One year after Michael Adams III was fatally shot by a Detroit police officer, his family and friends await answers and demand the department “come clean” about his death.
On Aug. 8, 2021, the 19-year-old was out with a group drag racing and drifting on the city’s east side. Adams had been the passenger in a car that spun out while doing donuts and hit an undercover police vehicle. A video of the incident shows that shortly after the collision, Adams was shot multiple times as he fled. he was pronounced dead at the scene.
Adams’ family filed a $20 million lawsuit against the city, Police Chief James White and two Detroit officers last fall and on the one year anniversary of the shooting, more than 60 of the teen’s friends and family members came together to demand the Detroit Police Department and Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office punish the officers involved.
“Your officers killed my son,” Adams’ mother, Crystal Curtis said during a Monday press conference at East Grand Boulevard and Trombly, where her son was killed. “So why do they still walk free 12 months later, after my son’s death?”
In a statement to BridgeDetroit, DPD said it has “remained “transparent” about the fatal shooting.
“An independent investigation is underway by Michigan State Police and the case is with the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office,” the department’s statement reads. “At this time, it would be inappropriate to comment on a pending lawsuit.”
Maria Miller, a spokesperson for Worthy’s office, said the prosecutor has requested “further investigation” and updates on the findings. DPD, she said, has been “working on the matter and has been keeping us informed.”
Curtis described her son as a leader who loved his family and friends. Adams had 11 younger siblings, many of whom held “Justice for Mikey” signs Monday and wore black t-shirts with their brother’s face on them.
According to the family’s lawsuit, which Curtis filed in September, the plainclothes officers didn’t identify themselves before the shots were fired and Adams, it reads, was not armed nor was he a threat. The suit alleges the officers violated Adams’ constitutional rights on claims they used excessive force and were “grossly negligent.”
According to the suit, White has claimed that Adams had a gun and pointed it at officers before he was killed. Curtis rejected that claim and said she disagrees with how police have characterized the shooting and said she’s “ashamed” to have White leading the department.
“He was shot in the back while he was running away,” she told BridgeDetroit. “So how can he be seen as a threat to your officers? There’s no way my son was a threat to you if he was running the other way.”
Curtis also said the police department did not notify her about her son’s death until after she had already gone to the hospital and found out he was dead. When the police did follow up with her, she said, it was like an interrogation.
“I never got any answers, they never explained to me what happened,” she said, “all they said was that my son shot at them first.”
David Robinson, the family’s attorney, said that is a lie, despite the fact that a gun was recovered at the scene.
“DNA is God’s signature and God don’t write no bad checks,” Robinson said Monday. “Mikey’s DNA wasn’t on that gun.”
Robinson said Monday that he learned Adams’ DNA wasn’t on the gun from the Michigan State Police crime lab, but Mike Shaw, the public information officer for MSP, declined to comment on the investigation. Robinson also argues there were no shell casings or bullets recovered from the scene that would indicate Adams had fired a weapon.
Michael Adams II said he was “just heartbroken” when he learned through family members that his son was killed. On Monday, while looking at the crowd, he said he was “proud” that his son “has someone to stand behind and stand up for him now that he’s gone.”
The family’s wrongful death lawsuit is pending in Wayne County Circuit Court. DPD spokesman Rudy Harper said the department isn’t giving out the names of the officers involved, but he said the officer responsible for the shooting is currently on full duty.
Correction: This story has been updated to reflect that police say Adams had pointed a gun at officers. An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated police said Adams had fired a gun. DPD said the officer who shot Adams is currently on full duty. An earlier version of the story incorrectly stated that the officer had left the department.