DETROIT — A Detroit police officer charged in the fatal shooting of a 7-year-old girl acknowledged Thursday that he's trained to keep his finger off the trigger, but he insisted the split-second tragedy began when the victim's grandmother grabbed his weapon during a risky midnight raid.
Joseph Weekley, charged with involuntary manslaughter, testified in his own defense on the eighth day of trial, telling jurors that he remains "devastated and depressed" over the death of Aiyana Stanley-Jones, who was shot in the head while she slept on a couch in May 2010.
"I was pretty messed up at the time. I shot a kid. ... To be involved, even to this day, you can't explain it. It's horrible," Weekley said.
He was the first officer in as police stormed a house to capture a man suspecting of killing a teenager outside a corner store less than 48 hours earlier. A stun grenade was thrown through a window, emitting smoke, bright light and vibrations to confuse people inside.
Weekley said he heard a noise, "like somebody's out of breath," from under a pile of laundry and blankets on a couch near the doorway. He said a woman later identified as Aiyana's grandmother, Mertilla Jones, emerged.
"She hit it in a downward motion," Weekley said of his submachine gun. "As she hits it down, I start to pull it back. I hear the shot."
Nonetheless, he said he didn't even feel a recoil in the weapon and first believed the shot came from elsewhere in the house.
Later in closing arguments, prosecutor Rob Moran all but called Weekley a liar. He said Jones would have had to rise from the couch after the grenade was detonated and interfere with the officer in just seconds.
"It didn't happen," Moran said. "It did not happen."
Weekley, a member of an elite police unit, is accused of failing to control his gun. Defense attorney Steve Fishman said it simply was a tragic accident, not a crime.
The jury will have options Friday: involuntary manslaughter, a felony; a misdemeanor weapons charge; or not guilty of any crime.
"All he had to do was keep his finger off the trigger," Moran said.
Earlier in the trial, another officer said Detroit police are trained to push a person away if someone grabs their gun or move the weapon in the shape of a "J" to keep control. The officer also testified that police aren't trained to pull the trigger under those circumstances.
"He may be a good police officer. He may be a good father. He may be a good person," the prosecutor said of Weekley. "It does not matter. ... Because of his conduct, Aiyana Jones is dead."
Moran mocked Weekley's Special Response Team – "best of the best' – for failing to recognize there were kids inside the house as they walked past toys on the front lawn.
Fishman, however, told jurors that Mertilla Jones' denial of any struggle with Weekley has no credibility. He reminded them that Aiyana's grandmother had accused police of intentionally killing the girl.
"An accident occurred. A gun was discharged. It wasn't intentional, but Joe Weekley was not careless, reckless or negligent," Fishman said.
Weekley turned toward the jury as he explained what happened in the wee hours on Lillibridge Street, even crouching on the floor to demonstrate his position before rushing through the door. He kept his emotions in check, except for a brief moment when his attorney asked the officer about his two daughters, who were close in age to Aiyana.
He paused, looked at the ceiling, took a deep breath and ran his tongue back and forth under his lower lip. He had been with the girls at a park when he got a call to report to duty on a spring Saturday, hours before the fatal raid.
"I just feel devastated and depressed," Weekley said of the shooting. "I'll never be the same, no."
The raid was recorded for a police reality TV show, "The First 48," and some video was used at trial.
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In this May 18, 2010, file photo Dominika Stanley, left, the mother of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones, sits next to Aiyana's father Charles Jones, holding Aiyana's photo, in Southfield, Mich.(AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)
In a Friday, March 8, 2013 photo, defendant Joseph Weekely, right, and A&E producer Allison Howard, who was at the raid, sit in court before Judge Cynthia Gray Hathaway at Frank Murphy Hall of Justice in Detroit. Weekley goes on trial Wednesday, May 29, 2013. He is charged with involuntary manslaughter in the death of 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones, who died when Weekley's gun fired as police, accompanied by a reality TV crew, raided a Detroit home in search of a murder suspect in May 2010. (AP Photo/The Detroit News, David Coates)
This Saturday, May 25, 2013 photo shows the exterior of the Detroit home where Aiyana Stanley-Jones was fatally shot during a police raid in May 2010. Detroit Officer Joseph Weekley goes to trial Wednesday, May 29, 2013 on a charge of involuntary manslaughter. (AP Photo/Ed White)
Pallbearers carry the casket of Aiyana Stanley-Jones out of the sanctuary at the end of a funeral service at Second Ebenezer Baptist Church in Detroit on Saturday, May 22, 2010. (AP Photo/The Detroit News, John T. Greilick)
Charles Jones, center, the father of seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones, is consoled by family and friends as they stand in front of Aiyana's open casket before the funeral service at Second Ebenezer Baptist Church in Detroit on Saturday, May 22, 2010. (AP Photo/The Detroit News, John T. Greilick)
Attorney Geoffrey Fieger, center, addresses members of the media in his office in Southfield, Mich., Tuesday, May 18, 2010 with from left, Dominika Stanley, the mother of 7-year-old Aiyana Jones, who was killed early Sunday in Detroit, Aiyana's father Charles Jones, grandmother Mertilla Jones and aunt Krystal Sanders. (AP Photo/The Detroit News, David Coates)
This copy of a drawing provided by attorney Geoffrey Fieger shows the shooting scene as depicted from an independent autopsy of 7-year-old Detroit girl Aiyana Stanley-Jones. Fieger says the independent autopsy shows Aiyana was shot through the top of her head during a police raid on her home. (AP Photo/Courtesy Geoffrey Fieger)