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Posted on Sat, Feb 26, 2011 : 1:12 p.m.

Neighbors recall waking up to sound of gunfire after early morning Ypsilanti Township fatal shooting

By Heather Lockwood


Officials with the Washtenaw County Sheriff's Department on the scene of an early morning fatal shooting in Ypsilanti Township's West Willow neighborhood.

Lon Horwedel |

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include comments from Monica Ross-Williams, recording secretary for the West Willow Neighborhood Association.

Ashlei McDonald said she awoke to the sound of gunshots near her home in Ypsilanti Township's West Willow neighborhood early Saturday morning.

She said she got up, went outside and saw a man lying in the street. She said the man, who she realized was her cousin, had apparently been shot.

“He wasn’t moving, he was just bleeding out,” said McDonald, 17. “Right now, nobody really knows why it came about.”

The Washtenaw County Sheriff’s Department received reports of gunfire about 2:30 a.m. near the intersection of Mary Catherine and Nash streets, said department spokesman Derrick Jackson.

When deputies arrived they found a mortally wounded 33-year-old Ypsilanti man. He was pronounced dead at the hospital. Police have not released his name.

Two other men were wounded in the overnight shooting, but both were gone when deputies arrived and had transported themselves to a local hospital, Jackson said. He said the two men, one who was born in 1979 and the other in 1981, are expected to survive their injuries.

No arrests had been made, Jackson said.

Officials with the sheriff's department remained on the scene, which was still taped off, as of about 10 a.m. Saturday. Lt. Michael Trester said the investigation was ongoing, as officials continued to search a house in the 1300 block of Nash Street.

Trester said the shooting occurred outside.


Neighbor Ashlei McDonald, 17, holding her 9-month-old daughter Jenisys McDonald, recalls hearing several gunshots.

Lon Horwedel |

McDonald said her cousin had been celebrating his birthday this weekend — a night out at a club followed by a house party.

McDonald said she saw her cousin for the last time about three months ago.

“He’s going to be missed,” she said.

Monica Ross-Williams, recording secretary for the West Willow Neighborhood Association, who lives a couple of blocks away from where the shooting took place, said she was awakened by the sound of about 12 to 15 gunshots.

"I could hear the shots clearly, which makes me think there were multiple shooters or a semi-automatic weapon was used," said Ross-Williams, "It felt like it was so close."

She said the news of the shooting is depressing, considering the neighborhood association's efforts to improve the community's image and safety.

"Some rental properties and some owners are not helping our neighborhood at all with the people they're letting in," Ross-Williams said. "We're doing everything that we can at the neighborhood association, including have a citizen's patrol."

She added, "We have a number of good renters in our community and a number of good, strong homeowners in our community."

Ross-Williams said the neighborhood needs to work closely with law enforcement to ensure the community is a safe place.

"We definitely need more help from law enforcement," she said. "We want to make sure this community is safe for our children and for our residents."

A neighbor, who spoke on the condition that his name not be used, said the sound of nearby gunfire awoke him up about 2:30 a.m.

“They had a party there last night,” he said. “Before the police showed up there were about 20 of them that piled out the back door.”

The neighbor said he wasn’t completely surprised by the incident.

“This is a situation here where this house has been vacant for about 15, 20 years, and then all of a sudden the ladies who own the house decided to rent,” he explained. “It was just a matter of time before something happened.”

He added, “You move out of here and go somewhere else and you could have the same problems. It’s a shame, but that’s the way it is.”

No further details were immediately available.

Heather Lockwood is a reporter for Reach her at or folllow her on Twitter.


no flamers!

Mon, Feb 28, 2011 : 6:49 p.m.

@ Angela Barbash: It is clear from your post that you are very involved in the neighborhood, striving to make it better. For that I certainly commend you. Please keep up the good work! It inspires others and can become contagious. I disagree with your statement that property taxes are regressive; they are of course pegged to the property value and so those with higher property values pay more. That isn't progressive (like income tax rates) or regressive. It is neutral. But that doesn't address my point that law enforcement resources are grossly disproportionately needed/consumed by low income neighborhoods, and that those that pay many thousands of dollars/year in property taxes have a right to object to this disproportionate consumption of community resources. I also disagree with your statement that people pay their "fair share" regardless of economic status--clearly people that earn little or no income pay little or no income tax, and if they don't own property then they don't pay property taxes either (the property owner does). And so often, the people committing the crimes don't pay any share, let alone their "fair" share. I recognize your point that owners of commercial property, rental or otherwise,, pay a higher property tax rate than homeowners.

Angela Barbash

Mon, Feb 28, 2011 : 10:25 p.m.

