. Cesare later found Allen face down in the alley. He was taken to Detroit General Hospital where he died an hour later.

Michigan Chronicle, 11/21/1964

Edward Ellington, a 39-year-old African American male, was fatally shot in the chest and forearm by Patrolman Robert A. Sekula in an East Side bar on November 14, 1964. He was dead on arrival to Receiving Hospital with two gunshot wounds in the chest and two wounds in the forearm. Officer Sekula and his partner Richard Evans reported that they went to the bar after receiving a call from the owner Steve Mora, who stated that Ellington refused to leave the bar after being asked. The officers stated that Ellington was holding a hunting knife upon their arrival and began to advance toward the officers. Officer Sekula said he asked Ellington to drop the knife three times before firing two shots at Ellington, which brought him to the ground.

Detroit News front page, 12/13/1964

Andre Rene D'Artagan, a 32-year-old, African American, male was shot and killed by Patrolman Ray Shriner on December 12, 1964. The wife of Andre D'Artagan reported to Detective Sergeant Gobel Baynes that her husband had threatened to kill her and that he was wanted for burglary and arson by the Los Angeles Police Department. When Detective Baynes recognized Mrs. D'Artagan in a passing car, he called in other officers to help and a 21 minute car chase on the Lodge Freeway and the outskirts of downtown Detroit began. Police fired several shots at D'Artagan's car, and he fired at the police cars during the chase. When D'Artagan reached Hendrie Street, he got out of the car and ran to the backyard of a house. There he shot and killed Patrolman Howard Tulke, a white officer, pictured in the article on the right. In response, Patrolman Shriner, also a white officer, and several other white officers began to shoot at D'Artagan. The hospital reported that there were seven wounds in the body of D'Artagan upon arrival.

The Detroit News article published on the front page on December 13, 1964, is one of the only times, if not the only time, that a police killing of an African American was featured as the main headline story. In this case, it was not to criticize the officers for shooting civilians, but to show that an African American civilian shot and killed a white police officer. The article emphasizes D'Artagan's past, including his criminal record and status as a fugitive wanted by the Los Angeles Police Department for burglary and arson charges. The first sentence reads, "A Detroit policeman and an ex-convict wanted on burglary and arson charges in Los Angeles were killed Saturday afternoon in a fullisade of gunfire behind an East Side apartment." In addition to the clear portrayal of D'Artagan as a wanted criminal, and not a victim of police violence, the images chosen further demonstrate how The Detroit News focused on the life and death of the officer, Howard Tulke, because he was white. They show a picture of Patrolman Tukle in his uniform with the caption, "slain patrolman," and discuss in the article how long Tulke had been on the force and the fact that he was married with no kids. In contrast, there is no photograph of D'Artagan, and the only information provided about him as a person is that he is a fugitive who opened a photo store recently under a fraudulent name. The descriptions and images provided in this article clearly demonstrate the bias in the media for white police officers and offers no sympathy to the deceased African American person. The article even goes further to criminalize D'Artagan by showing an image of a white man, William Ward, who was wounded as a bystander walking by the gun chase. His condition was reported not serious by the hospital, but he is still depicted and described favorably in contrast to D'Artagan, who lost his life. The officer who fired at and killed D'Artagan, Patrolman Shriner, also has his picture in uniform included and is praised for firing the four final shots. The only image related to D'Artagan is an image of the gun which he used to kill Patrolman Tulke in the location shown below. Similarly, the Detroit Free Press included this story with images of Patrolmen Tulke and Shriner, and bystander William Ward, on its front page after the shooting.

Detroit Free Press headline, 12/23/1964

Nathaniel Williams, a 15-year-old African American male, was shot and killed by Patrolman Calvin Berry on December 24, 1964, around 9:00 a.m.  Berry shot Williams in the head while he allegedly fled  from a home that he and 14-year-old Michael Sparks had broken into. Patrolman Berry stated that he and his partner, Patrolman Leo Quain, arrived on the scene to respond to a report of a burglary at 13249 Kentucky. Patrolman Berry shot at the boys when he saw them running away from the home. He reported firing only one shot at the two young boys. The bullet flew through a window and hit Williams above the left eye while he tried to close the door behind him. Williams died at 9:38 a.m. in the emergency room of Detroit Receiving Hospital.

"There was nothing in the house that was worth killing him for. They didn't have to shoot him. They don't have to shoot kids like animals. I know kids are going to steal. But they did not have to kill him." – Mother of Nathaniel Williams

The senseless killing of Nathaniel Williams sparked further protest from the African American population and led at least ten civil rights groups, including the NAACP, Detroit Urban League, Adult Community Movement for Equality, and others,  to demand new use of deadly force rules to limit police brutality and killings. In an article published a week following the homicide, the Detroit Free Press quoted Reverend Wadsworth's response to the police killing Williams for a petty crime. "Here was a boy who was guilty of breaking and entering being executed by the police. We don't condone crime or minimize the seriousness of breaking and entering. But a policeman should shoot to kill only if he or someone else is in grave danger." Wayne County prosecutor Samuel H. Olsen ruled the homicide of Nathaniel Williams justifiable because Patrolman Berry was performing his duty. On December 24, 1964, the Detroit Free Press wrote that, "Olsen said the youth was killed while suspected of committing a felony and that his age 'had no legal bearing' on the question." 

