Victims of the 1967 Detroit Riot At the conclusion of five days of
rioting, 43 people were dead and 1189 injured. As in Newark, the majority
of riot fatalities (79%) were black, shot by police and National Guardsmen
for alleged looting, sniping, and curfew violations. Several Detroit
residents were mortally wounded in their own apartments by gunfire directed
at alleged snipers. Tonya Blanding, aged 4, was the youngest victim.
She was killed by gunfire from a National Guard tank when her father
lit a cigarette near the window of their darkened apartment. Helen Hall,
a 51 year-old white woman, was similarly shot through the window of
her hotel room where she was staying during a business trip. The oldest
victim of the riot was Krikor "George" Messerlian, a 68 year-old white
male who owned a shoe repair shop. He was killed on the first day of
rioting while defending his property with a baseball bat. Finally, as
the riot wound down, three unarmed black teenagers were shot by police
at the Algiers Hotel, now made famous by John Hersey's book, The Algiers
A List of Victims of the Detroit Riot
Krikor “George” Messerlian. Died 7/27/67
as a result of injuries sustained on 7/23/67 around 2:30pm. A 68 year-old
Armenian immigrant, Messerlian died while defending his shoe repair
shop located at 7711 Linwood Ave near 12th street. He was beaten by
a group of black youths, one wielding a baseball bat. Messerlian had
attempted to fight them off with an old ceremonial saber. Police charged
a 20 year old boy who had recently moved from Alabama with Messerlian’s
Willie Hunter and Prince Williams of 1734 Seward.
Died 7/23/67 sometime during the evening. Hunter, age 26 and Williams
age 32, both African American, originally from Alabama and Georgia respectively,
worked together at a Detroit auto plant. On July 23rd, both men were
observed walking in the vicinity of Brown’s Drug Store, located
at 8202 12th Street. On July 26th, their badly burned bodies were found
in the basement of that store, which had been destroyed by fire. Police
reports indicated that they were asphyxiated by carbon monoxide as a
result of the fire. It is suspected that they were looting the store
at the time the fire broke out.
Sheren George. Died 7/24/67 at 1:45am. A 23 year old,
white, mother of two who worked as an exotic dancer, Sheren was shot
while riding in the front seat of a car driven by her husband, Ross.
As the car headed north on Woodward Avenue near Melbourne, around 11:30
pm, Mrs. George, her husband, and a friend, Paul Dimitrie, observed
a white man being beaten by a crowd of black youths. As they slowed
down, and attempted to exit the area, a shot was fired, which hit Mrs.
George in the left side below her breast and glanced off her husband.
She died at Detroit General Hospital a few hours later.
Julius Dorsey. Died 7/25/67 at 1:30 am. Dorsey, a
55 year-old black male, originally from Memphis Tennessee worked as
a security guard at a small grocery store at the corner of Field and
Lafayette. He was reportedly shot by National Guardmen who were in the
process of pursuing suspected looters at the time.
Clifton Pryor. Died 7/24/67 at 4:00 am. Pryor, a 23
year-old white male migrant worker from Tennessee who did roofing work,
was killed while carrying a mop and bucket on the roof of his apartment
at 667 Alexandrine. He and some other residents had gone to the roof
to protect the building from sparks associated with nearby fires. Mistaken
for a sniper, Pryor was shot by a National Guardsman. The official police
report still lists Pryor as a “sniper”.
John Ashby. Died 8/4/67 of injuries sustained on 7/34/67
at 7am. Ashby a 26 year-old white male, served as a firefighter with
the Detroit Fire Department, Engine 21. He was electrocuted by a high-tension
wire that struck his helmet while fighting a fire at a supermarket at
Lafayette and Canton on Detroit’s East Side. He died a few weeks
later at Detroit General Hospital as a result of burns and infection.
Herman Ector. Died 7/24/67 at 10:05am. Ector, a 30
year old black male, Detroit native, star athlete, and former high school
class president, was shot by a security guard in front of Lindy’s
Supermarket, 3745 Joy Road. An army veteran and auto worker, Herman
and his brother Vincent intervened in a dispute between a groups of
youths and a security guard, Waverly Solomon, whom Ector felt was treating
the youths roughly. When Ector commented to a friend that, “he
(Solomon) ought to stop treating them like that”, the security
guard said “Who the hell are you talking to?” and then shot
Ector with his carbine rifle. Solomon was initially charged with Ector’s
murder, but the charges were later dropped.
Fred Williams. Died 7/24/67 at 8am. Williams, a 49
year old black male, originally from Arkansas, worked in construction.
He was especially proud to have purchased his own home at 9541 Goodwin
St. When the store on the corner near his home was set on fire, Mr.
