Aug 24, 2023 - News

Eastside community center shaken after truck ramming close call

ECN president Donna Givens Davidson replays surveillance footage that captured a man driving his truck into the community center's entrance. Photos: Samuel Robinson/Axios

Leaders and staff at the Eastside Community Network Center, where a man rammed a truck through the entrance Saturday, are raising questions about the police account of the incident.

Why it matters: Staff say they feel lucky to have not been in the way of the man who drove a truck into the entrance of their building, the hub of the nonprofit which serves as a community center for the mostly Black nearby residents.

Driving the news: DPD released a statement this week confirming it has reached out to federal partners for assistance in determining whether the incident was a hate crime "based on the unique circumstances of this case."

  • Police told the Free Press on Sunday that they did not believe the crime was racially motivated.
  • The department has not responded to Axios' further questions.

What happened: A black truck can be seen on the center's surveillance camera footage parking in front of the entrance before speeding up and ramming into the building.

  • Center staff restrained the armed suspect for nearly 25 minutes before law enforcement arrived.
A gif that shows the incident occurring.
Video shows people inside the building running as the truck hits the building's vestibule.

Big picture: ECN president Donna Givens Davidson tells Axios the community center she's led since 2016 is rethinking its safety strategies after the incident.

  • "We want to be an organization that is inclusive and welcoming to people from the outside, and now we're at a point where we're not sure if we're safe. We've never had this before. So the question is whether or not we are going to allow this incident to change who we are to the community and to each other."

Details: Benjamin Noah Weinstein, 42, of Detroit was charged with carrying a concealed weapon, malicious destruction of a building, felonious assault, felony firearm and commission of a felony using a motor vehicle. His next court date is Sept. 1.

  • Givens Davidson, who spoke to police Chief James White after the incident, said police treated Weinstein as the victim.
  • Weinstein's court-appointed attorney did not immediately return a request for comment Wednesday afternoon.

What they're saying: "What bothered me was the police officers actually saying that it wasn't a hate crime, that this was just a bad guy having a bad day — that really upset me," Givens Davidson said.

  • "He was armed. Being jammed inside his vehicle once he hit the vestibule is what saved him from coming into the building. What was he trying to do?"
The outside of the facility is shown with the entrance boarded up after the car rammed it.
Givens Davidson says the vestibule at the front entrance likely prevented the truck from being able to completely enter the building. Here's what it looks like after the crash.

What's next: Givens Davidson says when she first started in her role, she didn't want armed guards in order to not make community members feel like there was a police presence in the building.

  • "But now I do because I think the community and staff need to believe and see visually that there are people here who can actually protect them in the case that someone brings a gun in here," she says.

Meanwhile, a donation fund is being created to help rebuild the entrance and cover costs associated with implementing additional security measures.


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