DETROIT (CN) - After an A&E film crew urged police to create "great video footage" for its show "The First 48 hours," officers conducted a "commando-style raid" on the wrong house and shot to death a 7-year-old girl, the girl's family says in Federal Court. The parents and grandmother of Aiyana Stanley-Jones say A&E's film crew "were present before and during the assault" and recorded the whole thing during their ride-along with police.
The family sued A&E Television Network, The First 48 Television Show, and Kirkstall Road Enterprises for constitutional violations and privacy invasion.
The A&E film crew, with Detroit Police, arrived at the wrong house at 12:40 a.m. on May 16, to serve an arrest warrant on a homicide suspect, according to the complaint. Aiyana and her family lived at 4054 Lillibridge St.; the police were looking for 4056.
Aiyana was asleep on the couch when police threw a flash-bang grenade into the home. It exploded near the little girl, "causing a blinding flash and a loud noise." Police then "fired into the lower duplex from the outside and struck 7-year-old Aiyana in her head, piercing her skull," the complaint states.
After shooting up the home, police entered without a warrant, "and witnessed the aftermath of their senseless and destructive actions," and A&E's film crew filming all the while, the family says.
Aiyana did not die immediately, "and instead suffered great conscious pain," her family says.
"Prior to the decision to illegally assault Aiyana's home, there were discussions about the fact that television cameras would be present and the desire to create a 'good show' and/or to create 'great video footage,'" the complaint states.
"This is consistent with the premise of 'The First 48,' which is a criminal investigation television show that focuses on the first forty-eight hours of criminal investigations. The opening title sequence of the show features the conceptual statement: 'For homicide detectives, the clock starts ticking the moment they are called. Their chance of solving a case is cut in half if they don't get a lead within the first 48 hours.'
"Since this horrific incident, and because of the unfortunate consequences associated with allowing Defendants (and other reality television shows) to participate in police work, the mayor of Detroit has banned reality television crews from working with police so that similar horrific incidents will not be repeated upon other innocent citizens of Detroit." (Parentheses in original.)
The complaint adds: "Defendants' desire to create a sensational television show consistent with the conceptual premise of the 'First 48' directly and proximately caused the injuries in this case.
"Defendants, through their presence and actions, provided encouragement to the Detroit Police Department to conduct an illegal, overly aggressive, and unnecessary raid upon the plaintiffs and their residence.
"Defendants knew or should have known that by acting in concert with the Detroit Police and filming live police it would lead to tragedies such as the one in this case. "Defendants' acts were intentional, objectively unreasonable, unnecessary, excessive, reckless, and/or grossly negligent in violation of plaintiffs' clearly established rights under the United States Constitution."
The family seeks punitive damages. They are represented by Geoffrey Fieger of Southfield.