An armed, white male crashed a pickup truck into the vestibule of the Eastside Community Network’s building on Conner St. Saturday before being detained by staff members.
The suspect was later named as Benjamin Noah Weinstein of Detroit. He was charged with carrying a concealed weapon, malicious destruction of property, felony firearm possession, and commission of a felony using a motor vehicle. ECN said in a statement that no one in the building was injured.
ECN is a community organization that serves a predominantly Black neighborhood, offering a range of services including community economic development initiatives, home improvement and community health and wellness activities. ECN’s Stoudamire Wellness Hub is designed as a space where residents can go during climate emergencies like heat waves, floods and power outages to access resources.
After initially saying they didn’t believe the crime was racially motivated, the Detroit Police Department contacted federal authorities to help determine if the act was a hate crime. A DPD representative identifying himself as Officer Hearn told Planet Detroit the suspect had been “under the influence of some type of narcotic.”
Donna Givens Davidson, president and CEO of ECN, told Planet Detroit that Saturdays are very busy, and children were in the building, some of whom were there for a self-defense class.
“While we are unsure of the motive behind this incident, we believe it was a terroristic hate crime with the intent of indiscriminate killing,” Davidson told Michigan Advance.
Nationally, hate crimes hit a record high in 2021, according to Federal Bureau of Investigation data. And 64.8% of hate crimes were motivated by race or ethnicity.
Givens Davidson said security was present during the attack because the building has a lot of Saturday activity. She said there had never been an incident of violence at the building. However, she said a white woman who appeared drunk recently had to be escorted out of a community meeting concerning Detroit’s Alter Rd. border with Grosse Pointe Park. According to Givens-Davidson, the woman had been disruptive and said she was “looking for all the white people here.”
“Those are the only two instances in a community where people feared violence and crime,” she said. The group had even considered taking down the wrought iron fence on Conner as a sign of openness to the community.
Givens-Davidson said ECN has worked “to create a sense of sanctuary and safety…a home away from home where [people are] are safe, where they’re free, where there is beauty, where they are being well fed and taken care of, where they are loved.”
“And in one act, somebody tried to take that sanctuary away, and that’s really hurtful,” she said.
ECN has created a donation fund to help cover costs associated with the incident and to implement additional security measures.