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‘Opportunity’ offered on emotional hearing date

Feaured photo: An emotion-stirring press conference was held following a fire from which two children were killed on Pulaski Street, in Flint. Photo by Jameca Patrick-Singleton

Written by Tanya Terry

Flint Mother Crystal Cooper recently told the Courier the date of a recent hearing held in the Genesee Circuit Court held an enormous deal of emotional significance for her. Cooper said this is because her oldest son, Zyaire Mitchell, died on June 1, 2022. The first and third of each month are hard for Cooper, who also has a 2-year-old child. Her other son, Lamar Mitchell, died on June 3, 2022.

Both brothers tragically died as a result of a house fire that broke out on West Pulaski Street.

Still, Cooper said she is “grateful for the opportunity” the recent hearing will make possible.

At the hearing, Judge B. Chris Christensen said he won’t consider motions for summary disposition immediately. Christensen’s decision was to instead hold the motions in abeyance until discovery begins.

“The individual defendants raised their motion, and very surprising to me, it was raised at the earliest stages of the case,” said Mark Granzotto, attorney for Cooper.

“It was raised immediately after the complaint was filed,” Granzotto added. “There’s been no discovery. They wanted a determination on three big, factual questions at this early stage.”

Granzotto said he was pleased with the result of the hearing. He pointed out the only other alternative would be for the judge to deny the defendants of their motion. If he denied them, the defendants may have taken the case to the Court of Appeals, which could have delayed the case for years.

As part of the discovery that will take place, written questions will be sent to the defendants by the plaintiff’s lawyers, along with requests for documents.

“Most importantly, in a case like this, there are a number of people who have to be deposed under oath, including, most importantly, the two individual defendants. They have submitted, in conjunction with this motion, an affidavit that suggests they did everything right in this search they did at the house, something that was completely contradicted by (Former) Chief Barton’s report of the fire.”

The lawsuit alleges Former Firefighters Daniel Sniegocki and Michael Zlotek committed gross negligence, resulting in the deaths of 12-year-old Zyaire Mitchell, and 9-year-old Lamar Mitchell.

A report by former Fire Chief Raymond Barton said the two firefighters declared the all-clear and later lied in reports about having looked inside a second-floor room where the children were later found alive, only to die later in the hospital.

The lawsuit also alleges negligent infliction of emotional distress for Cooper, as the children’s mother.

“This is a first step,” said Robert Kenner of the May 1 hearing.

“This is a long haul,” Kenner added. “So, we’ve got a long way to go. We believe that we’ll get the evidence we need to prove that these firemen were negligent.”

Michigan has very strict rules on pursuing governmental entities. The city itself could be excused from the lawsuit through an amended complaint within the 30 days following the hearing due to immunity. In this case, the city would defend the two firefighters.

The Courier reached out for comment from Attorney Tom Sparrow, an attorney for the defendant, the City of Flint, but was not able to obtain comment by press time.

The Courier obtained the following statement by City of Flint Attorney William Kim:

“The City of Flint does not comment on pending litigation, but we continue to mourn the death of Lamar and Zyaire Mitchell.”


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