Precinct shooting forces look at police security

A gunman who opened fire in a Detroit police station, wounding four officers before he was shot and killed, came through the front door into an open, unprotected lobby.

The shooting Sunday afternoon at Detroit's 6th precinct was described by the police chief as a scene of "utter chaos and pandemonium" and leaves officers to ponder how to protect themselves from the crime they fight daily on the city's tough streets. The precinct commander, two sergeants and an officer suffered wounds that were not considered life-threatening.

Unlike a number of suburban police departments, Detroit precincts don't have metal detectors and the front desks are not fitted with Plexiglas-type shields. They do have security cameras.

A Detroit police officer looks over one of the plate glass windows that was hit inside the precinct 6 building in northwest Detroit where a gunman walked into the police station and opened fire injuring police officers, Sunday, Jan. 23, 2011

The shooting happened around 4:20 p.m. Sunday after the 38-year-old man walked through the front door of the one-story building and began firing, according to police.

"As you can imagine, utter chaos and pandemonium took place. But through it all, our officers maintained courageous calm," Chief Ralph Godbee said. "They returned fire. They took cover. They did all the things that we train them to do under pressure."

One officer who was hit was a female sergeant whose bullet-resistant vest deflected the shot to her chest, Godbee said. Another officer suffered a grazing wound to the head, as did a male sergeant. The precinct commander was shot in the back, but was able to return fire.

Godbee would not give details on who shot the suspect or how many times he was struck. He said police had identified the gunman, but he would not release the name while the investigation was ongoing.

"We're very sobered by the event, but very relieved that it appears all of our officers are going to be OK," Godbee said. "We have to take a step back and reassess security at each one of our facilities. It's more than likely that we will be changing a number of things relative to standard operating procedures as to how we screen our public before they come in."

The department wants to continue its "community policing" format at the precincts, Godbee added. "But by the same token, incidents like this ... remind us just how vulnerable we all are, especially in the public sector."

The names of the wounded officers were not released Sunday night because all of their families had not been immediately notified.

The precinct, built in the mid-1980s, sits between a business district, a residential area and a row of manufacturing buildings.

Retired police Sgt. David Malhalab told The Associated Press that after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, the precincts added hand-held metal detectors at the public entrances. He worked at the 6th precinct for years and says the desks are open once you walk in the door.

"I was always very comfortable working the desk because I wanted that one-on-one feeling with the public, but I thought it was an accident waiting to happen and it did," said Malhalab, who spent 23 years on the force and retired in 2005.

Several officers leaving the precinct Sunday night declined to comment about the shooting.

"It's a very somber mood. The officers are still somewhat shocked that this happened," said the Rev. Jerome Warfield, chair of the Detroit Police Board of Commissioners, who visited the precinct with other members of the board after leaving the hospital where the wounded officers were being treated.


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