DETROIT – Detroit’s police chief explained the events that led to an officer being killed Wednesday during an “ambush” on the city’s west side, and praised that officer’s partner for risking her life to try to save his.
Ehmani Mack Davis, 19, has been identified as the gunman in this case, according to authorities. He was killed by Detroit officers who returned fire.
On Thursday, Detroit police Chief James White held a briefing to provide more information about what happened.
Timeline of events
Police said they received a call at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday about shots being fired in the area of Joy Road and Marlowe Street.
Two minutes later, at 7:32 p.m., dispatchers radioed that location to officers, and multiple units from the Second Precinct responded, according to authorities.
At 7:39 p.m., two scout cars arrived at the location, including one occupied by Courts and his partner, Officer Amanda Hudgens, officials said.
Courts drove past the location on Joy Road, went onto Marlowe Street, and turned around again to position his car at the intersection, according to police.
“They approached the building, using their training and their tactics, and they were ambushed,” White said. “The first officers arriving were ambushed by this gunman.”
Before the officers could even get out of their car, an upstairs window of a building was blown out with gunfire, and shots were fired at the officers, authorities said. Courts was injured.
“The officers responded in minutes -- they had no chance,” White said. “They had backup. They used their training and their tactics, and the murderer shot the window out of his apartment and immediately shot the officer while he was in the car.”
The second scout car had pulled onto Marlowe, and the officers were out on foot to provide cover, the chief confirmed.
“Officer Courts, struck, attempted to gain cover, but he was already hit in a major artery,” White said. “He was dying. He collapses down on the ground. His partner, Officer Hudgens, began to administer first aid. Other officers on the scene tried to give them cover.”
Two additional scout cars responded at the same time, meaning there were a total of four police vehicles and eight officers at the scene, officials said.
Two officers ran back to their squad car when they heard shots being fired, and they grabbed their rifles and set up cover positions, according to police.
At 7:41 p.m., the gunman walked out of the building with a 7.62 semi-automatic Draco pistol in hand, officials said. The weapon is similar in caliber to an AK-47 and is designed to fire multiple rounds in quick succession, according to authorities.
The gun also had a banana clip in it, police said.
As the gunman walked out of the building, the other police officers providing cover for Courts and Hudgens opened fire, striking their target several times, White said. The gunman was killed, according to officials.
“It is my belief that he wanted to commit suicide by cop,” White said. “The fact that he murdered a police officer, and then casually walked out of the front door and advanced on other police officers as they were rendering aid to the officer he had just murdered -- he wanted to die.”
‘She’s beyond hero’
White said Hudgens made a choice to try to save her partner, rather than protect herself.
“This brazen murderer, after shooting the officer, walks out of the building and proceeds toward the officer’s vehicle,” White said. “Officer Hudgens has to make a decision. She wants to keep direct pressure -- her training -- applied to our officer’s wounds, so that he has a chance to live. Behind her is the murderer, who is walking toward her with his assault rifle. She makes the decision to give her partner a chance to live, keeping her back to the assailant. I’ve never seen anything like that.”
The chief said Hudgens was prepared to give her life for Courts as the gunman approached them.
“She made a choice that many people in the same circumstance would say they would make, but it’s the first time I’ve ever seen anyone make it,” White said. “She made a decision to put her life -- not on the line, I think she just prepared to die. She braced herself to be shot in the back of the head or the back while she administered first aid.
“So he’s advancing on her with an assault rifle. She’s administering first aid. She’s got her hand on the wound, applying direct pressure. Directly behind her, he’s advancing on her with the assault rifle, the Draco, and she glances back, braces herself, and continues to apply direct pressure. Thankfully, there’s another officer there who stops the threat. She’s a hero. She’s beyond hero.”
‘We should be outraged’
White spoke openly about the need to keep assault riles like the one used in this shooting off the streets. He said police can’t do it alone.
“There’s so many people who have never done this job who want to tell us how to do this job,” White said. “There’s so many people who don’t have the courage to do this job that’s an expert in how to do this job. What I saw last night and this morning were heroes that were doing the job, and I’m proud to lead them, but I’m frustrated. Please, nobody call me mad. I’m not mad. Mad is a useless emotion. I’m focused. This is unacceptable, and this should be the line. Whatever your tipping point is, this should be it.”
He said Courts was the father of two children. He was a husband, and a son to a retired DPD officer.
“Today is a somber day for the Detroit Police Department,” White said. “Candidly, we were robbed. We were robbed of one of our heroes. The city was robbed of a great father, a great police officer, a great brother, a great son, and a great husband.
“He’s the son of a retired Detroit police officer who loved his son, loved his city so much that he encouraged his son to join the Detroit Police Department, to continue his legacy.”
The chief vowed to get the “trigger pullers” who victimize the community and neighborhoods off the streets, in Courts’ honor.
“We should all be outraged,” he said. “We should be outraged. This is unacceptable.”
White said Courts “served with dignity and integrity” for five years with the department.
“We spend too much time talking about non-heroes, like the murderer who killed this officer who was simply doing his job,” White said.
The chief said the assault rifle used in this shooting had been purchased within the last two weeks. Police are still investigating whether it was bought legally.
Possible warrant for gunman?
White said it’s possible a warrant for assault with intent to commit murder was being submitted for the shooter in this incident.
“Preliminary information suggests that a warrant was being reviewed in the prosecutor’s office,” White said.
He specified that that information wasn’t confirmed, but he understands it to be the case.
“He wasn’t on our radar from the standpoint of we’re looking for him,” White said. “He had -- and again, this is unconfirmed, I want to be clear -- what we’re looking into right now is at least someone was submitting a warrant on him.”
It was not the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office working that case, according to White. He said that information would be clarified in the near future.
You can watch White’s full Thursday press conference in the video below.
‘He’s a great dad’
Courts’ wife, Kristine Courts, said she rushed to Sinai Grace Hospital, where her husband had been taken after the shooting. He had already died from his injuries by the time she arrived, she said.
“I saw the car, but I didn’t see any bullet holes in the car,” she said. “So, it looks like he got out of the car and he immediately got shot in the upper right side or the upper right side of his chest. It was just too late. They said he didn’t suffer.”
Kristine Courts said she and her husband had been together for 16 years and married for 11 years. They have a 15-year-old son and a 9-year-old daughter.
“He’s a great dad,” she said. “He called my daughter sugar foot, and my son was his best buddy. He was a good husband.”
Kristine Courts said her husband loved his job at the police department. In fact, she said he was only working at the time of the shooting because he had volunteered for a double shift.
“He was very, very loyal to DPD,” she said. “It was his passion. He tried so hard to get in, and he finally did. He loved it. He loved being a police officer. But he also loved being a dad. He would tell you that was his greatest accomplishment, was being a dad.”
Courts also had four siblings.