Detroit Free Press article about civil rights groups' response to Nathaniel Williams' death, 12/29/1964

Detroit Free Press headline, 5/12/1865

Arthur G. Barrington, a 31-year-old white male, was shot and killed by Police Sergeant William Gerlach on May 11, 1965 shortly before 2:00 a.m. The police received a call reporting a break-in at the Michigan Employment Security Commission Building. Sergeant Gerlach and Sergeant Carl Silvers reported to the building and saw a man running from the scene. They chased Barrington, and Sergeant Gerlach stated that he warned Barrington to stop and then fired one shot when he continued to run. The bullet struck Barrington in the lower back. Barrington was reported to have been carrying the wallet of another man and was identified from past police photographs. Barrington died seven hours later at Holy Cross Hospital.

Detroit Free Press article, 5/18/1965, with photographs of Chavis, Berry, and Jones

Jimmy Chavis, a 23-year-old white male, and William Berry, a 24-year-old white male, were shot and killed by police bullets during a car chase on May 17, 1965 around 12:30 a.m. The police were called to a bar, Club 1011, shortly after midnight. Witnesses stated that an argument had occurred between Dennis Wayne Jones, a 23-year-old white male and Berry. Following the argument, Berry allegedly followed Jones to the bathroom and shot him. Chavis and another man, Hassan (Joe) Mozhan, carried Jones out of the bar and stuck him in the backseat of their car. The scout car with four patrolmen, Patrolman Stanley Wiercloch, Patrolman John Saba, Patrolman William Reece, and Patrolman James Bennett, arrived at the bar to hear the story and learned the license plate number of the car seen driving away. The police spotted the car driven by Chavis with passengers Berry, Mozhan, and Jones, who was dead, at Grand River and Broadway. Patrolman Bennett stated that he shouted for Chavis to stop the car and identified himself as a police officer. Berry reportedly pulled out a pistol and began to fire at the cop car. All four policemen began firing at the car with shotguns and revolvers. Thirteen shots were fired at the car. Chavis was shot three times in the chest, and Berry was hit in the head and neck. Somehow, Mozhan escaped untouched. 

The Detroit Free Press article showed headshots of the three dead victims of the night: Chavis, Berry, and Jones. This is in contrast to cases when police killed African Americans, and the newspapers rarely showed their photographs. Additionally, the article showed an image of the shotgun bullet holes in Chavis's car door to prove the ferocity of the gun battle between the police and the suspected killer of Jones.

"Two officers came through the gate and one of the officers approaching Mr. Sabra's back. struck him in the head with his flashlight. . . . Mr. Sabra turned to the officer and asked why he had hit him, the officer fired and shot Mr. Sabra." – Earl Burnette, eyewitness affidavit

James Sabra, Sr., a 53-year-old African American male, was shot and killed by Patrolman Charles Norton on July 4, 1965, during the evening. Officers Charles Norton and Gregory St. Peter were called to a family picnic at the Sabras' residence after an argument developed between James Sabra. Sr., and his son James Sabra, Jr. When the officers arrived, Sabra, Sr., was holding a hunting knife and Sabra, Jr., was holding a barbecue fork. They put down the weapons after talking to the officers. Several minutes later, Sabra, Sr., was standing with his back to the officers and Patrolman Norton struck him in the back of the head with a flashlight. Sabra, Sr., fell, turned around, and asked why the officer had hit him, and then Norton shot him in the chest. The officers handcuffed him, dragged him to the police car, and put him on a stretcher. They took Sabra, Sr., to Receiving Hospital, where he died two hours later. They charged Sabra, Jr., with felonious assault.

The gallery below presents conflicting views of this case, which generated protests by several civil rights groups. The DPD's official homicide report accuses Sabra, Sr., of threatening the officerd with the knife and attacking them when Norton shot and killed him. The DPD Homicide investigation found the shooting to be justified and stated that Norton acted "only as a last resort" to save his own life.

The NAACP, the Michigan Chronicle, and ACME all investigated and uncovered a radically different story: that Sabra did not have a weapon in his hand and was not advancing on the officers when killed by Patrolman Norton. Six witnesses interviewed by the NAACP (bottom right document compilation) told a consistent story that Norton struck the unarmed Sabra with a flashlight and then shot him without cause.  