Williams feared it might spread and began to move his family’s
personal effects away from the house. As he moved his clothes, he stepped
on a downed power line and was killed. His home subsequently burned
Daniel Jennings. Died 7/24/67 at 1:15pm. Jennings,
a 36 year-old black man, native Detroiter and father of 14, had recently
lost his job as a wrecker at a local salvage yard. On Sunday, he decided
to go for a walk. His journey took him to Stanley’s Patent Medicine
and Package Store, which was closed. As he and three others broke into
the building he was shot by the owner, Stanley Meszezenski.
Robert Beal. Died 7/24/67 at 1:25pm. Beal, a forty-nine
year-old black man, originally from Arkansas, had lost his job as a
truck driver/mechanic for Pontiac Motors. On Sunday, he drove around
town to see what was happening. He was shot by a Detroit Police officer
at a burned out auto parts store located at 8857 Treadwell where police
and National Guardsmen were patrolling. Police claim he was inside the
building and resisted orders to halt. Other witnesses state that he
was shot outside the shop. The police report lists him officially as
Joseph Chandler. Died 7/24/67 at 1:45pm. Chandler,
a 34 year old black unemployed former auto worker, had migrated to Detroit
from Kentucky. He was shot by police while engaged in looting at the
Food Time Market, 8360 2nd Street. Exiting through a broken window with
handfuls of groceries, Chandler was commanded by police to halt, but
fled and was subsequently shot.
Herman Canty. Died 7/24/67 at 2:45pm. Canty, a 46
year old black man and native of Georgia, worked at a local car wash.
According to the police report, Canty was observed loading merchandise
from the rear door of the Bi-Lo Supermarket at 2450 West Grand Blvd
into a truck parked nearby. As police arrived, Canty jumped into the
truck and drove off. Police fired several rounds at the truck until
it stopped. Canty was slumped at the wheel with a gunshot wound to his
neck. Police claim that in addition to looting the supermarket, Canty
had tossed a firebomb in the building.
Alfred Peachlum a 35-year-old African-American male
died at 4pm on 7/24/67 as a result of shots fired by Patrolmen Charles
Carlson and James Lozon. Peachlum, a father of three and an avid baseball
fan, was employed as a welder at a General Motors Plant. On this fateful
day, Peachlum decided to inspect the area to see the damage that had
been done. His journey took him to A&P supermarket at 3430 Joy Road
where there was looting underway. Peachlum was in the store when the
police arrived. Upon seeing the officers, Peachlum ran for the door.
Peachlum had a shiny object in his hand. The policemen thought it was
a gun. They opened fire, killing Peachlum. The object turned out to
be a piece of meat wrapped in shiny paper.
Alphonso Smith a 35-year-old African-American male,
died 7/24/67 around 5pm of gunshot wounds received from police while
allegedly looting a supermarket. Smith was man well respected in his
community and lived in a fashionable upscale apartment. The police version
of the incident was that Smith and four other men were cornered while
looting the Standard Food Market at 9750 Dexter. Upon realizing that
he was cornered, Smith allegedly threw something at an officer who started
to fire wildly with his machine gun, causing another officer to slip
on the floor and accidentally discharge his weapon, which killed Smith.
Other sources claim that the officer fired through a window. No one
was held criminally responsible for the crime. It was ruled an “Accidental
shooting” on the police report.
Nathaniel Edmonds a 23-year-old African-American male,
died at 4:20 pm on 7/24/67 from gunshots fired by Richard Shugar, a
24-year-old white male. Edmonds was sitting his backyard at 7714 Harper
when a car driven by Shugar passed by. Shugar accused Edmonds of breaking
into his store. When Edmonds denied the allegation, an argument ensued.
Shugar went to the trunk of the 1969 red Oldsmobile and grabbed a shotgun,
which he then used to shoot Edmondson in his chest. Shugar was charged
with first-degree murder.
Charles Kemp a 35-year-old African-American Male died
7/24/67 at 5:20pm as a result injuries received from shots fired by
two policemen and a National Guard sergeant. Kemp, a father of two and
former gas station attendant, was shot because he took five packs of
cigars and was observed removing a cash register from Borgi’s
market at 1800 Mack. The lawmen arrived just as Kemp was making his
escape. He ran, the police officers in the squad car gave chase, and
shots were fired. A few minutes later, Kemps body was found riddled
with bullets to his back and his knees. He apparently was shot while
Richard Sims a 35-year-old African-American male died
7/24/67 at 9:20pm as a result of gunshot wounds. Sims, a former employee
of Chrysler Motor Company, was allegedly shot after he attempted to
break into the Hobby Bar at 13106 Linwood, near his house. While in
the process of breaking into the bar, police officers arrived on the
scene. Smith then ran. The police officers claim they gave instructions
to stop. Smith refused, so they shot him. No weapon was found on his
body. Nobody was held criminally responsible for his death.
