Family mourns, demands accountability for killing of 6-year-old during high-speed chase

The family of Blessings McLaurin-Grey laid the six-year-old to rest last weekend at a public memorial service in Minneapolis. The child was killed when the car of Hakeem Muhammad, a murder suspect, collided with the vehicle McLaurin-Grey was in during a July 15 high-speed chase through a residential neighborhood by the Brooklyn Center Police Department (BCPD) and the Minnesota State Patrol.

McLaurin-Grey’s aunt, April McHerron, who was driving McLaurin-Grey and other family members home from a local pool when the vehicle was hit, was uninvolved in the police chase. On July 21, the family and their lawyer, Lee Hutton, held a press conference outside the BCPD to call for accountability for her loss of life.

 A group of 20 family members and friends of the family attended the press conference in support. After the gathering and prayer led by Rev. Jeanette Ruppert, the group set up signs in front of the BCPD headquarters.

“July 15, 2022 [became] the worst day ever of my life,” said Cortel Grey, father of McLaurin-Grey. “I lost my baby. I lost my smile. My happiness.”

“It was just so careless,” he added, “so inhumane, [such a] lack of thought of life for a precious baby. She was six years old. She deserved more. She deserved to live. She was owed that chance.”

McLaurin-Grey’s family moved to Minnesota from Illinois to get better medical care for her—she had an enlarged heart due to Turner Syndrome, a disorder where a female is born partly or entirely missing an X chromosome. Her heart condition had been improving before her death.

“She wasn’t even supposed to make it,” Diane McLaurin, Blessings’ mother, said. “I kept going to doctor’s appointment after doctor’s appointment, and they kept telling me to ‘prepare for your daughter not to make it.’

Photo by Cole Miska

“The doctor told me there was a 99% chance my daughter was not going to make it. And I asked him what about that 1% chance? I told him I was going with that.”

Hutton criticized BCPD for initiating the high-speed chase in a residential area. “While the murder suspect theoretically started this, the fact of the matter is the police department, on an anonymous tip, knew where he was,” Hutton said. “Which means they had time to do the forethought. Time to ensure that families weren’t in the neighborhood. Time to ensure that a helicopter was in place.”

Hutton and the McLaurin-Grey family said they will pursue any valid legal claims they can make. Hutton also said the family will be pushing for a change at the State level that would require all police departments across Minnesota to have identical policies regarding conducting high-speed chases.

“You may have a particular claim in Brooklyn Center but not in Minnetonka. We’ve seen that in case law,” Hutton said. “That’s troubling in the sense that high-speed chases don’t stop at the [city] border—they go across.”

Hutton continued, “This family did everything that they are supposed to do. They’re model citizens. They pay their taxes. They are in this situation because they had a promise with the state of Minnesota and a promise with the police. But that promise was not reciprocated.”

The City of Brooklyn Center released a statement saying it “acknowledges and is heartbroken for the tragic loss of life the afternoon of Friday, July 15, related to a pursuit of a wanted individual.

“The City is committed to a comprehensive investigation, which included requesting an outside agency to conduct a criminal investigation into this incident. The Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office is conducting an ongoing investigation. Following the criminal investigation, the City will be conducting an internal review of the incident.”

Updated to add a statement from the city of Brooklyn Center.