Desmond Ricks spent 25 years in prison, and he claims police set him up for a murder he didn’t commit in 1992. Detroit has now agreed to settle a lawsuit he filed against the city.
Detroit will pay $7.5 million to Ricks, who said police switched bullets that were used as evidence against him.
“I’m not greedy. I’m thankful,” Ricks, 56, told The Associated Press after the City Council approved the settlement on July 12.
“It’s a blessing to be alive with my children and grandchildren. It was a blessing to not lose my life in there,” Ricks said of prison.
Ricks was convicted of fatally shooting a friend named Gerry Bennett outside a restaurant. At the time, police seized a gun that belonged to Ricks’ mother and claimed it was the murder weapon.
The Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan law school asked a judge to reopen the case in 2016. The clinic’s research found that photos of two bullets taken from Bennett did not resemble the bullets that a defense expert examined. When the actual bullets, which were still in Detroit police storage, were examined, it was found that they did not match the .38-caliber gun identified as the weapon, CBS News reported. Ricks was exonerated in 2017.
Ricks recounted the night of the shooting to Crime Watch Daily. “So me and Gerry, we talked back and forth, and he was gonna make a few runs, he said, maybe go to the store or something like that.”
Desmond and Gerry stopped by a local burger restaurant.
“I’m not gonna sit here and lie to you,” said Ricks told Crime Watch Daily. “Once I got there, and I see the surroundings, what’s going on, I know what’s going on, I’m like ‘Wait a minute, man, I got somewhere to go.’”
Ricks said it was then that he realized that Bennett was actually meeting another guy to make a drug deal.
“Next thing I know, he gets out of the car, the other guy gets out of the car, they go into the restaurant, they come out of the restaurant. That’s when all the shooting and stuff starts,” recalled Ricks. “I’m in the passenger seat of the car, I don’t know what’s going on. On the side of the rear-view mirror, I can look at the back, and I can see him shoot him the first time.
“He shot him in the head,” said Ricks, who said the gunman shot at him as well. Ricks said he took off running, and in the process, he dropped his ID, which is how police tracked Ricks down.
“The police come a couple days later,” remembered Ricks. “There’s two federal agents and a Detroit police officer. They come in the house, they ask my mother if she have any firearms in the house. Now, she got a gun, it’s been registered since the ’70s, and this is a registered firearm with the city of Detroit, so it’s on record. They go in the back, get the firearm and come out. One of the police say ‘This is not the gun.’ The other guy say ‘We’ll just take it anyway.’”
Despite what the officer said at the time about the gun, Ricks was arrested and charged. He was found guilty at the trial, based in part on the bullet evidence.
Photo: Desmond Ricks listens to Judge Richard Skutt during a hearing in Detroit on June 1, 2017. Clarence Tabb Jr. / The Detroit News via AP file