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Flint family says police barged into their home improperly; Michigan State Police dispute claims

Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 6:32 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - A Flint family says Michigan State Police barged into their home as part of a homicide investigation in April.

Inside were a grandmother, her daughter and three young grandchildren. At a press conference Tuesday, the family shared their terror, anger and confusion over what they say police did that night -- and how they’re still affected by that fear.

The family and their attorneys say Michigan State Police conducted a no-knock warrant search by bursting into the home without announcing their presence. Michigan State Police say they do not use no-knock warrants and troopers announced themselves twice before kicking in the door.

”No. No one said anything,” said Renee Dunigan, who rents the home on Garland Street in Flint. “Like I said, my chair that I was sitting in was only a couple -- not far at all from the door and it was my granddaughter and I sitting there, and we heard absolutely nothing.”

Around 10:45 p.m. on April 21, she said several Michigan State Police troopers broke down the door to her house. Dunigan, her daughter and grandchildren ages 14, 10 and 3 were inside at the time.

Police were executing a search warrant to look for “evidence related to a homicide investigation,” according to a Michigan State Police statement released Tuesday. The family claims they were never given that explanation while police held them at gunpoint for nearly an hour.

“My first initial thought was, I see all of these white cops, everything that’s going on in the world right now, I’m Black. I’m already guilty,” said Michelle Colston, who is Dunigan’s daughter and the three children’s mother.

She said all five of them complied and tried to ask what was going on. However, police left the residence and admitted they were at the wrong house.

A Michigan State Police spokesman said they learned that a witness in that homicide investigation knowingly gave them incorrect information.

Colston can’t understand how that was allowed. The family asked for a copy of the search warrant and still hasn’t received it. ABC12 News also requested a copy and learned that it has been sealed.

“For us to just sit here and me not have the answers to even be able to give my kids as a parent is one of the worst things in the world,” Colston said.

The family is working with civil rights attorneys, who sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice asking for an investigation into Michigan State Police policies and procedures. They also plan to file a civil lawsuit, hoping to get money for the therapy they expect their family will need for years to come. And, they’re asking Michigan State Police to conduct an internal investigation.

Michigan State Police declined an interview about the incident because of the litigation they expect. Officials say they apologized and the family confirmed that.

Michigan State Police say they also worked to secure the door that troopers broke through, but the family says that hadn’t completely happened by Tuesday.

The homicide investigation Michigan State Police were working involved the death of 16-year-old Alvin Hicks Jr. Police reported his death on April 20, saying he was shot in a drive-by and crashed his car at the corner of West Dupont and Mt. Elliot streets in Flint.

Michigan State Police confirmed their arrest of 22-year-old Demaural Jackson later that day. He was formally charged April 21.

So, why did police need to search the family’s home on Garland Street that night?

A spokesperson said troopers received information from a witness of the homicide that there was evidence related to their investigation at the home. Michigan State Police later learned that witness lied to them.

The spokesperson confirmed the agency plans to request charges against the individual who “knowingly provided false information to investigators.” But, more than a month later the spokesperson confirmed that request had not been made to the Genesee County Prosecutor’s Office.

There are several other discrepancies in the accounts of what happened on April 21 between the family and police.

They include how many troopers responded to the home, how long the family was held at gunpoint, whetherthis was a no-knock warrant, whether troopers announced themselves twice, as well as the status of the family’s door that was kicked in.

The problem with getting to the bottom of that, Michigan State Police confirms no one was wearing a body camera because they don’t own them.

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