Hotel shooting shows nation needs more mental health care

Ending a seven-hour siege outside a hotel in Dearborn by dozens of police officers from multiple departments and joined by federal agents as well as Michigan State Police, officers around 8:30 p.m. Thursday night arrested a gunman who they believe fatally shot a hotel clerk in a dispute over money the man owed for his stay.

The incident closed Michigan Avenue in West Dearborn during the afternoon rush hour, and the usually busy thoroughfare remained closed Thursday evening.

Dearborn police say the 38-year-old man has a history of not only substance abuse and gun use, but also mental illness. That prompted the city’s police chief and its newly elected mayor to join a growing call for the nation and Michigan to provide more mental health treatment for Americans. No officers or hotel guests were injured, but the hotel clerk, 55, from Riverview, was ‘just trying to do his job’ when the suspect shot him with a gun early in the incident shortly after 1 p.m., Dearborn Police Chief Issa Shahin. said.

“My prayers go out to his family,” Shahin said, referring to the clerk.

“There was a confrontation over a bill. (The shooter) was upset, demanding a refund,” and the shooting took place on the 3rd floor, he said. Police arrived after about two minutes, and “when we saw him coming up the hall, he saw us and slipped into his room,” after which the suspect began yelling threats at the officers, said Shahin said.

“There’s a larger problem here of people with mental illness getting involved with guns,” the chief said, shortly after police arrested the suspect. He spoke as he stood on otherwise deserted Michigan Avenue devoid of vehicles other than numerous squad cars, fire trucks, EMS vehicles and armored SWAT vehicles. Alongside Shahin was Dearborn Mayor Abdullah Hammoud, who said it was “time” the nation did more to treat mental illness.

“We ask everyone to pray for our police (and) first responders,” Hammoud told reporters. “Pray for the family of the victim, as well as for the family of the attacker,” he urged.

“We know there are broader issues around the mental health crisis that’s plaguing not just our region, but our state, our country, as well as accessibility to firearms. And we let’s hope those in the right positions of power act on this. It’s time we had solutions,” Hammoud said.

The incident came days after Detroit police fatally shot a mental patient who accused them of brandishing a knife. That prompted Detroit’s chief to speak out against what he said were failings in the country’s health care system. On Thursday, the man’s family announced they would sue the city for wrongful death.

In Dearborn, officials Thursday night declined to identify the victim or suspect, or say where the suspect was from. Getting the suspect to surrender took tireless and expert negotiation by the Dearborn Police Crisis Team, Shahin said. The chief had appealed through evening TV shows, urging the suspect to surrender.

Several members of the suspect’s family were involved in the negotiations, including at least one who visited the scene, a police spokesman said earlier. Shahin, a veteran of the department and named Dearborn’s first Muslim police chief in December, handled negotiations and the siege of the suspect’s hotel room from a command post inside the hotel, said the spokesperson.

“There’s a larger problem here of people with mental illness getting involved with guns,” the chief said. Standing next to him at a news conference following the arrest, Dearborn Mayor Abdullah echoed Shahin’s reference to challenging society with mental illness. It is “about time” for the nation to do more to treat mental illness, Abdullah said.

Earlier, passers-by on Michigan Avenue, held about 200 yards from the hotel by a police cordon, heard the sound of breaking glass disrupting the eerie calm of usually busy Michigan Avenue, which police closed at traffic shortly after the shooting began. In the darkness lit by a police light tower, onlookers saw a fire truck raise and swing its ladder to a third-story window, which first responders smashed, after which a man climbed through the window opening and was brought to safety.

Police later said he was the only hotel guest unable to evacuate after the shooting. The guest was rescued from the front of the hotel while the shooter was hidden in the back of the building, police said. One of those watching was Alaa Samad, who runs Moose’s Martini Pub.

“It’s scary,” Samad said. His employees had called him to tell him that police roadblocks were preventing them from accessing their work and that they had heard gunshots.

“Everyone is here, State Police, Dearborn Police. My staff are freaking out. You never expect anything like this here,” Samad said. The west end of Dearborn, where the shooting occurred at a Hampton Inn, is an upscale area with many new condominiums, apartments, upscale restaurants and bars.

Dearborn Police Chief Issa Shahin speaks to members of the media during a press conference near the scene where an active shooter barricaded himself inside the Dearborn Hampton Inn in Dearborn on 6 October 2022.

Police said they used high-tech tactics, both to negotiate with the shooter and to keep tabs on his location and behavior. Their tools included cellphones, robots and drones, “to do whatever we can for a peaceful resolution,” said Dearborn police spokesman Corporal Dan Bartok. A State Police helicopter flew over the hotel after the incident began. Michael Shaw said the helicopter was canceled and replaced with surveillance by aerial drones, “because helicopters can make shooters nervous”.

Michigan Avenue at Military Street in Dearborn is blocked by police due to an active shooter situation on October 6, 2022.

Police declined to identify the victim or suspect and would not say where the suspect was from.

“We don’t believe he is a local resident,” Bartok said. But he noted that the shooter’s relatives, who helped with the negotiations, “did not come by plane”.

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The Oakland County Sheriff in the parking lot west of Military Street on Michigan Avenue in Dearborn due to an active shooter situation on October 6, 2022.

With squad cars blocking streets throughout the area and officers in full tactical gear taking up positions on every corner, residents were initially unsure what to make of the startling police presence.

“We thought it was like a car accident because that’s typical here,” said Hiam Beydoun, 20, who was doing his homework in the area. His sense of the situation changed quickly after “we saw there were a lot more cops, no cars, and they were starting to block things off.”

Ibrahim Samra, Raneen Houhou, Hiam Beydoun and Kamal Mustafa all stand near the scene where an active shooter barricaded himself inside the Dearborn Hampton Inn in Dearborn on October 6, 2022.

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