AIYANA'S FAMILY retained Geoffrey Fieger, the flamboyant, brass-knuckled lawyer who represented Dr. Jack Kevorkian—a.k.a. Dr. Death. With Chief Evans vacationing overseas with a subordinate, Fieger ran wild, holding a press conference where he claimed he had seen videotape of Officer Weekley firing into the house from the porch. Fieger alleged a police cover-up. Detroit grew restless.
I went to see Fieger to ask him to show me the tape. Fieger's suburban office is a shrine to Geoffrey Fieger. The walls are covered with photographs of Geoffrey Fieger. On his desk is a bronze bust of Geoffrey Fieger. And during our conversation, he referred to himself in the third person—Geoffrey Fieger.
"What killed Aiyana is what killed the people in New Orleans and the rider on the transit in Oakland, and that's police bullets and police arrogance and police cover-up," Geoffrey Fieger said. "People call it police brutality. But Geoffrey Fieger calls it police arrogance. Even in Detroit, a predominantly black city. They killed a child and then they lied about it."
"What killed Aiyana is what killed the people in New Orleans and the rider on the transit in Oakland, and that's police bullets and police arrogance and police cover-up," Jones' lawyer said.
I asked Fieger if Charles Jones should accept some culpability in his daughter's death, considering his alleged role in Je'Rean's murder, the stolen cars found in his backyard, and the fact that his daughter slept on the couch next to an unlocked door.
"So what?" Fieger barked. "I'm not representing the father; I'm speaking for the daughter." He also pointed out that while Jones remains a person of interest in Je'Rean's murder, he has not been arrested. "It's police disinformation."
As for the videotape of the killing, Geoffrey Fieger said he did not have it.
I was allowed to meet with Charles Jones the following morning at Fieger's office, but with the caveat that I could only ask him questions about the evening his daughter was killed.
Jones, 25, a slight man with frizzy braids, wore a dingy T-shirt. An 11th-grade dropout and convicted robber, he said he supported his seven children with "a little this, a little that—I got a few tricks and trades."
He has three boys with Aiyana's mother, Dominika Stanley, and three boys with another woman, whom he had left long ago.
Jones' new family had been on the drift for the past few years as he tried to pull it together. His mother's house on Lillibridge, he said, was just supposed to be a way station to better things.
They had even kept Aiyana in her old school, Trix Elementary, because it was something consistent in her life, a clean and safe school in a city with too few. They drove her there every morning, five miles.
"I can accept the shooting was a mistake," Jones said about his daughter's death as a bleary-eyed Stanley sat motionless next to him. "But I can't accept it because they lied about it. I can't heal properly because of it. It was all for the cameras. I don't want no apology from no police. It's too late."
I asked him if the way he was raising his daughter, the people he exposed her to, or the neighborhood where they lived—with its decaying houses and liquor stores—may have played a role.
Stanley suddenly emerged from her stupor: "What's that got to do with it?" she hissed.
"My daughter got love, honor, and respect. The environment didn't affect us none," Jones said. "The environment got nothing to do with kids."
A makeshift memorial on Aiyana's porch.
AIYANA WAS LAID TO REST six days after her killing. The service was held at Second Ebenezer Church in Detroit, a drab cake-shaped megachurch near the Chrysler Freeway. A thousand people attended, as did the predictable plump of media.
The Rev. Al Sharpton delivered the eulogy, though his heart did not seem to be in it. It was a white cop who killed the girl, but Detroit is America's largest black city with a black mayor and a black chief of police. The sad and confusing circumstances of the murders of Je'Rean Blake and Officer Huff, both black, robbed Sharpton of some of his customary indignation.
"We're here today not to find blame, but to find out how we never have to come here again," said Sharpton, standing in the grand pulpit. "It's easy in our anger, our rage, to just vent and scream. But I would be doing Aiyana a disservice if we just vented instead of dealing with the real problems."
He went on: "This child is the breaking point."
Aiyana's pink-robed body was carried away by a horse-drawn carriage to the Trinity Cemetery, the same carriage that five years earlier had taken the body of Rosa Parks to Woodlawn Cemetery on the city's West Side. Once at Aiyana's graveside, Charles Jones released a dove.
Sharpton left and the Rev. Horace Sheffield, a local version of Sharpton, got stiffed for $4,000 in funeral costs, claiming Aiyana's father made off with the donations people gave to cover it.
"Sharpton's full of shit," said Je'Rean's mother. "He came here for publicity. What the hell you doing up here for? The kids are dropping like flies and he's got nothing but useless words."
"I'm trying to find him," Sheffield complained. "But he doesn't return my calls. It's always like that. People taking advanage of my benevolence. They went hog wild. I mean, hiring the Rosa Parks carriage?"
"I don't owe Sheffield shit," says Jones. "He got paid exactly what he was supposed to be paid."
While a thousand people mourned the tragic death of Aiyana, the body of Je'Rean Blake Nobles sat in a refrigerator at a local funeral parlor; his mother was too poor to bury him herself and too respectful to bury him until after the little girl's funeral, anyhow. The mortician charged $700 for the most basic viewing casket, even though the body was to be cremated.
Sharpton's people called Je'Rean's mother, Lyvonne Cargill, promising to come over to her house after Aiyana's funeral. She waited, but Sharpton never came.
"Sharpton's full of shit," said Cargill, a brassy 39-year-old who works as a stock clerk at Target. "He came here for publicity. He's from New York. What the hell you doing up here for? The kids are dropping like flies—especially young black males—and he's got nothing but useless words."
The Rev. Sheffield came to see Cargill. He gave her $800 for funeral costs.