Detroit Free Press

Victims: Cops have wrong man

BY JULIE EDGAR
FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER

June 28, 2004

Two shooting victims from last Wednesday's fireworks display in downtown Detroit say they are sure police have the wrong gunman in custody.

"I know they got the wrong guy," said Brandon Patterson, 17, of Detroit who sat with his injured legs propped on a pillow at Aaron Edmondson's home in Detroit on Sunday. Nine people were shot, including Patterson and Edmondson.

Derrick Ingram, 18, of Detroit, who was with Edmondson at the fireworks Wednesday along with five friends gathered at Edmondson's house Sunday, said the shooter was a younger man with a darker complexion than the man in custody, Darren Caldwell, 32, of Detroit. The others agreed.

Caldwell, who was convicted in 1996 for conspiring to deliver drugs, is being held on $100-million bond. He was picked up at a barbershop on Detroit's west side Thursday and charged with nine counts of assault with intent to commit murder; felony firearm use and possession of a firearm by a felon. Prosecutors also charged him as a habitual offender, so if he is convicted, his sentence would he 1 1/2 times longer than the maximum allowable punishment.

At Caldwell's arraignment Friday, 36th District Court Magistrate Robert Costello called the police reports of the incidents among the most thorough and extensive he'd seen. Caldwell, meanwhile, protested his innocence by shouting that he "did not shoot those people, your honor!"

Detroit Police Chief Ella Bully-Cummings said Sunday that multiple witnesses and victims, including Edmondson on the night of the shootings, identified Caldwell as the gunman through photographs and a lineup.

"We are certain the person in custody is the person identified," she said. "We interviewed this victim the night of the incident, and we did it close in time to the incident because that is when memory is freshest."

A 9mm handgun was recovered at the scene but cannot be traced because the serial number had been scratched away.

Edmondson, a new graduate of Henry Ford High School in Detroit, denied identifying Caldwell.

The group of friends said Sunday that the shooting began after an argument over a pair of Cartier eyeglasses. Ameer Spinks, 19, of Detroit said that the gunman appeared to be with a man wearing Cartier glasses. When someone tried to take them, the gunman took out a gun and started shooting. Spinks was uninjured.

Spinks went to police headquarters Saturday along with the other friends to make a statement that the suspect did not fit Caldwell's description.

"I just knew that wasn't the right guy," Spinks said.

Bryant Bevan, 22, said from his home Sunday in a Philadelphia suburb that he did not see the person who shot him.

"I never, never did see the shooter," said Bevan, a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colo. "I was watching the fireworks and got hit in the foot first. That's when I turned around and started running." Bevan was shot in the right foot, right leg and right upper buttock.

His friend, Laurie Foster of Lakewood, Wash., was also hospitalized with injuries.

Bevan, who will start pilot training this summer, had been passing through the Detroit area on his way home for a wedding. He and Foster decided to go to the fireworks show, which drew nearly 1 million spectators. It was his first visit to Detroit.

Three of the nine bystanders hit with bullets were still hospitalized Sunday. Lewis Nelson, 22, of Detroit was listed in serious but stable condition, 18-year-old Shari Ridley of Westland was in guarded condition, and 47-year-old Donald Murphy of Detroit was in fair but stable condition.

The consensus among the group at Edmondson's house was that the city was anxious to arrest someone to make streets seem safe again.

"They're trying to clean up the image of the city because of the Super Bowl," said Edmondson.

Bully-Cummings said police are also searching for Gary Williams, 24, who they say was with Caldwell at the time of the shootings. Williams is wanted on an outstanding warrant for shootings that wounded a half-dozen people at a Detroit nightclub last July, she said.

Caldwell's preliminary exam is set for July 7.

Contact JULIE EDGAR at 248-351-3294 or edgar@freepress.com.


Follow Detroit's WXYZ-TV's investigation of the deliberate wrongful prosecution of Darren Caldwell.

WXYZ-TV Part 1
WXYZ-TV Part 2
WXYZ-TV Part 3

How the System Works
Police/Prosecutor Misconduct

Truth in Justice