At a forum set up by the Flint, Michigan branch of the NAACP, local leaders and police found themselves trying to answer tough questions before an emotional and frustrated crowd. The Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church in Mt. Morris Township hosted the forum, which was intended to address public concerns about the investigation of a brutal 4-month killing and stabbing spree across Michigan, Ohio, and Virginia.
“I want to know why Flint police never came and talked to me that night,” said 17-year-old stabbing victim Etwan Wilson at a podium set up before a panel of local leaders. “Never.”
Wilson says he was walking in Flint on August 1st when a man asked him for directions. After he tried to help the man, Wilson says the man jumped at him and stabbed him. The stabbing sliced through his heart, liver, and diaphragm.
The teen, who is about to enter his senior year of high school, is one of 18 people police believe Elias Abuelazam attacked in 3 states. Fourteen of the victims were attacked in Genesee County, Michigan between May and August. Five of those victims died.
WATCH THE VICTIMS AND FAMILIES CONFRONT MICHIGAN POLICE AT THE NAACP FORUM
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Flint Police Chief Alvern Lock told Wilson investigators spoke with him as soon as they realized a serial killer may have attacked him, and formed a task force to investigate.
“The task force wasn’t formed until the seventh,” Wilson responded. “I was stabbed on the first.”
“Yes, but we have a policy,” said Chief Lock. “We can’t talk to you right after you come out of surgery.”
Wilson says he helped investigators create the widely-distributed sketch of the serial killer, which was partly responsible for Abuelazam’s identification and arrest. But Wilson says he was never questioned in detail after that.
Exchanges got personal and more accusatory as members of the audience voiced frustration with the answers given by the panel of community leaders and police.
The families of victims Arnold Minor and Frank Kellybrew, who were murdered on July 30 and Aug. 2, respectively, said it took too long for police to investigate the attacks and develop a pattern and a profile.
“I don’t understand how you can act like you’re this big shot police officer,” said one audience member to Lock after the chief defended his detectives. “People are dying.”
Chief Lock rebutted that his department has handled 40,000 complaints this year, and notified the public of the potential danger when they noticed the pattern.
“You think I don’t care, but I do care. I got nephews who walk the streets at night,” said Lock, raising his voice. “And you think it didn’t bother me that one of them might end up dead? I do everything I can do and make sure I do it by the book, so that when he [Genesee County Prosecutor David Leyton] gets it, it is a conviction.”
Out of the 14 stabbings, 12 of the victims were black. However, the police and prosecutors insist that no conclusive evidence currently points to a racial motive.
In response to rumors that the attacks were in retaliation for the homicides of two relatives of Abuelazam’s boss, Prosecutor Layton said there was no evidence to support that conclusion.
Young Etwan Wilson, who bears a long, jagged scar down his torso and abdomen, says there is no excuse.
He says if police questioned victims of violent crimes right away they might be more likely to notice the pattern of a serial killer and have the opportunity to warn the public sooner.
“I feel it was really messed up,” says Wilson. “They destroyed a lot of people’s lives.”
The Flint Journal has additional coverage of this event.