Chief: Detroit officer was killed during unapproved training exercise

The chief said there are two active investigations following Officer Darren Weathers’ death


By Hasan Dudar
Detroit Free Press

DETROIT — Detroit police officer Darren Weathers was killed as his team conducted a surveillance training exercise that wasn't approved by the commander of the department's professional standards section, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said Wednesday, and he may have run a red light.

It was initially reported that Weathers, 25, was conducting a training exercise in southwest Detroit when the crash occurred at about 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, but on Wednesday, Craig said it was uncertain whether Weathers, who died from his injuries at Henry Ford Hospital, was involved in the training.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig addresses the media Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
Detroit Police Chief James Craig addresses the media Tuesday, April 5, 2016, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

“I can’t tell you with certainty that, while this officer’s team was involved in surveillance training, he may have been trying to meet up with the team or he could have been actively involved,” Craig said.

Craig said there are two active investigations following Weathers’ death: a fatal crash investigation and an internal probe.

The first will look into causal factors in the fatal crash, Craig said, and that is being handled by the department’s Fatal Squad, because the incident happened on the streets of Detroit.

The internal probe will focus on the “actual training, why it was conducted, how extensive was it,” Craig said.

“We shouldn’t train in an uncontrolled environment,” Craig said. “And certainly, when you talk about the streets, public streets, that’s not the place where this type of training should be conducted.”

Craig said that speed and loss of control of the vehicle were both factors in the crash, which happened on Michigan Avenue near Clark, and that authorities believe the traffic light was red at the time Weathers went through the intersection, striking another vehicle.

The other vehicle was going in a separate direction and was trying to make a left turn, Craig said. He said it sustained little damage and there was minimal injury to the occupants. The Free Press reported on Tuesday that the other vehicle was carrying two or three occupants.

“There was an initial strike, impact on one vehicle, and it was from that impact that the car the officer was operating, airborne, struck a brick wall,” Craig said.

Surveillance training, according to Craig, is not a high-speed exercise.

When asked whether there was any dash cam or body cam footage of the crash, Craig indicated that the vehicle, part of a covert, undercover unit, was not equipped with a in-car video system and, because the officers are undercover, they don't wear body cameras.

Weathers was part of what Craig described as a highly specialized unit that is a subpart of internal affairs and investigates alleged criminal misconduct of police officers and, at times, members of other city departments.

Craig didn’t disclose how many officers are part of the specialized surveillance squad.

Meanwhile, in Lansing, Sen. Bert Johnson, D-Highland Park talked about Weathers, who was his brother-in-law.

"You can’t imagine how happy he was to be here,” Johnson said about a visit Weathers made to the Senate three years ago. “Young people who demonstrate so much promise, who have so much hope inside of them, I think we all try to see ourselves in that person.

"I was proud of Darren not just because he was my brother-in-law, but because he was a fine, fine kid ... He was kind, he was funny, he was smart. He loved Detroit. He loved his country, he loves his family."

©2018 the Detroit Free Press

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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