By Elisha Anderson
Detroit Free Press
DETROIT - Joseph Weekley was one of four Detroit police officers who drove by a two-unit dwelling on the city's east side that they planned to raid.
It was dark.
Several people were in the area, and the officers didn't want to tip anyone off, so they went by only one time. They wanted to see the house's setup, where it was on the block and what kind of doors it had.
Detroit police Sgt. Tim Dollinger was driving the unmarked vehicle and testified Thursday that he didn't see any toys out front.
"I didn't know that there was kids inside the house," Dollinger said.
Weekley is accused of gross negligence in the death of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones, who died after a bullet from Weekley's gun struck her in the head as she slept on a couch in the home's front room.
Had police known there were children in the home, Dollinger said, it would have been important to note, but it doesn't mean they would not have executed the search warrant or would have changed the tactics they used.
Special Response Team members knew they were targeting a homicide suspect and had information that there were possibly pit bulls and an AK-47 inside. They used a flash-bang grenade during the raid on May 16, 2010.
"It's used to help the entry team to go in safely," Dollinger testified. "It's a distraction."
The flash-bang grenade went off about the same time the door was breached, then about three seconds later, Dollinger, who was on the porch waiting to go inside, heard a gunshot, he recalled.
He initially thought a dog had been shot but discovered Aiyana was injured when he got into the front room and saw her on the couch with her grandmother, he testified.
She had injuries to her face, and Dollinger instructed an officer to take her outside so she could get medical attention. Shortly after, he learned Weekley's gun was involved.
The prosecution contends that the girl's death resulted from Weekley being grossly negligent, but Weekley's attorney, Steve Fishman, said the girl died in a tragic accident that happened after Aiyana's grandmother, Mertilla Jones, hit his gun.
Family members of Aiyana testified Thursday that weren't updated on the girl's condition immediately after the raid.
LaKrystal Sanders, 34, the girlfriend of Chauncey Owens - the target of the search warrant - said she was in the upstairs flat watching TV when police arrived.
She heard a "boom, then pop" and jumped up and went to the front door of the apartment, she testified.
She heard her mother, Mertilla Jones, who lived in the downstairs flat, scream, "They killed Aiyana," but it wasn't until after she was questioned by police and led back up to her flat that she believed the girl was dead.
"He told me he's sorry for my loss," she said, sobbing. "And that's when I broke down. I knew my niece was gone."
Owens, who was in the upper flat at the time of the raid, was arrested by police that night and has since been charged with first-degree murder.
Testimony continues Monday in Wayne County Circuit Court.