DETROIT, MI (NBC) - A 7-year-old girl was shot and killed after a Detroit police officer's gun went off during the execution of a search warrant at a house on the city's east side early Sunday morning.
Assistant Detroit Police Chief Ralph Godbee said at a news conference Sunday that Aiyana Jones was hit in the neck by a single bullet. She was pronounced dead at St. John's Hospital.
"This is a tragedy of unspeakable magnitude to Aiyana's parents, family and all those who loved her," Godbee said. "Again, our deepest and most heartfelt condolences go out to them."
Godbee said police were executing a warrant just before 1 a.m. in connection with the shooting death of a 17-year-old. Jarean Blake, a student at Detroit's Southeastern High School, was gunned down Friday afternoon outside Motor City Marketplace on Mack Avenue.
Godbee said investigators identified a 34-year-old man as the alleged shooter and had learned he may be hiding inside the house on Lillibridge Street.
"Because of the ruthless and violent nature of the suspect in this case, it was determined that it would be in the best interest of public safety to execute the search warrant as soon as possible and detain the suspect while we sought a murder warrant," Godbee said.
He said officer's with the department's Special Response Team set off a distractionary device called a "Flash Bang," which was intended to temporarily disorient occupants of the house to make it easier for officers to safely gain control of anyone inside and secure the premise.
Godbee said when the lead officer entered the house, he encountered a 46-year-old woman in the front room.
"Exactly what happened next is a matter still under investigation, but it appears the officer and the woman had some level of physical contact," Godbee said.
The officer's gun went off, striking the girl. Jones' father, Charles, said his daughter was sleeping on a couch when she was shot.
"I had just brought my daughter in, found her a blanket out there and put it on," he said. "I kissed her and told her goodnight."
Charles Jones said his mother, who was the woman allegedly involved in the contact with the officer, never did anything wrong.
"There's no way that my mom would try to grab no gun, she's still alive. They killed my daughter. Why wouldn't they shoot my mom?" he said.
Ralph Hardy, the girl's uncle, said police had the wrong home to begin with.
"Detroit police was wrong, they ran in the wrong house and killed a 7-year-old girl who we'll never get back," Hardy said.
The house is a duplex, and family members of the girl said the man police were looking for was not in their home but the one above them.
"She's the only thing that can make me happy, that was my only daughter for a reason," Charles Jones said. "She was my happiness, she was my joy."
Godbee stressed that the shooting was still being investigated and that all of the information was preliminary.
"We cannot undo what occurred this morning," Godbee said. "All we can do is to pledge an open and full investigation and to support Aiyana's family in whatever way they may be willing to accept from us at this time."
Godbee said the 34-year-old shooting suspect was found inside and arrested, along with evidence that matched descriptions of vehicles involved in Blake's shooting.
The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality held a news conference Sunday evening at the house on Lillibridge Street. DCAPB representative Ron Scott said he doesn't believe police took enough precautions.
"From what we understand from what we were told, a precautionary grenade was thrown in here and the yelling of police and the kicking of the door, came only seconds in between," he said. "It wasn't enough time for anybody to get up or whatever."
Scott said he hopes any investigation into the shooting will be meticulous and fair.
"We have an issue here in terms of whether or not the decisions that were made arise to the standard of being criminal or whether it was a bad mistake," he said. "Either way, we want the prosecutor to look into it and make a decision."