Flint, MI– Just about three months before he died, Quetez Quinn officially opened his barbecue stand on the corner of Saginaw Street and Pasadena.
Since May 2, Quinn, or “Chef Cooter” as he called himself, grilled up hamburgers, hot dogs, ribs, Polish sausage, and more for seven hours a day at Sir Q’s Grill. He called his food Flint’s best barbecue. Flint’s mayor even came by to get a taste once, and Quinn earned his stamp of approval with a smiling picture of them together. His friends say he was always smiling, always happy.
When he wasn’t grilling, he was off being a family man with his longtime girlfriend Dellarhea Johnson, and their two young children.
“He was an awesome daddy. A nice guy. Always smiling, full of life,”said Eballer Smith, his close friend of nearly thirty years. “There was never a dull moment. He was a funny guy, he had lots of jokes. He was always happy. Always smiling.”
He was beloved by many, as evidenced by the thousands of dollars in donations made to a fundraiser to ensure he has a proper burial and his family is supported, as well as the crowd that attended a candlelight vigil for him on July 29, right where he used to grill.
“He’ll always be in my memory as a good person, a good father,” said Trell Cole, another longtime friend of Quinn’s.
His death was completely unexpected.
On July 26, around 1:30 a.m, the 38-year-old was killed riding his motorcycle along Wolcott street, in what the Flint Police have confirmed to be a hit-and-run. The case is being investigated, and police are attempting to identify the driver who hit Quinn.
There were 868 hit-and-runs in Flint last year according to Michigan Traffic Crash Facts. That accounts for about one third of the total number of crashes in Flint last year, which was 2,659.
On average, that’s about seven crashes a day. Five of the 868 hit and runs were fatal crashes.
According to Flint’s Police Chief Terence Green, this year is on track to be worse.
Green said there were 24 fatal crashes in Flint last year, and that as of July 30, 2021, there have already been 22.
“I think it just coincides with our increase in violent crime. It’s just, you know, this lawlessness,” Green said.
He attributed part of the rise in reckless driving to Michigan’s moratorium on fines for individuals with an expired license, state ID, and vehicle registration, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Individuals that are driving recklessly know that police officers’ hands are tied in regards to being able to charge them for not having a registration plate on their vehicle,” Green said.
He also said that although the police department’s “visibility has definitely improved,” Flint residents may drive recklessly, believing that police are too busy with other calls to pull them over.
“I’ll put it this way: our officers are frequently tied up with calls for service, meaning they have very little unobligated time to go out and be visible just spending time patrolling the streets,” Green said. “They probably only have about 20% of unobligated time of all of their time.”
On the same day Quinn was killed, another Flint man was killed on his motorcycle in Burton, just outside of Flint, around 6 p.m. Speed was said to be a factor in that accident.
According to Michigan Traffic Crash Facts, speeding was a factor in 314 of the total crashes in Flint last year. Ten of the total speeding-involved crashes were fatal.
For Flint residents, these numbers likely don’t come as a surprise.
In the first ward, Shawn Hairston, president of the Bel-Aire Woods Block Club, said there has been a lot of speeding, reckless driving, and accidents happening in the area lately.
In the fifth ward, residents can point to specific locations like Mason Street and 5th Avenue, or University Ave, that have been the site of several accidents.
“It seems a little perplexing to me that there literally are several accidents around there, some involving multiple cars, many involving just one car,” said Carriage Town resident Cade Surface. “The intersection has proven to be a pretty unsafe place, and we haven’t been able to get any changes there.”
Joe Schipani, another Carriage Town resident, said one of his neighbors has had to replace his fence multiple times due to repeated accidents in this area.
Some residents even created a Flint Traffic Taming Taskforce, and got grants to purchase radar signs and track speeds in different areas. So far, they have tracked speeds in nine different neighborhoods.
“During the month of May, our radar sign collected data from our 3707 Sunset Dr., location and it shows 1,279 drivers going 20 mph over the speed limit,” said Kate Cole, the founder of the taskforce. “If the city were to issue speeding tickets for these drivers, as the State of Michigan states the violation amount to be $155.00, the city would have added $197,005.00 to their treasury….and the neighborhood would be safe for all its citizens.”
Chief Green said the police department receives information from this group and uses their data to conduct speed traps at hot spots. He said the department is also using “innovative technology” to identify drivers that are frequent violators, and working on filling vacant officer positions so officers can have time to patrol the streets. In addition to officer patrol, Green said the newly leased helicopter will also help the department to be more visible.
“That’s gonna definitely increase our visibility,” he said. “So we’re trying everything. But I think that helicopter we were able to procure will definitely help with that visibility and crackdown on some of this reckless driving.”
Mayor Sheldon Neeley said he will keeping Quinn’s family in his prayers.
“It is with deep sadness that we join in mourning the death of Quetez Quinn. Mr. Quinn was a father, brother and son,” Neeley said. “Our city has lost a great individual who worked tirelessly on behalf of his family and business. Please join my family and I in keeping Quetez’s family and loved ones in your prayers.”