Flint, MI– More than 50 protesters gathered outside of the Genesee County Jail and Courthouse June 21 holding signs that bore the name of a 19-year-old man who was killed one month earlier.
“Justice for Donald Stokes II.”
On May 23, at around 4 a.m., Stokes was shot and killed after approaching a house that, according to his family members, he believed was his brother’s.
It wasn’t his brother’s, and the homeowner who shot him believed Stokes was an intruder, and said he acted in self-defense. The Genesee County Prosecutor’s Office will not be prosecuting the homeowner, but the Stokes family is not satisfied.
“We’re hoping to get justice for my son, because he was murdered, and with the Act 309, the guy’s going with self-defense … he shot my son dead,” said his mother, Kimberly Stokes. “Nineteen years old. I really need justice. We need justice for my son.”
Act 309, also known as the “self-defense act,” is a Michigan law that went into effect in 2006. It permits the use of deadly force when the individual “honestly and reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to prevent the imminent death of or imminent great bodily harm to himself or herself or to another individual.”
Deputy Chief Assistant Prosecutor John Potbury said because of this law, the prosecutor’s office is not prosecuting the homeowner.
“Under Michigan law, if the homeowner in this case had reasonable belief that he or others, in this case his wife who was at home with him, faced an imminent threat, he had a right to protect himself,” Potbury said in an email. “The fact is that it was four o’clock in the morning and an unknown and uninvited person was attempting to reach for the homeowner’s front door in an apparent attempt to get inside. It’s reasonable under the circumstances for the homeowner to believe this person was a threat.”
The Stokes family doesn’t see it that way.
“My brother didn’t have a weapon on him, all he had was a cell phone, a pack of gum, and a little bit of cash. He had some flip flops on. I mean he wasn’t wasn’t going to go robbing anybody,” said 28-year-old Marvin Davis, Stokes’s older brother. “He didn’t even make it all the way up on the porch to knock on the screen door. You know, this guy don’t even know if he needed help, if he ran out of gas … right when my brother made it on the porch, he just shot my brother.”
Davis said his brother’s house, located on Crawford Street, looks identical to the one Stokes walked up to on the 700 block of Campbell Street. There is one street in between Crawford and Campbell.
Whether shooting was the answer in this situation or not, Potbury said the homeowner had a right to defend himself if he felt threatened under Michigan law.
“He didn’t know the intruder’s intentions nor whether this unknown person was armed with a gun or whether there were others with him who might have been lurking and lying in wait. Was it the right decision? Did the homeowner need to shoot? That’s not the question,” Potbury said. “The question is whether he had a right to shoot if he had a reasonable belief he was facing an imminent threat. … An objective analysis any way you look at it is that this was a very tragic set of circumstances and we are very sorry for the family’s loss.”
Friends and family plan to continue protesting the decision not to prosecute the homeowner, and post protest information on a Facebook page called “LongLiveNephew.”
“We just want him to do some time for what he’s done because we will never get my brother back again. We can never make new memories with him anymore,” Davis said. “This is a tragic loss. It’s been about a month ago and honestly, it feels like it happened yesterday, man. It completely stopped a lot of our lives, and it has really left an empty spot in a lot of our hearts.”