Mother of Detroit Police Officer Darren Weathers questions what led to son's death

Weathers killed in crash Feb. 13

DETROIT - The mother of Detroit police Officer Darren Weathers spoke Saturday about the death of her son.

Weathers, 25, was killed Feb. 13 in a crash on Michigan Avenue during what Chief James Craig called an unauthorized training exercise. 

"I just feel mixed emotions: mad, angry, sad, happy, just disgusted. A lot. Mixed emotions," Chonita Johnson said.

She also wants people to know who her son was as she remembers the man who was a rising star within the police department.

“We just want people to know who my son was outside of those uniforms," she said. "He was a family person. He loved his family. We loved each other, it was us.”

Johnson said that the family is continuing to heal while they wait for answers about what exactly happened on the day Weathers died.

"I just don’t want him resting uneasy because I am not at ease. He always made sure that I was at ease and that I was OK," she said.

Chief Craig describes crash

Detroit Police Chief James Craig said during a news conference that Weathers may have been engaged in surveillance training when the crash happened on Michigan Avenue at Clark Avenue. However, the chief said it's still unclear if Weathers was engaged in the training or trying to meet up with a team. 

"He could have been trying to meet with his team, who was actively involved (in training)," Craig said. 

The chief said an investigation into the crash is still in preliminary stages, but he does believe the light at the intersection was red when Weathers traveled through it and struck another vehicle. 

"We are not absolutely certain at the time of the accident that he was connected with the team,” the chief said. 

Surveillance is not supposed to be at high-speed, Craig said, and he does not condone this type of training being conducted in an uncontrolled zone. The area is considered a "risky" area to be speeding anyway, Craig said.

"Surveillance is not high speed," Craig said. "Even during the training, surveillance is not high-speed."

High speed maneuvers are taught on Belle Isle, the chief said. 

Weathers' vehicle collided with one other vehicle at the intersection before going airborne and striking a brick wall. Craig said Tuesday the officer's vehicle hit a metal pylon, but further investigation revealed the vehicle actually hit a brick wall and was split in half. The occupants of the other vehicle were not injured. 

The Detroit Police Department is conducting a crash investigation. The chief said due to the fact that Weathers and his team were working undercover, there is no dashcam video of the crash. 

Officer Weathers remembered as hero

At 25, Weathers already was a combat veteran and the father of a little girl. He grew up on Detroit's east side, so it was natural for him to stop and talk to the neighborhood kids. He saw them playing basketball this past summer and asked if he could join in. He wanted kids to have a more positive relationship with police. 

"Sometimes kids don't have good role models in their families. If I can reach out in any type of way, then I feel like I won," he said at the time.

Weathers will be remembered for such touching moments and community involvement, but it wasn't always like that for him. At only a year and a half on the job he was involved in a dangerous shootout. Weathers was credited for his heroic actions as he saved the life of a fellow officer. 

He and Officer Waldis Johnson were on a domestic violence run on April 30, 2017 when a man started shooting at them. Johnson was shot in the face. Weathers returned fire and pulled his partner to safety.

"His response to it, it was just textbook. For a young officer to respond that way, he relied on his training and instincts ... he truly is a hero and one of Detroit's finest," said Chief James Craig. 

It was no surprise when he was chosen for the Detroit Police Department's Integrity Unit. 

On Feb. 13, he was on a training run when his vehicle was struck on Michigan Avenue near Clark Avenue. Chief Craig was visibly shaken as he held a news conference to announce Weathers was killed. 

"He was a phenomenal officer," said Craig. 

Friends, family and colleagues remember him as the type of role model they wanted on the streets of Detroit. 

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