Killing spree suspect Kenyel Brown was a federal informant, Chief Craig says

Posted at 12:20 PM, Feb 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-26 20:14:54-05

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Kenyel Brown, the suspect in a killing spree that left six people dead across three cities, was released on federal supervision and was an informant for the ATF and for the DEA/DPD task force, Detroit Police Chief James Craig said.

Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday afternoon, Craig said that Brown was an informant for the ATF and many of his crimes before the alleged murders happened when he was on supervised release.

Craig said Brown was first an informant to ATF. And the same day Brown was released from federal supervision, Oct. 29, 2019, a Detroit Police officer assigned to a DEA task force signed Brown up to be an informant for them on gangs and drugs.

The chief said that as an informant, Brown's information was used once and he was paid $150. Craig said Brown's tip never panned out.

According to Craig, there was a miscommunication during the transfer from the ATF to the DPD/DEA task force and the task force and the officer who signed Brown up did not know about his past crimes while under federal supervision.

"Had we known, this isn't a person we would want to use," Craig said.

Craig said those crimes include not passing the drug screening and being arrested for OWI, and that he violated the conditions of his release 7-9 times.

According to Craig, when the department learned he was a suspect in the two homicides in River Rouge, they deactivated him as an informant right away. Craig also said he had a conversation with U.S. Attorney Matthew Schneider and said they both agreed to take a deeper look at what happened in this case.

Craig said that when you look at his crimes, they all have a connection to money, drugs or both.

"It was clear he had a significant drug problem, he spiraled out of control and began to use violence," Craig said.

On Dec. 7, 2019, Brown allegedly killed Loren Harrington, 31. Loren was found shot to death in River Rouge.

7 Action News talked to Tracye Harrington, Loren's mother, and she wants to know why Brown was free and allowed to be an informant instead of locked away in prison after multiple probation violations.

"Did they know where he was at all times? Did they know who he was associating with? Did they know what he was doing? If they knew all of these things, if he's working for you, why did my son get killed?" Tracye asked while surrounded by five of her son's eight children.

"You come to my house and you tell me why my son was murdered by a man that was working for you... and then I'll let it rest," Tracye said.

Brown has not been charged with killing Loren Harrington and it's unclear when he was identified as a suspect in his murder.

On Jan. 30, nearly two months after Brown allegedly killed Loren Harrington, he allegedly shot and killed Kimberly Green, 52, and Dorian Patterson, 48. A few days later, Detroit police deactivated Brown's status as an informant.

Police said Brown continued killing and took the lives of three more people, bringing the total of people he allegedly murdered to six.

United States Attorney Matthew Schneider released the following statement Wednesday:

"This is a horrible tragedy. We are going to do everything in our power to get to the bottom of this matter. Kenyel Brown was a law enforcement informant for a period of time, and we have been - and currently are - working closely with our law enforcement partners to determine exactly what happened. It is our obligation to act as transparently as we can, in a responsible manner, by obtaining the facts. The families of the victims deserve nothing less."

Brown, 40, was charged Tuesday in connection to a double murder in River Rouge, the four other murders Brown is a suspect in were in Detroit and Highland Park.

In Highland Park on Feb. 18, police believe Kenyel Brown then killed 49-year-old Garcius Woodyard. The Ypsilanti man died from a gunshot wound to the head.

Two days later, on East Eight Mile on Detroit's east side, police believe Brown killed Amir Thaxton. Police said Thaxton and Brown were acquaintances and the motive behind Thaxton's murder may have been robbery.

Brown shot himself in the head Monday as he was going through the backyard of an Oak Park home on Monday after a short foot pursuit, and he is listed in grave condition at a hospital.

A vigil was also held Monday for another suspected victim of Brown, Eugene Jennings whose body was discovered by Detroit police on Saturday, Feb. 22.

"Absolutely senseless," Jennings' aunt, Cheryl Johnson said during the vigil. "I don't understand it myself but with the strength of God we will get through it."