Thank you for the vote of confidence, and humor me while we hash this resource piece out... Most people believe property taxes are regressive because they take a larger % share of a low income family's resources versus a higher income family, hence the label. But here's an interesting question -- what would you do if you lived in a middle class neighborhood that *became* a low-middle class neighborhood, and then started attracting more denizens who brought their low life drug crimes with them? Would you not fight for more resources, more attention, a more active community? Would you just say 'well, we're low income now, just have to deal with it'? Keep in mind that you yourself may not be low income... just the people around you have lost income... where does that leave you now? And regarding your disagreement over my 'fair share' comment -- we're talking about police resources here. Income taxes do not support police resources; property taxes do. My comment was that property owners, including renters through the increase in their rent, pay their fair share into the kitty for police resources. If we're talking about social programs, state aid, and other such resources then no, they do not pay their fair share... but that's another conversation for another thread. Thanks for the discourse.


Mon, Feb 28, 2011 : 6:18 a.m.

Steve, why don't you just close this topic of comments? Nothting I said was off topic. West Willow is a war zone!


Mon, Feb 28, 2011 : midnight

Okay, any victim names yet? Any suspect name(s) or descriptions? Any followup?

Angela Barbash

Mon, Feb 28, 2011 : 12:08 a.m.

I've heard a name circulated for the victim, but I don't think it's public info yet so mum's the word on these boards... sorry.

Angela Barbash

Sun, Feb 27, 2011 : 6:55 p.m.

One other thought regarding WCSD resources spent in WW -- we're the largest neighborhood in the Twp., and the Twp. is the largest contract that WCSD has on the rolls right now. It should be expected then that resources would be spent on a % share basis. Furthermore, people hear a lot about WCSD resources going to WW over other neighborhoods simply because we're organized, we're motivated and we're asking for help. Most other neighborhoods aren't. WCSD has talked a lot over the past year about Community Oriented Policing (COP) tactics and now they have the opportunity to truly deploy this strategy this summer. COP tactics take a willing resident-lead neighborhood as an equal participant in the plan -- WW is the only neighborhood organized and willing enough to take a leap of faith with WCSD and so that's what we're doing. By the beginning of May we will have a fully developed Summer Policing Plan that will have been hashed out with the command personnel at WCSD and representatives from the Safety Committee in WW. Lord knows that if we have this many shootings over the winter, everyone is on edge about the summer...

Angela Barbash

Sun, Feb 27, 2011 : 6:48 p.m.

Wow, more than a few points of misinformation here... -- The millage that was passed in November, as Twp officials have said, is for expected property tax revenue decreases over the next 2 years. Until then the money is sitting in a rainy day fund. It's not clear what that money would be used for if the property tax decline is not as drastic as expected... -- @Gerald: According to the most up to date stats that I have, WW has 42% rental properties, 58% owner occupied. Not 3:1. -- @noflamers!: Rental property owners pay taxes also...? In fact, they pay more taxes than homeowners because of the loss of the homestead exemption. They pass that cost on to their tenants, so tenants pay taxes also. Property taxes are a regressive tax, it doesn't matter what your socioeconomic situation is everyone is paying their "fair share" in taxes to their municipalities. To insinuate that low income neighborhoods do not pay their "fair share" is blatantly ignorant of how our tax structure works. -- @Gerald and others: The issues we're dealing with in WW are larger to our neighborhood, larger than the Twp., larger than Washtenaw County. A lot of the activity is coming from outside the county and flowing through our areas to get to the west side of Washtenaw County and beyond. These guys have found a safe haven in WW, Sugarbrook, Gault Village, and MacArthur Blvd. to name a few neighborhoods because residents withdrew and stuck to themselves for the last 10 years. That's changing... trust me, it's changing. It takes a massive amount of energy to turn a 100 ton ship around, but once you get going in the right direction there's not much you can do to stop the momentum. Regarding the Feds, just know that we're looking at that option. Can't say much more on that subject, but I can say that conversations are happening. We'll see where they go. -- @Joe Golder: You rock :) Man is it ever nice to have an ally on these boards!


Sun, Feb 27, 2011 : 6:23 p.m.

Why is it always the police departments fault for not having a bigger presence? Why is it always "SOMEBODY" elses fault?. How about if we blame the parents? Let's blame the residents of the neighborhood (not all, just the animals) who are no good and don't contribute anything to society? Why must we rely on police to tell us what is right or wrong? Let's blame the people who keep the neighborhood up and scared at 2:30 am. If you can't function in society because you lack the skills normal human beings have, don't expect any sympathy.


Sun, Feb 27, 2011 : 5:27 p.m.

Heather, Any news on the victims name? He's my age and I live near there.

Heather Lockwood

Mon, Feb 28, 2011 : 4:20 p.m.

