2019's big stories saw heroes remembered, villains revealed

Posted at 5:24 PM, Dec 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-30 21:55:24-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — With 2019 coming to a close, 7 Action News is looking back the year’s biggest stories.

A New Direction at MSU

At Michigan State University, Interim President John Engler was forced to resign after saying that survivors of Larry Nassar’s abuse were enjoying the spotlight. It marked the end to a tumultuous tenure that rocked the school, already reeling from the Nassar scandal, to its core. Engler’s replacement arrived in the Spring, vowing a new tone at the top.

“I want to come to a place where we can work together,” said Dr. Samuel Stanley at his introductory press conference, “where we can make a difference.”

Marijuana in Michigan

After voters approved recreational marijuana in Michigan last year, this year, sales finally began.

Nearly 80% of Michigan cities refused to allow marijuana sales, but those that did saw more than $3 million in revenue in just the first two weeks.

Carmaker Chaos

2019 marked the seemingly endless parade of corruption, with higher-ups at the UAW and Fiat Chrysler pleading guilty in an ongoing bribery scheme.

At least 13 people have been charged so far, and UAW president Gary Jones ultimately resigned last month.

And while UAW leaders fell, UAW workers were on strike. For 40 days, union workers at GM took to the picket line, until finally coming to terms in October. The strike cost GM some $2 billion.

Building Cars Again

But there was good news on the auto front, when Fiat Chrysler announced its expansion of the Mack Assembly plant in Detroit. The plant was “the first new assembly plant in Detroit in almost three decades," according to FCA’s Mark Stewart.

With the promise of 5,000 new jobs, construction on the $1.6 billion plant continues today.

Legends Lost

2019 marked the passing of two of Michigan’s legislative icons. After more than 5 decades of service, Congressman John Dingell died at 92. In nearly 60 years in the House, he played a key role in the passage of signature legislation, from the Civil Rights Act to the Clean Water Act to Obamacare.

“He was an old-fashioned man who did things in an old-fashioned way that we should adapt for new times,” said former President Bill Clinton, who spoke at his funeral.

Months later, we lost John Conyers. The longest serving African American member of Congress, he fought to expand voting rights, to end the war in Vietnam and to reform policing in America.

“To know Congressman Conyers,” said Sen. Gary Peters “was to know a living legend.”

City on Edge

Throughout the summer, Detroit was on edge while police hunted a man believed to be responsible for a string of murders.

“We believe we have the makings of a serial killer rapist,” announced. Chief James Craig last June.

The killings triggered a massive, door-to-door dragnet to hunt down the person responsible. Ultimately, say police and prosecutors, it was 34-year-old Deangelo Martin, charged with the killings of four women.

“He took away an aunt. He took away a mother,” said the relative of one of his alleged victim’s. “Something that cannot be replaced.”

A Hero Falls

The tears continued in 2019 when the city lost one of its finest: officer Rasheen McClain, who was killed in November after responding to a home invasion. He had served the city for 17 years.

"When I was having a down day, he’d just bring me up,” said fellow officer Max Reichstei. “A great guy, a professional. And he knew his job. He knew his job.”