DPD Homicide Report on James Sabra (p. 1)

DPD Homicide Report on James Sabra (p. 2)

DCCR investigation of Sabra killing

NAACP witness statements on Sabra killing (6 pages)

Roger Curry police report

Roger Curry, a 21-year-old African American male, was shot and killed by Patrolman Percy Hart, who was also African American. Curry was declared dead upon arrival to Receiving Hospital at 1:30 a.m. after being shot in the left chest with an exit wound on the right side of his back. Patrolmen Hart and Donald Magdowski saw a car speeding and pulled it over. Patrolman Magdowski approached the car and asked Curry for his driver's license. Curry gave the officer a license under the name of Leroy Curry, while the automobile was registered under the name Roger Curry, whom the driver, Roger Curry, stated was his brother. When the officer asked for further identification, which Curry could not provide, the patrolman infromed him that he would have to come to the station. According to the police report, Curry then asked Patrolman Magdowski to take his hands off the car, which is when Patrolman Hart came to join his partner. The two officers attempted to arrest Curry, who they claimed reached into his pocket, after having his left wrist handcuffed, and said, "I'll get you." According to the police account, it was after this declaration that Patrolman Hart pulled out his revolver and fired at Curry. His initial bullet hit the sidewalk, and when Curry allegedly advanced towards Patrolman Hart, he fired the fatal shot at Curry.

Detroit News article about shooting of Richard Pieciak, 10/19/1965

Richard Pieciak, a 22-year-old white male, was killed by a single bullet in the neck fired by Patrolman Paul Ninelist on October 10, 1965. Pieciak was on parole after being arrested for auto theft and led the officers, Patrolmen Paul Ninelist and James Scanlon, on a chase at 70 miles per hour for about 2 miles on a motorcycle before stopping at the Daly Drive-in. He was arrested and placed in the scout car, where he allegedly struggled with the officers, grabbed Patrolman Scanlon's gun, and then ran toward Rouge Park. According to the police, after Pieciak grabbed Officer Scanlon's gun, Patrolman Ninelist fired at him as he was running away. Following the shooting, about 300 demonstrators gathered around the car, and the officers had to call for back up to disperse the angry crowd that had formed to protest the killing of a white civilian.

Even though media coverage described Pieciak as a criminal and a threat to the officers, since he was a white youth the newspapers displayed his image. By adding his picture, a courtesy rarely extended to African American victims of police violence, the article effectively humanizes Pieciak as a white victim who was killed by police, and gives readers a face to match the name.

Detroit Free Press article, 11/28/1965

Willard Redding, a 46-year-old African American male, was shot and killed by Patrolman Howard Allen outside an East Side laundromat on November 27, 1965, at 4:30 a.m. Allen fired six shots at Redding, who was a private guard working for L&L Private Police Patrol. Patrolman Allen noticed that Redding, who was in plainclothes, was carrying a pistol in a hip holster and asked to see his permit. Redding asked the young officer if he had a permit for his gun. When Patrolman Allen asked for Redding's gun, the fight began that resulted in Redding's death.

Detroit News article, 7/8/1966

Noel Vandewiele, a 22-year-old white male, was shot and killed by Patrolman Francis Wypch, part of the Tactical Mobile Unit, with a single bullet to the chest following a running chase through alleys on July 8, 1966. Vandewiele was suspected of robbery at a service station. Wypch shot six shots at Vandewiele after giving him a final warning. As was the pattern with white fatalities of police violence, the newspaper article on the right included Vandewiele's picture to humanize the victim rather than criminalize him as a result of the color of his skin.

Michigan Chronicle article 9/24/1966

Julius Malone, a 26-year-old African American male, was shot in the chest and killed by Patrolman Leland Kennedy in the kitchen of Malone's home on September 19, 1966 . Malone was a patient of the Ypsilanti State Hospital and had left the insitution to visit his wife Patricia Malone and their three children in Detroit. When Mrs. Malone realized that her husband was visiting without permission, she called the city physician's office on Sunday night, who told her they would not do anything until policemen accompanied him. On Monday morning, the officers arrived when Malone was still in bed. Patricia Malone reported that after getting dressed, Julius went to the kitchen to get a match to smoke and also took a boning knife, telling the policemen present that he wasn't going back to the hospital. Mrs. Malone reported that the officers told her if she didn't get additional help, they would have to kill her husband. She went to get a downstairs neighbor, who called for more police to come assist. More police cars arrived, and several officers entered the kitchen with guns drawn at Julius Malone. Officers picked up chairs and cornered Malone in the kitchen corner, where Mrs. Malone said he was smoking and holding the knife at his side. The police reported that Malone lunged at one officer after they knocking the chair out of his hand, which is when Patrolman Kennedy shot and killed Julius Malone.

Sources:

Detroit Free Press

Detroit News

Michigan Chronicle

NAACP Detroit Branch Records, Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University

Detroit Commissions on Community Relations (DCCR)/Human Rights Department, Walter P. Reuther Library, Archives of Labor and Urban Affairs, Wayne State University

Detroit Police Manual: Rules and Regulations of the Detroit Police Department (1962), Social Science, Education, and Religion Department, Detroit Public Library

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