John Leroy a 30-year-old African-American male who lived at 5119 Garland,
died 7/24/67 around 11:30pm. According to the official police report,
Leroy was a passenger in a vehicle that failed to stop at roadblock
erected by the National Guard and police. Other sources claimed that
the men came upon a jeep in the middle of the road, so they stopped
the car. Then the men in the jeep opened fire at the occupants of the
car. They screamed out for help but to no avail. All four passengers
had been shot. Leroy’s fellow passengers survived the attack but
Leroy did not.
Carl Smith a 30-year-old white male firefighter died
7/25/67 at 12:50am. Carl Smith had worked for the Detroit Fire Department
for five years and reportedly was a good father to his kids. He did
not hesitate to join the fire team as they attempted to restore calm
to the riot area. Smith was attempting organize units at Mack and St.
Jean to quell some of the fires. At that point, gunshots were fired
and chaos broke out. At the end of the gunfire, Smith was lying dead
on the ground. It is unclear who fired the shots that killed Smith.
Nobody was held criminally responsible for his death.
Emanuel Cosby a 26-year-old African American male,
died 7/25/67 at 1:04 am. Cosby, a product of the Detroit ghetto and
a soldier during the Korean War, took the opportunity to loot like many
others did during the Detroit riot. On the encouragement of his friends,
Cosby took a tire iron and decided to break into N&T Market at 4441
E. Nevada. Unfortunately, for Cosby the police arrived just as he was
making his escape. Upon sighting the policeman, Cosby began to run.
He was shot while running away with the loot in his possession..
Henry Denson a 27-year-old African American male died
7/25/67 at 2:10a.m. as a result of gunshots wounds fired by National
Guardsmen. Denson was a passenger in a car with two other black males
when they came upon roadblocks erected by National Guardsmen at Mack
and East Grand Blvd. The Guardsmen shouted instructions to stop, but
before the driver could comply with the orders, they opened fire. A
gunshot came through the windscreen of the car and tore through Denson’
neck. The men had no weapons in their possession. The official police
report claims that the driver had attempted to run over the lawmen..
Jerome Olshove was, from all indications, a cop with
a bright future until his life was ended on 7/25/67 at 3:35am. Olshove
was a member of the Detroit Police Department for eight years. He was
the only policeman killed in the riot. It was around 3 am on Tuesday
morning when the National Guard fire shots into A&P supermarket
at 121 Holbrook. Olshove then arrived at the scene with several other
officers. Only a few looters remained in the store. They were instructed
to surrender. One man, CharlesLatimer, voluntarily surrendered, but
the other man, Danny Royster, resisted. A scuffle ensued between Royster
and another officer, Patrolman Roy St.Onge. As Royster attempted to
grab for St. Onge’s shotgun the gun discharged, wounding Officer
Olshove who was standing nearby. Royster and Latimer were charged with
first-degree murder although evidence suggests that Olshove’s
death was an accident.
William Jones, a 28-year-old African-American male
and Ronald Evans a 24 year old black male died 7/25/67 at 3:45am. A
native of Alabama, Jones died as a result of gunshot wounds received
while looting a liquor store. Jones and Evans, who had just turned 24,
decided to break into a liquor store on his block at 4100 Pennsylvania.
The police were alerted to the men who were stealing beer. Jones and
Evans ran when the saw the police. Orders were given to halt, but the
men continued to run, so the officers opened fire. Jones was and Evans
were found alongside eachother. Evans had been shot 14 times by the
Roy Banks a 46-year-old African-American Male died
7/27/67 at 4:30am. Banks was a deaf mute who led a pretty simple life
as a laborer at fabricating plant and was not a troublemaker. He was
walking to the bus stop at Rohns and Mack on his way to work when he
was shot down by a National Guardsman. It is unclear how Banks up ended
up in that street. The official police report claims that Banks was
a looter and was running away from the scene of a crime when he was
shot. However, other sources claim that Banks was walking along the
street when he was shot by Guardsmen without provocation. The Guardsmen,
contrary to the police report, did not give orders to halt. They just
opened fire. The place that Banks was allegedly looting was still fully
intact. It appears that Banks, like many other victims, was simply in
the wrong place at the wrong time.
