Darnell Jackson was out for a walk with his 4-year-old nephew Wednesday when he noticed a young man waving a gun from a second-story window.
The 56-year-old west side resident said he knew he had to act. He rushed back inside his apartment next door and called 911. Gunfire erupted minutes later, leaving a responding Detroit police officer and the armed 19-year-old dead.
“He (the shooter) was like ‘what you looking at?,” Jackson recounted Thursday from his home near Joy and Marlowe. “I had never met the kid before, but I had to do something knowing he might start shooting. When my neighbor told me an officer got killed … this type of thing don’t usually happen around here. I mean, we have crime, but it’s not usually crazy like that.”
Loren Courts was among four officers in two scout cars who initially responded to a call of shots fired in the neighborhood just after 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. Courts, a five-year veteran, was shot upon arrival with a 7.62 semi-automatic Draco pistol, a weapon similar in caliber to an AK-47.
Detroit Police Chief James White said the officers were “ambushed” by the shooter, identified Thursday as Ehmani Davis, and “had no chance.” They had backup and training, White said, but Davis shot out the window of his apartment and opened fire on Courts while he was seated in the patrol car.
As Courts exited the car and collapsed, his partner, Amanda Hudgens, White said, had to make a decision: Keep pressure applied to Courts’ wounds or take cover from Davis, armed with the assault rifle.
“She makes the decision to give her partner a chance to live, keeping her back to the assailant,” he said of Hudgens, 34. “She just prepared to die. She braced herself to be shot in the back of the head or in the back while she administered first aid. He (Davis) is advancing on her with the assault rifle and she glances back, braces herself, and continues to apply direct pressure (to the wound).”
Multiple officers stepped in, returning fire on Davis and fatally striking him, police said.
“What I saw last night and this morning were heroes that were doing their job and I’m proud to lead them. But I’m frustrated. I’m focused,” White added during a Thursday press conference at the Detroit Public Safety Headquarters downtown. “This is unacceptable and this should be the line. Whatever your tipping point is, this should be it.”
White said that the city and its police department were “robbed of one of our heroes.” Courts, a 40-year-old father of two, was a second-generation Detroit officer.
“The city was robbed of a great father, a great police officer, a great brother, great son, and great husband and we should all be outraged,” White said. “He served with dignity and integrity for five years. He was, without a doubt, a hero. You are going to hear that over and over again. We spend too much time talking about non-heroes, like the murderer who killed this officer who was simply doing his job.”
White went on to say the department is “devastated but not defeated” and it will “continue to enforce the law,” but the police need help, he said, from lawmakers and the courts.
“We’re going to continue to enforce the law constitutionally and get these trigger pullers,” White said.
“The officers do amazing work, but we are not the whole judicial process,” he said. “We submit warrants, warrants get reviewed and warrants get signed by the courts but then there needs to be a penalty, an absolute penalty. We’re not part of the penalty process.”
White reiterated his stance that assault weapons in communities are “ridiculous” and “are causing death” and that higher bonds need to be set by judges to keep shooters and other violent suspects behind bars.
“We’re here all too often talking about double shootings, triple shootings,” he said. “We’re making the arrests but how many times do we stumble onto someone who should have been incarcerated that’s out on the street, committing another act. we can do something but we’re not. We’re not doing enough.
In Davis’ case, Detroit police said a warrant for assault with intent to murder was submitted to the Macomb County Prosecutor’s Office 15 days before Courts was shot and killed.
The weapon Davis used in the shooting had been “recently purchased,” White said.
The city’s second precinct, where Joy Road and Marlowe is located, has had 12 criminal homicides so far this year, according to DPD data. By this time last year there had been 24 homicides in the area. The second precinct has also seen 43 non-fatal shootings this year, compared to 52 during the same point in 2021.
White said Thursday there’s been an uptick in law enforcement officers being murdered around the country.
“The reality of it is, this is beyond a Detroit issue. This is the country’s issue and the relationship with law enforcement,” he said. “There is zero penalty for criminality unless it’s extreme. There’s no fear of the judicial system.”
White said beyond the heartbreak of having to share the news of Courts’ death with fellow officers, he dreads having to once again face the anguish of informing a wife and children.
In a tribute to her husband on Facebook, Kristine Courts said Thursday Loren Courts was “an amazing dad, my best friend” and “our Batman.”
“I’m broken, I can’t begin to imagine how we are going to live without him,” she wrote. “My babies need him. I need him. I keep thinking I’m going to wake up from this nightmare and he’s going to come home.”