The Washtenaw County Sheriff's Office has not yet identified the victim. This story will be updated when more information becomes available.


Sun, Feb 27, 2011 : 3:08 p.m.

Any names yet?


Sun, Feb 27, 2011 : 2:31 p.m.

The millage did pass but the township has NO plans to add deputies. Just look at the budget documents for 2011. The cost for police in Ypsi Twp is one of the lowest in the county, amount of crime is one of the highest. So someone please explain where the money is going. Lawsuit, rainy day fund, to start another agency?

no flamers!

Sun, Feb 27, 2011 : 1:43 p.m.

Count me as one that resents the pleas for "more police presence" in West Willow and other crime-ridden neighborhoods. That extra police presence is costly, and the cost is paid by homeowners, partly through the police property tax millage, which was just increased in the Nov elections. Crime-ridden neighborhoods pay very little in taxes--most residents don't earn enough to pay much if any income tax and the property values are so low that their millage contribution to the budget for police services is grossly below that which they consume. Asking for more law enforcement services means others pay more for this service. This isn't fair. Instead, I suggest residents clean up their own neighborhoods. In addition, these crime-ridden neighborhoods result in almost all the complaints about police brutality, which result in extremely costly litigation and settlements--the costs to the system (prosecution of some officers, defense of others, settlement costs for the deceased) of just the one Liberty Square incident exceeded the 5-year budget for all Ypsi Township police services.


Sun, Feb 27, 2011 : 8:51 a.m.

@breadman.......WCSO did not makes cuts on their own choice. The township cut 13 Deputies between 2009 and 2010. 6 one year and 7 the other year. The millage did pass at the end of 2010, but more cops were not added to street. Not sure when the money kicks in or what they are doing with the money.


Sun, Feb 27, 2011 : 7:56 a.m.

I feel real sorry for the law abiding folks who are forced to live in this area. As in so many of life situations there are no easy answers. Law enforcemnt personnel are in a terrible fix when the time comes to ask "what did you see" Chaos and Wild west come to mind when I hear West Willow. Don't know if a couple of my friends that used to live there have stayed or not. They would fit in the category of fine people in a tough situation. Fortunately they are old timers that won't take outside pressure with a smile.

joe golder

Sun, Feb 27, 2011 : 2:27 a.m.

@ Gerald... I agree with you. Turning around West Willow starts with the residents, homeowners and landlords. But they aren't police, judges or jury. They need the resources that WCSD, Lawnet, and prosecuting attorney's office should be providing. I haven't heard of a gang that wasn't selling drugs, carrying guns or involved in other crimes. The last I heard citizens couldn't run around pull out guns and arrest people. I went to a WWNA meeting and first hand seen homeowners and renters making a difference. They're involvement was inspiring. They were looking out for everyone... not just they're own agendas. Getting grants, getting people jobs, summer programs for the youth, gardens, summer concerts. Communities around the country should take a look at what they're doing. @ Gerald... Are you saying renters are second class citizens? Do they not deserve the same the same quality of life homeowners receive? I find it amusing what the people in residential neighborhoods expect.... demand and what is OK for everyone else. Seeing what the WWNA is achieving really is inspiring. All the surrounding communities should get involved because the problems there are everyone's problems. People are making a stand on all kinds of issues that affect them. Well folks here's another challenge. This will affect everyone living in the surrounding communities. I stand with the people in West Willow trying to make a difference. WILL YOU? For all the negative people... you have my quiet blessing.


Sun, Feb 27, 2011 : 5:04 p.m.

@ Joe: I would assume Fed resources would be available once the Feds are called in for assistance as well when Clayton admits there's an issue. Fed money has to be applied for and isnt willingly given out just because.........In the 1990's the Feds were involved because of Gang activity and a Fed Prosecutor was involved. I'm not the guy at the top of the ramp as you wrote, I'm someone who went through the mess in the 90's, this, what's currently going on isnt even close to that.


Sun, Feb 27, 2011 : 12:59 a.m.

Monica: What would have additional patrols have done for WW in this instance? WW has received more law-enforcement attention than ANY area in Ypsi Twp, ever, period! Yes WW is over run with rental units, if I had to guess 3 rentals for every 1 owner, possibly more. I'm not taking away anything you, the WW Association or anyone else is currently doing to turn the neighborhood around, but to consistently have your hand out asking and at time demanding from the Twp or the WCSD I think is unfair to the rest of the Twp. WW will turn around when the residents want it to turn around, not when WW residents see more Deputies patrolling the streets.


Sun, Feb 27, 2011 : 5:35 p.m.

