Detroit community gathers for peace rally in honor of boy fatally shot on Southfield Freeway

3-year-old Christian Miller killed

DETROIT – A community gathered Friday for a peace rally in honor of a 3-year-old boy who died last week after being shot on Southfield Freeway in Detroit.

Christian Miller was in a car with his godmother when he was hit by a bullet.

The group gathered in the same area the godmother stopped her vehicle on the city's west side after realizing the child was shot.

"It really just touched my heart. It just shows Christian that he is loved," said Tonika Whitley, Miller's mother.

The alleged shooter turned himself into police this week.

"Good for you for doing that, but that doesn't justify anything. My son is still gone," Whitley said. 

The support from the community helped the grieving mother as she deals with the loss of her son.

"It helped a lot, it lifted some weight to know the community is with me because enough is enough," she said.

Detroit man charged in connection with shooting

Derrick Devon Durham, 24, is accused of firing a shot Jan. 24 that killed Miller, who was riding in a car with his godmother.

Derrick Devon Durham (WDIV)
Derrick Devon Durham (WDIV)

Police believe a traffic incident led to the gunfire, Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw said.

Shot fired on freeway

Officials said Miller was sitting behind his godmother in the rear of the car, and his godmother's son was in the front passenger seat. They noticed a car pull alongside them on the driver's side, police said.

Durham was driving with another person in the second car, police said. Durham raised his right arm and pointed something at the godmother's car, and she heard glass shatter, according to authorities.

Christian Miller (WDIV)
Christian Miller (WDIV)

The godmother pulled over and realized Miller had been shot between the shoulder blades, police said.

Durham is charged with open murder, discharge from a vehicle causing death, felony in possession of a firearm and three felony firearm violations.

Durham was arraigned Friday at the Detroit Detention Center. A probable cause hearing is scheduled for Wednesday, and a preliminary examination is scheduled for Feb. 13.

Police provide more details

Shaw and Detroit police Chief James Craig held a news conference Wednesday after Durham turned himself in at the Michigan State Police building in Downtown Detroit.

"There's no doubt in our mind that this afternoon, when the individual turned himself in downstairs at the lobby, it was due to the work of not only us, but the public putting this individual out there, putting his vehicle out there, and also the media attention that kind of got in there and made it so that he decided instead of having us find him, he was going to come to us," Shaw said.

Durham turned himself in after Crime Stoppers offered a $10,000 reward for information leading to his arrest and police recovered his vehicle in Detroit.

The reward was offered during a Monday press conference, and the vehicle was discovered Tuesday when police served a search warrant. Shaw said these were among the many factors that led to the man coming forward.

Here is video of the vehicle that was released Friday by police.

The shooting happened around 7:05 p.m. Thursday on the Southfield Freeway between Joy and Plymouth roads in Detroit, police said.

"We've got some real knuckleheads out there driving on the freeways and the roadways of Michigan," Shaw said.

Miller died at Children's Hospital.

"She didn't get involved," Shaw said of the godmother. "She did all the right stuff."

Police said Durham's family eventually convinced him to turn himself in. He will be processed and transported to the Detroit Detention Center, according to authorities.

Shaw said police can't comment on the weapon or Durham's criminal history, though he did say Durham "has had contact" with law enforcement officials in the past.

Police will put the full case together and send it to the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office, Shaw said. He said police will reveal more information when the case is in front of a judge and a jury.

Craig spoke briefly at the news conference, praising the community for coming together to help solve the case.

"This is a great example of seamless coordination," Craig said. "I really want to say thank you to the Detroit community. Certainly, this horrible situation involving this child -- Detroit has stepped up. The community stepped up. I also want to step up and thank the family who facilitated and assisted in making sure the suspect came in without incident."

You can watch the full news conference in the video below.

Watch previous coverage of the story below

About the Authors: