Police: Suspect fires shots at Ferndale man after car trade goes awry

By: Jeremy Selweski | Online Only | Published April 1, 2011

A Detroit man is facing assault charges for firing two gunshots at a Ferndale man after his younger brother got in an argument with the man over a deal to trade cars.

According to Ferndale Police Detective Lt. Bill Wilson, “This (shooting) was the result of a deal through Craigslist that went bad. There are all different stories about why the fight started. We don’t really know why everything escalated as badly as it did, but we are still investigating the reasons behind that.”

The incident was sparked after a 17-year-old Detroit man attempted to back out of a deal to trade his mother’s Oldsmobile car to a 50-year-old Ferndale man in exchange for the man’s Pontiac Firebird, Wilson said. The teen and his mother were not happy with the trade and wanted to undo it, but the man refused.

After a heated argument over the phone between the man and the teen’s family members, a group of people — including the teen, his mother, his two older brothers and his friend — drove over to the man’s house, located in the 1300 block of Bertha Street, at around 9:15 p.m. on March 28. As Wilson explained, after the man came outside, it did not take long for the confrontation to turn violent.

“We initially got a call about people yelling and arguing loudly in the streets, but then it grew into something much bigger,” he said.

As the dispute intensified, the Ferndale man walked down near the street to where the teen and his family were parked in their cars. The argument came to a head when the teen’s brothers stepped outside of their car and pointed handguns at the man, Wilson said. One of the brothers, 28-year-old James Morris of Detroit, then fired two rounds at the man. The shots missed and struck the outside wall of the man’s house.

“After the shots were fired, everybody kind of panicked and ran away,” Wilson said. “The mom drove off in her truck, and the others fled toward Eight Mile (Road).”

One Ferndale officer arrived on the scene to find the Ferndale man standing in the street in front of his house holding a metal pipe, Wilson said. Other officers located Morris and his brother in the median of Eight Mile near Pinecrest Drive and took them into custody.

Both men had .40-caliber semi-automatic pistols in their possession, Wilson said, and police determined that Morris’ gun had recently been fired. Morris, who has a license to carry a concealed weapon, told the officers that he shot at the Ferndale man in self-defense after the man fired at him with a shotgun.

However, according to Wilson, “all the evidence disproves that story. There was no proof that the 50-year-old man had fired any shots at Morris. His claim of self-defense does not appear to be true.”

After further investigation, Morris was placed under arrest and the other brother was released. On March 30, Morris was arraigned in Ferndale 43rd District Court on charges of felonious assault. If convicted, he could face up to four years in prison and/or a $2,000 fine. Magistrate James Brennan set bond at $5,000 cash or surety, 10 percent, and scheduled a pre-exam conference for 1 p.m. April 7.