Frank Tanner, a 19-year-old African-American male,
died 7/25/67 at 8:05 am. Tanner was formerly employed at a Laundromat,
but was unemployed at the time of his death when he shot as a suspected
looter. Tanner and his friends decided to break into a store at 1481
E. Grand Blvd. and proceeded to load a box with liquor. While the men
were making their escape a National Guardsman came down the street and
instructed everybody to be still. When people scattered, the Guardsmen
opened fire, hitting Tanner. Tanner managed to make it to a nearby alley
where he was found dead by a passerby. No one was held criminally responsible
for his death.
Arthur Johnson and Perry Williams, both 36-year-old
black men, died 7/25/67 at 3:25pm. Johnson and Williams, who were both
high school dropouts, were also best friends. They eventually died together.
Johnson and Williams were hanging around a pawnshop at 1401 Holbrook
that had been looted and burned. Upon seeing the police coming down
the street, they ran into the store. The officers sprayed the store
with gunshots and kept driving. After those officers left the scene,
another contingent of policemen arrived and entered the building. At
this point, officers claim that Johnson and Williams attacked them with
clubs. As result, they shot both Johnson and Williams, allegedly in
self-defense. The policemen claimed they had received a radio call to
the shop but the police log suggested otherwise.
Jack Sydnor a 38-year-old African-American male died
7/25/67 at 9:15pm. In a state of intoxication, he fired a pistol out
his window at 2753 Hazelwood Apt. #32. This shot was interpreted by
neighbors as sniper fire. The police and National Guard were alerted.
They came and surrounded the building. When Patrolman Roger Poike broke
down the door to Snydor's apartment, Snydor shot the policeman. In response,
police fired a barrage of bullets into in the apartment. Racked with
bullets, Snydor’s body fell three floors to the pavement below.
Newspaper reports referred to him as a “sniper.”
Tanya Blanding a 4-year-old African-American female
died 7/26/67 at 12:30am. Tanya was the youngest and most innocent victim
of the riot. Tanya died as a result of a gunfire from a National Guard
tank stationed in front of her house at 1756 W. Euclid. Guardsmen claim
that they were responding to sniper fire from the second floor, where
Tanya lived with her family. They claim to have seen a flash in the
window and therefore opened fire on the apartment complex. That flash
was actually the flick of match in the dark room, as one of Tanya’s
male relatives attempted to light a cigarette. Sergeant Mortimer Leblanc
of Roseville, reportedly fired the first shot at the apartment complex.
The result was that a 50-caliber bullet tore through Tanya’s chest.
Nobody was held criminally responsible for this child’s death.
William N Dalton a 19-year-old African-American male
died 7/26/67 at 12:45am. Dalton was a high school dropout and ex Job
Corps trainee, was known for his singing ability and affectionately
called “Willie” by his mother. Walking the streets after
9:30pm, Dalton was accused by the police of being a curfew violator.
At this point, he was allegedly marched for a few feet, shoved against
a wall, and told to run if he wanted. He refused to run. A policeman
fired a shot into Willie, from close range. The police report claimed
that he was an arsonist and was attempting to flee from the police.
When instructed to halt, he kept moving and was shot. The police report
lists his death as a “Justifiable Homicide”.
Helen Hall a 51-year-old white female of died on 7/26/67
around 1am. Mrs. Hall, a native of Illinois, was visiting Detroit on
business. The police report claims she was shot by a sniper while staying
at the Harlan House Motel on 6500 John C. Lodge Highway. Her friend,
Miss Poirier barely escaped death as the bullets sailed over their heads.
Other sources claim that evidence suggests she could have been accidentally
shot by a National Guardsman. No one was ever arrested for her death.
Larry Post, shot 7/26/67 around 1am. Post was Sergeant
in the National Guard who had a keen interest in cars. Larry was on
duty on Wednesday July 26 at a checkpoint area on Dexter. He observed
a car occupied with three white males approaching and ordered them to
stop, firing his weapon in the air. The order was ignored, the car accelerated,
and shots were fired by the other Guardsmen on duty. After the exchange,
Post was found wounded with a gunshot to the stomach. He succumbed to
his injuries and died at the Henry Ford Hospital On August 9, 1967..
His assailants according to police report were listed as “unknown”.
However, another source claimed one of the men was captured and beaten
in police custody
Aubrey Pollard a 19-year-old African-American male,
died 7/26/67. Pollard, who was originally from Oregon, met his demise
at the Algiers motel, sometime around 2am.. The Algiers motel, located
at 8301 Woodward Avenue, was known as a haven for illicit activities.
Pollard and his two friends were allegedly enjoying the company of two
white females in a room at the motel. They were playing games and music.
