Questions linger after no charges brought in fatal shooting

By: Brian Louwers | Warren Weekly | Published October 11, 2021

 Raymond Leonard Harbert Jr. was shot and killed in Center Line on Aug. 8. He left behind two sons, ages 9 and 6, and a 10-month-old daughter.

Raymond Leonard Harbert Jr. was shot and killed in Center Line on Aug. 8. He left behind two sons, ages 9 and 6, and a 10-month-old daughter.

 Rebecca Carver, of Royal Oak, said she has many questions about the investigation and the decision not to authorize changes after the shooting death of her son, Raymond Harbert.

Rebecca Carver, of Royal Oak, said she has many questions about the investigation and the decision not to authorize changes after the shooting death of her son, Raymond Harbert.

Photo by Brian Louwers

CENTER LINE — Rebecca Carver said her son, Raymond Harbert, was her firstborn child and the first of three boys.

“I was a child having a child, and we grew up together,” Carver said Sept. 29 at her home in Royal Oak.

She said her oldest son was “a good kid” who played sports in school. He graduated from Royal Oak High School in 2010, and Carver said he worked hard afterward to be a good father for his own children: two sons, ages 9 and 6, and a 10-month-old daughter.

Harbert, 29, of Clinton Township, was shot and killed Aug. 8 when a gathering among friends and friends of friends ended in violence. Police in Center Line turned the findings of their investigation over to Macomb County prosecutors, who first sent the case back to the department for further investigation, and eventually confirmed last month that there was insufficient evidence to warrant criminal charges at this time.

Given the circumstances of the case, and what Carver said her family has learned about the investigation, that decision is hard for the family to accept.

The shooting
Center Line officers were sent to a home on State Park near Landau Street, west of Van Dyke Avenue, at about 1:15 a.m. the morning of the shooting. At the scene, they found Harbert dead with multiple gunshot wounds. It was initially announced that a Roseville man was in custody, but he was later released following a request by Macomb prosecutors for further investigation.

Detective Danny Petroff, of the Center Line Public Safety Department, the officer in charge of the case, confirmed in September that prosecutors determined there wasn’t enough evidence to move forward with a criminal prosecution. At that time, Petroff said the five witnesses gave inconsistent statements. He also said investigators canvassed the neighborhood and found no video evidence of the actual shooting.

Police said Harbert was shot four times with a .40-caliber handgun owned by the shooter, who was licensed to carry a concealed pistol.

Harbert and the shooter did not know one another, sources said. The gathering that evening included the shooter’s wife, Harbert’s girlfriend and a mutual friend of the two men and his girlfriend.

Petroff said in September that the shooting appeared to be “a self-defense” type situation and that Harbert had acted aggressively toward the shooter.

Harbert was reportedly carrying a handgun when he was shot. It was not his gun: He reportedly took it from his girlfriend, who picked it up after the mutual friend dropped the weapon during a separate confrontation with Harbert before the shooting.

Police said Harbert was carrying the weapon when he approached the shooter, who then opened fire. Harbert was reportedly shot twice in the back, once in the buttocks and once on his bicep.

“I just know something don’t add up, and something’s not right,” Carver said. “He told me, the detective said, that he (the shooter) said he feared for his life. I said, how can you fear for your life when you have a back to you? He is no threat when his back is to you.”

The investigation
Carver said she also wants to know why the shooter was not at least tested for alcohol at the scene, or when he was interviewed by police. She said she was told all six people at the gathering were doing shots in the driveway.

It’s a crime under state law to possess or use a firearm under the influence.

Also, according to the Michigan State Police, a CPL holder’s acceptance of the license constitutes implied consent to submit to a chemical test to detect the use of alcohol or drugs. Penalties range from a civil infraction to a 93-day misdemeanor, fines and a revocation of the CPL, depending on the level of alcohol found.

Center Line police said previously there was no drinking involved that night.

“Well, they’re doing a toxicology report on my deceased son,” Carver said. “Why wouldn’t you give him (the shooter) a sobriety test?”

When the family met with police, Carver said the detective struggled to remember her son’s name but that he mentioned his appearance and pointed out the difference in size between Harbert and the shooter.  

“My son was 6 foot, about 270, and his tattoos were memorials for his grandparents, his best friend that died, his children that were on his arm. They meant something, and half the world has long beards and mullets these days,” Caver said.

Police said the shooter left the gathering about five minutes before, but Carver questioned why he was still there when her son approached him.

She said her son couldn’t have been moving that quickly because of a 2018 accident. Harbert was struck by a vehicle on the freeway while trying to help a friend fix a motorcycle. That left him with a lingering leg injury. Carver said she asked but that she still doesn’t know how far away her son was from the shooter.  

With many questions still unanswered, Carver said she just wants justice for her son.  

“I just don’t want everybody to think my son’s a monster, because he wasn’t a monster,” Carver said. “He was a good-hearted soul. I raised three boys, and boys, they get a little hotheaded from time to time. Everybody does. But he was a good-hearted soul, and he touched a lot of lives.”

‘We have to look at the evidence’
Center Line police maintained that the investigation remains open and could be resubmitted to prosecutors if new information or evidence becomes available. They declined further comment about Carver’s concerns after she was interviewed for this story.

No further information about the suspect was provided by the police.

“If the facts in the case and the evidence presented doesn’t give way for charging, the prosecutor’s office has an absolute duty to be ministers of justice, which means in the middle and fair,” Macomb County Prosecutor Peter Lucido said on Oct. 5. “I can’t be one-sided because we have the ability to charge people. Just because we have the right to charge somebody doesn’t mean we always charge. We have to look at the evidence, look at the statements, look at the facts, and decide if we can make the case.”

“You just can’t charge if you can’t make all the elements of the crime,” Lucido said. “If there was a camera that would show what happened, if there was a witness that would corroborate I would say let’s move forward, but we don’t have it.”

Lucido said both the police and Harbert’s family have a right to appeal the decision not to charge and to have that decision reviewed by a team of veteran prosecutors.

“If they’re not happy, there is an appeals division,” Lucido said. “There is an appeals division within the prosecutor’s office as it relates to a warrant that is being denied. The police have the right to appeal, as well as a family has a right to have it relooked at, just like anybody else in the legal system has a right to appeal.

He said the Major Crimes Unit looks at fatalities and homicides.

“If it doesn’t get charged, the families have a right, the police have a right, to have the next unit look at it, which is the appellate division from the Major Crimes Unit. They ask for a review from the Major Crimes Unit and they’ll get their review. If two of the three prosecutors agree to bring the changes, then they have the right to bring the charges.”

Lucido said the process “couldn’t be more fair” and that it ensures “equal and fair justice.”

“If the family feels that they didn’t get their justice, they have the right to appeal,” Lucido said.