Protest held after alleged hit-and-run driver released - WNEM TV 5

Protest held after alleged hit-and-run driver released

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Tatiana Brown (Courtesy: Serenity Funeral Chapel) Tatiana Brown (Courtesy: Serenity Funeral Chapel)
FLINT, MI (WNEM) -

A protest was held Thursday morning outside of Flint City Hall after a suspect in a fatal hit-and-run that killed two teenage girls was released from custody, and now Flint Mayor Karen Weaver has helped to make sure the costs of the funerals will be covered.

>>Slideshow: Protest underway after alleged driver released in hit-and-run<<

Two families are devastated and want answers after the girls were hit and killed early Saturday morning by a driver who left them for dead. 

"Why her?"

It's the question family members are asking themselves after the two teen girls were struck and killed in Flint. 

"I was shocked. I didn't think it was real. I still don't think it was real," Tank said.

Tank said his cousin Tatiana Brown was one of the victims in this tragedy.

Police said about 12:21 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 26, Brown and her friend, 13-year-old Ashyrinta Clemons, were walking along Saginaw and Carton Street when a northbound driver hit them and took off. 

"Thirteen-years-old! Hit by a car. Dead on impact. It's a shocker to the whole family, everybody. And sad and down right now," Tank said. 

Police said the driver of the car turned himself in on Saturday. He was released on Aug. 29 pending charges. Police said speed may have played a factor in the girls' deaths.

Cries of anger rant out Thursday morning as family and friends of the girls gathered to protest the release of the driver.

"I don't know if the guy was drunk, I don't know. But from what witnesses tell us, no lights on, speeding down Saginaw, hit them and kept going," said Annina Banks, Ashyrinta's aunt.

The driver was released due to a legal obligation requiring the gathering of all available evidence before prosecution, police said.

"To my understanding, the man it out and I know that there is a process that has to happen. We're just asking that Flint would find this and do what they can and do it in an expedient way," Flint City Council President Kerry Nelson said.

Nelson said the girls were at a teen night club before they decided to cross the street.

"I saw this happening. I've been working and trying to get the chief to get this particular function shut down. It's a club or what have you, or whatever kind of activities go on there. Every weekend there is a different function," Nelson said.

He said the person throwing the party is not pulling the proper permits and licenses.

City officials said there are no active businesses registered in the plaza.

A memorial where they were hit holds candles burning in memory of those two girls alongside T-shirts with #longlivetati and the number 13. 

#Forever13 is also spray painted near the accident site.

Tank said he wishes he could have done something. 

"It's crazy cause she was asking me about these earrings that I was gonna get her. I still ain't got them for her. I'm sad I didn't get a chance to get them before this happened," Tank said. 

Tank said the family is trying to cope and pick up the pieces. 

"I just wish she could have been here for more time," Tank said. 

Family members said both girls attended Durant Turri Mott School.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver issued a statement saying that once she learned the families need help to cover the cost of the funeral, she reached out to the owners of area funeral homes for help.

"As a mother myself, I can only imagine what these families are going through. When I heard they were seeking donations to help cover funeral expenses for these young girls, I wanted to do something to help. I reached out to Lawrence E. Moon and Sheldon T. Banks who both own funeral homes in Flint. They both have graciously agreed to take care of the funeral needs for each of the teens at no cost to either family.  I want to thank Mr. Moon and Mr. Banks for stepping up to help. I also want to thank the community for doing what they have to support the Clemons and Brown families during this difficult time. Let us all keep these families in our prayers."

Meantime, the families are still struggling to come to grips with the news.

"This same out of nowhere. This is something no one would expect, not her," said Jarhrie Mills, Tatiana's dad.

He said his daughter was popular and smart.

"Half of the whole city of Flint knew Tatiana. They all knew she was a straight-A student. She was the brightest thing in my life," Mills said.

Nelson said this is an awful reminder of how short life can be.

"I just ask each parent to be very careful and make sure when this type of functions are going on there is supervision. And that they have the right permits to even have a function," Nelson said.

Gerald Parker owns the building where the party was held. He said his heart aches for the families of the two girls.

"I learned about this party Friday. A gentleman came to me that was hosting the party. He said he was a teen club promoter for all the high schools," Parker said.

Parker said he agreed to rent the facility for the party because he said the promoter was raising money for kids programs. Parker insists he wasn't breaking any laws by having the party on his property.

Nelson said he has been trying to shut down the plaza for months.

"A function took place last Friday night. If you say you didn't make any money of it, fine, OK. But you allowed the function to happen. You own it," Nelson said.

Nelson said he receives a lot of calls from neighbors complaining about loud noise and commotion on party nights.

Flint police said they have responded to four calls at the plaza since 2015.

Parker believes Nelson is unfairly targeting him.

"So he has made his objection to shut us down. He made attempts, but we came into compliance with everything at the city and we are able to stay open," Parker said.

Parker said the kids were supposed to leave the event by midnight. He insists he had more than 12 security guards on duty that night to make sure the kids left safely.

Nelson said he is going to continue to try to shut down this business.

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