They apparently were having a good time until around midnight a group
of policemen and National Guardsmen stormed the hotel room in search
of snipers. Pollard and his friends were fatally shot and the white
girls beaten. Patrolman Ronald August was officially charged with Pollard’s
Carl Cooper a 17-year-old African-American male died
7/26/67 around 2am. Cooper was a former spot welder, who liked to swim,
wear fancy clothes and was extremely lucky at games of chance. He was
in the company of Aubrey Pollard and Fred Temple and two white females
at the shadowy Algiers motel. They were having a good time, the music
was blaring, and they were playing games until a contingent of police
and Guardsmen descended on the room allegedly looking for weapons and
snipers. All hell then broke loose. The result was that Cooper and his
two male friends were shot to death. No weapons were found at the scene.
The police report lists Coopers killers as “unknown.”
Fred Temple an 18-year-old African-American male died
7/26/67 around 2pm. Temple was an aspiring musician was in the company
of Carl Cooper and Aubrey Pollard in the Algiers motel at the time of
his death. The Algiers was known within lawn enforcement circles as
place where people of questionable character gathered. Temple and his
two male friends were in the company of two white females, allegedly
prostitutes. They were partying in a motel room until a team of policemen
and Guardsmen burst into room to search for weapons and snipers. It
is unclear what exactly transpired but what is certain was that the
Temple and his two friends were shot to death and the two females were
beaten. Patrolman Robert Paille was charged with Temple’s Murder.
Paille was eventually acquitted due to the lack of evidence.
George Tolbert a 20-year-old African-American male
was shot 7/26/67 around 5:30pm. Tolbert made his living as TV repairman.
Tolbert was walking down the street past a National Guard checkpoint
at Dunedin and LaSalle when a bullet fired by a Guardsman hit him. The
bullet passed through him and hit his friend who was walking beside
him Tolbert succumbed to his injury ten days later in the hospital.
Although he was unarmed and committed no crime, no one was held criminally
responsible for his death.
Julius Lawrence Lust a 26-year-old white male died
7/26/67 around 9:30pm. Lust was one of two white males to be fatally
shot during the riots. Lust had a passion for cars. On Wednesday, Lust
and his friends decided to steal a car part from a junkyard located
at 17130 Joseph Campau, on the fringe of the city. The police came to
scene after being alerted by a watchman. Upon seeing the officers, Lust
and his companion beat a hasty retreat. Lust was told to stop, but continued
to run, and in the process, flashed a shiny object at the policeman.
Thinking that the object was a firearm, the policeman opened fire. The
object turned out to be a wrench.
Albert Robinson a 38-year-old African-American male
was shot by National Guardsmen on 7/26/67 around 9:30pm. Robinson, a
former member of the National Guard, lived in an apartment building
at 13318 LaSalle from which police claim snipers were firing. The police
report claims the guardsmen came under fire from snipers and returned
fire. At the end of the exchange, Robinson came out of the building
bleeding and collapsed. Other sources claim that the Guardsmen entered
the building and Robinson attempted to grab a Guardsman weapon, which
then discharged. Robinson died on August 5, 1967 at Detroit General
Hospital. It is unclear what happened on that night except that Robinson
Ernest Roquemore-an unarmed 19-year-old African American male was
shot outside his home at 3484 St. Jean by a U.S army paratrooper who
had recently returned from service in Vietnam. This shooting occurred
as Army troops and police officers were conducting a joint raid in
search of looted merchandise--one day after the riot had officially
been declared over. The police report suggests that Mr. Rocquemore
and several companions sought to flee from the building and were ordered
to halt. When one of these persons allegedly brandished “a chrome
revolver”, the paratrooper fired. Ernest was hit in the back
by the shotgun blast and was declared dead on arrival at Detroit General
Hospital. The “chrome revolver” mentioned in the police
report was, according to several eyewitnesses, actually a transistor
radio. In addition to Ernest, a 17-year-old girl and 18-year-old youth
were severely injured during the same incident by bullets fired by
police and Army troops. Ernest was raised by a loving and devout Catholic
family on Detroit’s west side, but late in his teen years experienced
some emotional difficulties which led him to drop out of high school
and move out of his parent’s home. The Wayne County prosecutor
ruled that there was “no criminality” on the part of the
paratrooper involved in Mr Rocquemore’s death--a matter which
his family vigorously disputes.
Detroit Police Department, Homicide Bureau, Inter-Office Memorandum
October 26, 1967;
“The 43 Who Died: An Investigation Into How and Why Detroit’s
Riot Victims Were Slain” Detroit Free Press 9/3/67 B1-B5;
Sauter Van Gordon and Burleigh Hines. Nightmare in Detroit: A Rebellion
and Its Victims. Chicago: Henry Regnery Company, 1968