MONDAY, Jan. 25 — The Lansing Police Department faced criticism over the weekend after it paid its respects to a police dog that was killed in 1999 but referred to a teenage boy who was reportedly shot by officers 18 times during the incident only as “the subject” in a recent tribute.
Every year, Lansing cops create a Facebook post in which they remember K9 Sabre, a police dog that was shot and killed while attempting to capture Aldric “AJ” McKinstry Jr., an 18-year-old who ran from officers and later broke into the basement of an unoccupied home.
“We Shall NEVER Forget” according to LPD’s memorial Facebook post from Saturday afternoon. “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 wounded during the exchange.”
News reports state that McKinstry jumped from a second-story window, fled on foot with a gun and broke into the basement of an empty northside home on Alfred Avenue. Cops surrounded the home and reportedly warned McKinstry for five minutes before sending Sabre inside.
Officers claimed that McKinstry shot first and hit Sabre three times before cops reportedly returned fire, shooting McKinstry 18 times and hitting him six, including one to the forehead. News reports show that more than 600 people came out for McKinstry’s funeral. An internal investigation later cleared police in the shooting, noting the shots were fired in self-defense.
And 21 years later, Lansing cops still omit McKinstry’s name from their dog-focused tribute. Hundreds of comments followed online, with many alleging that the recent Facebook post unfairly focused much more on the death of a dog rather than the teenager who was killed.
“To memorialize a dog when a human life was lost is disgusting,” remarked Ashley Phenicie.
Added Amanda Thomashow in another comment: “This is in super poor taste. 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,” said Marie LaHoney in the comment section. “You people are literally oblivious. Read the room.”
Local activist and firefighter Michael Lynn Jr. was a close friend of McKinstry. He posed questions to Mayor Andy Schor about the recurring memorial in June, asking why a dog deserved a tribute without “any notice of the child that was murdered” by cops in Lansing.
“I’m sick of seeing that every year,” Lynn told Schor. “I’m sick of seeing you guys put that dog up on a pedestal when my brother was killed by the Police Department during that same event.”
Schor apologized the next day for failing to acknowledge McKinstry’s death in the 2020 tribute, noting at the time that he didn’t “have all the answers” but vowing to look into the situation. Seven months later, the memorial post appeared again without mentioning McKinstry’s name.
Following the backlash in the comments online, the Police Department updated a few lines to the post to clarify that the “intention of this post was not to disrespect or harm any citizen.”
“The post was to honor the memory of a LPD K-9 that lost his life in the line of duty, as we honor all LPD employees that died in the line of duty,” police officials explained. “We recognize that we must all be vigilant to ensure that no one loses their life due to gun violence.”