A small town in Michigan spent the last day under heavy law enforcement scrutiny with checkpoints manned by local police and the FBI and citizens who were interviewed getting their hands tagged with black “X” marks.
Law enforcement agents stopped vehicles entering and leaving the village of Armada as they searched for clues in the case of a slain 14-year-old girl, according to the Detroit Free Press. The body of April Millsap was found in a wooded area of the southeastern Michigan community last week.
The FBI and Armada Police Department stopped every vehicle attempting to enter or leave the village between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. Thursday night. Roughly 1,700 people live in Armada; according to WXYZ-TV, police marked each person’s hand they questioned about the murder with a large black “X.”
Police told local reporters that the “rolling canvas” was conducted during a time of the evening when Millsap was known to regularly walk her dog along a certain path, and that investigators were hoping to question anyone who showed signs of having a similar routine.
The searches appear to have caused a rift in the community, according to commenters who responded to WXYZ’s story on the incident.
One person said, “I foresee a MASSIVE lawsuit alleging 4th and 5th amendment violations for using this practice. The simple fact is that such checkpoints are inherently illegal. I suggest EVERYONE tell the cops that they do NOT consent and will NOT allow any search.”
Another commenter defended the law enforcement actions: “They are doing whatever it may take to find the scum that did this to her. All her rights where violated when her life was taken. So I am happy they are doing such a great job to find the scumbag.”
Lt. Mike Shaw of the Michigan State Police, which also assisted in the search, told TheBlaze the “neighborhood canvas” technique is something they use regularly.
“A lot of people are creatures of habit so a lot of times we’ll do a canvas at the same time of day and the same day of the week as when the crime occurred, and a lot of times you’ll catch the same people,” Shaw said.
Shaw said when they conduct searches like these, often they’ll find people following their standard work or school routines who might have seen something involving the incident but failed to report it to the police.
“We didn’t shut the town down … we had a couple guards out and when someone drove by we asked if we could ask them a few questions, like if they were in the area last week,” he explained, “If they weren’t, we sent them on their way, if they didn’t want to answer questions we sent them on their way.”
Shaw said the force got “seven or eight solid tips” out of the search.
“It worked out pretty well for is, and it’s a common occurrence that we do for a lot of our investigations, but in urban areas it doesn’t stick out as much,” said Shaw, a 19-year police veteran.
But what about the black “X” marks?
“We asked people if we could put a little black mark on their hands because these little places around where the trail goes — the trail is 22 miles and we didn’t want to keep stopping the same people, or talking to the same people,” he said, “so it was just more economical … but if they didn’t want us to mark their hand, we didn’t.”
The Michigan State Police put out a composite sketch after speaking with several tipsters who said they saw a person on a two-wheeled vehicle on the path at the same time Millsap walked her dog. Shaw said police aren’t sure if the person is a witness or a suspect, and are looking to speak with them.
A representative for the American Civil Liberties Union did not immediately return a request for comment from TheBlaze about the police search tactics.
What are your thoughts?