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Posted: 6/18/2003 6:02:28 AM EDT
Michigan town braces for third night of rioting Residents outraged over deadly high-speed police chase Wednesday, June 18, 2003 Posted: 9:33 AM EDT (1333 GMT) Riot police race toward a burning building Tuesday night. -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Story Tools -------------------------------------------------------------------------------- RELATED Interactive: Benton Harbor riots • Map: Benton Harbor, Michigan VIDEO Bullets, fire and rage on the streets of Benton Harbor, Michigan. WSBT reporter Jennifer Kuk is on the scene (June 18) PLAY VIDEO BENTON HARBOR, Michigan (CNN) -- Police in a Michigan town said they were preparing for more violent rioting Wednesday after two nights of burned buildings, gunfire and beatings. A hospital spokeswoman said 10 people were injured in Tuesday night's violence -- a reaction to a high-speed police chase in which a Benton Harbor, Michigan, man crashed and died. The disturbance lasted into the early hours of Wednesday. Most of injuries were laceration wounds, and at least person was treated for a gunshot wound. Early Wednesday, police told reporters the protests were getting worse and authorities planned to declare a town curfew. Michigan's governor declared a state of emergency, which allows for the activation of Michigan National Guard troops, if needed. "It is definitely not a peaceful protest right now, there are people rioting everywhere," WSBT-TV reporter Jennifer Kuk told CNN about 1 a.m. ET. "Benton Harbor Police Chief Samuel Harris ... tells us now this riot has expanded six or eight blocks." Kuk estimated about 300 protesters were on the streets of Benton Harbor, a town of about 12,000 people on the southeastern shore of Lake Michigan. "They say this is far more violent than what was happening last night," she said. Motorcyclist crashed into house In the high-speed police chase, which ended early Monday, Terrance Shurn, 28, died when he crashed into an abandoned house after losing control of his motorcycle. The chase at times reached 100 miles per hour. After the crash, police said they discovered Shurn had a suspended license and a small amount of marijuana on him. His death sparked outrage from Benton Harbor residents, some of whom have a long list of grievances with the police, and blamed the Benton Township officer chasing Shurn for his death. "This incident could have been avoided if one person had stopped and submitted to the arrest, and now the police agencies are being accused of misconduct," said Chief Harris. Harris said the town was preparing for "another night of the same." Police plan to impose a 10 p.m. curfew Wednesday night. Describing the scene as "out of control," Kuk said early Wednesday she could still hear gunshots in the area, although police said they have not fired any bullets or used tear gas, which they have been authorized to use if necessary. Police in full riot gear were trying to hold a perimeter around the protesters, and firefighters were still having trouble getting several fires under control. "It's a real mess," a Michigan State Police dispatcher said. "We have a riot. We're in a state of emergency. There are buildings on fire. There have been gunshots. The crowd has pulled civilians out of cars and beat them." Harris said, "It was very violent, we had gunfire -- they shot at our trucks, they shot at the captain of the police, ran barricades." Residents air grievances Eight people were taken to Lakeland Regional Hospital in St. Joseph for lacerations and one gunshot wound, and two were taken to Lakeland Hospital in Niles, hospital spokeswoman Laura Sinclair said. Two of the injured were admitted to the hospital in St. Joseph with laceration wounds, and were listed in serious and fair condition Wednesday morning, Sinclair said. A firefighter was among those treated for laceration wounds, she said. Angry residents packed Benton Township's Board of Trustees meeting hall Tuesday night over perceived misconduct by the police department. They blamed police for three deaths -- including Shurn's -- over the past two years, in the Benton Harbor community. Police dismiss accusations that the pursuing officer hit Shurn's motorcycle, causing him to crash. "The officer from Benton Township ... his actions were lawful, he was pursuing a speeding vehicle that was violating the law," said Harris. "The ending was tragic, but his actions were quite lawful." Police told local reporters the officer was three blocks behind Shurn when he crashed. Township police to change chase policy Benton Harbor police have a policy not to engage in high-speed chases, unlike township police. However, Benton Township Police Chief Jimmie Coburn -- who commands 17 police officers -- promised residents he would revise the policy on Wednesday. "There are some ... things that need to be changed in my [chase] policy and I will change that," Coburn said. "I will do that." Coburn said he placed Officer Wes Cozer on sick leave but stressed that Cozer was not suspended because of his involvement in Monday's chase. "He's off because I didn't think he was suited to work," Coburn said. At least one house was burned to the ground in Monday's violence, and rioters threw bottles, bricks and tree branches at police officers. Three police vehicles were extensively damaged, Harris said. Reporters and news crews arriving on the scene were also the targets of the attacks.
Link Posted: 6/18/2003 6:03:28 AM EDT
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