Joe: I agree something needs to be done and what it is anyone's guess. IMO I would love it if Clayton would simply admit what's going on in Ypsi Twp and the surrounding areas and handle as it should be handled. This instance may or may not be gang related anymore than drug related. It appears a party went from a club to this home and the bullets flew. When the facts come out then WW and the WCSD will know which way to go. As for tenants, they are residents just as any true home owner and deserve a good quality of life, I'm not taking away anything from tenants or GOOD landlords. Thank you as well.

joe golder

Sun, Feb 27, 2011 : 5:21 p.m.

I wasn't implying you were the guy but the people asking for help. I do agree it isn't as bad yet. But having said that it will not belong before the folks living there move out setting up a situation that will escalate gang activity. The bad economy has everyone hurting. I believe we need to support each other and get involved. Bad times become the fertilizer crime needs to take root and spread. Gerald thanks for the healthy debate.

joe golder

Sun, Feb 27, 2011 : 4:27 p.m.

@Gerald.... Bullets flying around your neighborhood and asking for more police presence isn't ok? The rest of the twp looks upon you like the guy with a sign at the off ramp on 94. Sorry this makes no sense. This is and will continue to affect WW and the surrounding communities. I wonder if their is Fed money available for the TWP to form a gang task force? Doing nothing isn't the answer.


Sun, Feb 27, 2011 : 12:54 a.m.

My heartfelt support to the families who are trying to make this a better community. Either everyone kicks in to help out or hope that the trouble makers find a solution and leave this community to heal. Prison or the grave seems to be their preferential choice.


Sun, Feb 27, 2011 : 12:26 a.m.

They ought to change the name from West Willow to West Iraq. More people get shot there than they do in the ware torn middle east.


Sun, Feb 27, 2011 : 12:11 a.m.

Any victim names yet?

Monica R-W

Sat, Feb 26, 2011 : 10:20 p.m.

@ Stephanie....Thanks for the correction on the word 'millage'.


Sat, Feb 26, 2011 : 10:08 p.m.

@ The Person Whose Comment Connected Race with Teen Pregnancy (which has since been removed thank you note that teen pregnancy correlates most closely with socio-economic status, not race. Put more simply: poor white families experience as much teen pregnancy as similarly situated families of other races.


Sat, Feb 26, 2011 : 10:43 p.m.

My reply didn't violate the guideline(s). I just pointed out that the poster was corect and added the fact that sadly over 50% of all black pregnancies end witrh the killing of the bay by abortion... Over50%. I also said that that doesn't seem to bother people as much as a 17 year old girl that had her baby. Then again maybe the facts are too upsetting for the moderator?


Sat, Feb 26, 2011 : 9:32 p.m.

This is very sad for the children growing up in these communities with nothing but violence as their teachers .

Angela Barbash

Sun, Feb 27, 2011 : 8:18 p.m.

Hi Newworld -- We run a summer program from mid-June through mid-August Monday-Thursday 11am-3pm -- about 55 children ages 5-17 work with the program each summer and this will be our 9th summer running the program. Luckily, the kids in west willow have positive role models and we're working really hard right now to expand their exposure this summer to all the things that are good about life. If you have a skill that you'd like to come teach this summer or if you have any connections with nonprofits and volunteer groups that work with children, we would appreciate an introduction. Right now we're talking with Big Brothers Big Sisters, Community Action Network (CAN), The Young People's Project (YPP -- Math Literacy), FLY Art Center, and so many more really great people in Washtenaw County. None of us want to see a whole neighborhood of children grow up around this violence.... :/


Sat, Feb 26, 2011 : 9:15 p.m.

West Willow again? Didn't WCSD just cut patrol service down due too buget crisis for West Willow?


Sat, Feb 26, 2011 : 9:47 p.m.

@Monica: I believe you mean "millage" and not "mileage?" Just want to clarify.

Monica R-W

Sat, Feb 26, 2011 : 9:28 p.m.

Breadman, a mileage was passed by the voters of Washtenaw County in November 2010 that met the WCSD requested need to have 37 Deputies patrolling our entire County. So, no Deputies were cut, since the mileage passed. I am sure that Ann has a story about the mileage passage, in their archives. Also, there is not 'budget crisis' for West Willow, as it is a neighborhood entity and does not control the local budget for Ypsilanti Township. That would be the responsibility of the elected Board of Trustees. All cities, localities and country resources are under tight budgets due to decreased revenues from property taxes (i.e. foreclosed properties). If Gov. Snyder's budget is passed Washtenaw County and many other local governmental resources will be under even tighter budgets for basic services (i.e. Fire, Police, Environment Services, Road Commissions, etc) with his proposal to cut $100 million dollars from the $300 million of shared state revenue with local governments.

Steve Pepple

Sat, Feb 26, 2011 : 8:32 p.m.

Several inappropriate and/or off-topic comments have been removed by moderators.