CORRECTION: The original story said the mayor had vowed to investigate the 21-year-old shooting. The mayor’s office said the words had been taken out of context in other reports and referred to looking into the post, not the shooting.
Lansing, MI – The Lansing Police Department’s chief is facing criticism from both sides after he posted – and later deleted – an annual tribute to a police dog who was killed in the line of duty in 1999.
Lansing police have shared the same memorial post about K9 Sabre on the anniversary of his death on their official Facebook page for at least the past six years.
“We Shall NEVER Forget Lansing Police – K9 ‘Sabre’ End of watch: January 23, 1999,” the tribute began. “K9 Sabre was shot and killed while attempting to take down an armed subject following a foot pursuit. The subject had broken into the basement of an occupied home while attempting to flee officers. Officers attempted to talk the man into exiting the home but he refused to do so.”
“As entry was made into the home the subject opened fire. Sabre immediately attacked the subject as officers returned fire. Both Sabre and the subject were fatally wounding during the exchange,” the post explained and then included a link to murdered dog’s obituary on the Officer Down Memorial Page.
Looking back at the posts over the past few years, the comments were largely supportive of law enforcement and full of nice memories about K9 Sabre.
But when the Lansing Police Department shared the annual memorial tribute to K9 Sabre on Jan. 23 this year, things quickly went sideways.
“This is in super poor taste,” Amanda Thomashow wrote in the comments beneath the since-deleted annual post, according to the Lansing City Pulse. “A human lost their life that day too and referring to them as ‘the subject’ while you honor a dog that died attacking them is super dehumanizing. Super bummed any of my tax dollars go to you.”
“Perhaps a memorial for the countless humans killed by police would be more appropriate,” Marie LaHoney added to the comments on the memorial tribute. “You people are literally oblivious. Read the room.”
After activists complained that the police never mentioned the name of the man who was killed by police after fatally shooting a police K9, Lansing Police Chief Daryl Green took the memorial tribute down.
“Message from Police Chief Green: After talking to Mayor Schor, we both agreed that the social media post regarding Lansing Police K-9 Sabre that went out over the weekend was causing too much harm to the Lansing community,” the replacement post read. “I agreed with him to remove the post at this time.”
“The annual post is intended to honor the memory of an LPD K-9 that lost his life in the line of duty, as we honor all LPD employees that have died in the line of duty, and was certainly not intended to disrespect or hurt any citizens,” the post continued.
The law enforcement community and its supporters were outraged at the perceived snub to the K9 hero.
“Another cowardly, political hack, as a chief. Well done, you’ve abandoned your cops,” Michael Chabut commented under the new post.
“Next it’ll be people wanting you to take down posts of fallen officers. That’s sad,” Austin Curry agreed.
And critics from the other side still weren’t satisfied because Chief Green hadn’t paid tribute to dead gunman and said so in the comments.
The incident which resulted in K9 Sabre’s death was in the news again in June of 2020 after lockdown protests and riots in the state capital converged following the death of George Floyd in the custody of the Minneapolis police.
That was when an activist member of the Lansing Fire Department claimed that Aldric “AJ” McKinstry, Jr. wasn’t armed the day he was fatally shot by police, the Lansing State Journal reported.
McKinstry’s .38-caliber revolver was recovered from the shooting scene.
Firefighter Michael Lynn, who filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against the fire department and the city in 2019, made that claim about the officer-involved shooting in amidst the turmoil and unrest plaguing the nation in the wake of Floyd’s death.
“I was there. I don’t think he had a gun,” Lynn told the Lansing State Journal at the time. “He doesn’t fit the stereotype. They are just trying to justify killing him.”
But that’s not what an independent investigation for the Board of Police Commissioners determined.
That investigation showed that McKinstry fired on police when officers sent in K9 Sabre, and officers returned fire.
The independent investigation determined the officers had fired their weapons at McKinstry in self-defense and his shooting was justified, according to the Lansing State Journal.
“We were there all together,” Lynn claimed. “The police came in a door and we all jumped out a window. AJ jumped out first and he kind of drew the police away from us and we jumped out and ran the other direction and he was killed.”
“That kind of sparked the whole social justice thing at that age,” he told the Lansing State Journal.
Lynn has admitted he was a criminal from a young age but said that a stint in adult jail when he was 15 years old changed his attitude and sent him in a different direction.
He was 18 when McKinstry was killed.
Lynn joined the Lansing Fire Department in 2014 through a special program designed to increase diversity in the department, according to The Trace.
The firefighter has claimed in his lawsuit that he and other minorities in the fire department were hazed by white colleagues who didn’t think they had gotten their jobs fairly.
The city has denied the allegations and the lawsuit is ongoing.
In 2017, Lynn became prominently known after his eldest son, Michael “Mickey” Lynn III, was one of four football players at Lansing Catholic to take a knee during the National Anthem, the Lansing State Journal reported.
“When Mickey took a knee, I was kind of thrust into the activism standpoint, because of how Lansing Catholic responded to it,” Lynn said. “So I had to defend my son. That was kind of the beginning of the activism and the speaking out.”
Then after Floyd’s death, Lynn made the claim that McKinstry had been unarmed when he was killed 20 years earlier, the Lansing State Journal reported.
Lynn also made headlines in June when he and several family members and friends he recruited provided an armed escort to and from the Michigan Capitol building for his local state representative after she expressed “sheer fear” for her safety during the protests and riots, according to The Trace.
When he saw the annual tribute to K9 Sabre in January of 2020, Lynn took aim at Lansing Mayor Andy Schor and demanded to know why they were honoring the murdered K9 without “any notice of the child that was murdered,” the Lansing City Pulse reported.
The Lansing City Pulse reported that the mayor apologized to Lynn for the K9’s memorial post the next day and said he didn’t “have all the answers” but vowed to look into it.
But the mayor’s communication director, Valerie Marchand, told The Police Tribune that Schor was referring to the post and not the shooting when he said that.
“He has never indicated that he would reopen the investigation. He was not mayor during that time,” Marchand said.
The Police Tribune also reached out to the Lansing Police Department for comment on the decision to remove the tribute to K9 Sabre.
“The Lansing Police Department will continue to honorably memorialize and recognize all LPD Officers who made the ultimate sacrifice in the line of duty during the anniversaries of their deaths,” Chief Green said in an email that also included the same text from his message on Facebook.
“My intent is to make sure all of our officers killed in the line of duty are given the respect they deserve but it will be ultimately up to the Mayor’s Office regarding what that looks like next year,” he told The Police Tribune.