A Detroit-area father of three went up north for a fishing trip with his buddies. Days later, he was found fatally shot in his rental cabin.
The family of Brodrick “Brock” Ward claims his murder was racially motivated, and that the 42-year-old dad phoned them asking for a ride home because Ward’s friend supposedly warned him to hide if his “racist” pals came over.
But police say Ward’s death was no hate crime. Instead, authorities believe the rubout was drug related, the Detroit Free Press reported.
The Kalkaska County Sheriff’s Office was called to the cabin on Gonyer Road in Springfield Township around 5 p.m. on Nov. 21. Ward was found dead of a gunshot wound to the chest, and soon after, one suspect was arrested.
Authorities didn’t release the name of the suspect, but described him as “a 36 year old black male from Wisconsin.”
“The community is not at risk as there are no suspects at large,” a press release by the sheriff’s office stated. “The incident is drug related and the parties involved are believed to be known to each other.”
On Monday, Sheriff Patrick Whiteford announced the arraignments of two suspects: Terrance Jordan of Traverse City and Jason Morgan of Kingsley. Both are charged with open murder and armed robbery, and they’re being held on $10 million bail, Whiteford said.
In an email, Whiteford told The Daily Beast that prosecutors authorized charges on two suspects but there are additional persons of interest. Whiteford said Jordan was the Wisconsin-born suspect.
“We have no evidence that this was a racially motivated crime,” Whiteford said. “It is unfortunate that unsubstantiated comments come from the family or the public that is only speculative as to the motive of the homicide.”
Ward lived in Inkster, about 20 miles west of Detroit, and was far from home when he was shot and killed at the cabin.
His brother, Samuel, says he described being uncomfortable in northern Michigan when he called on Nov. 17. Ward allegedly told Samuel that one resident questioned why a black man from Inkster was in Kalkaska County, the Free Press reported.
“You never heard of Kalkaska? There are three Ks in Kalkaska for a reason,” a stranger allegedly told Brodrick Ward, referencing the Ku Klux Klan.
Ward told his brother that his fishing buddy, Jason, warned him he’d have to hide in a back room if Jason’s “racist” cohorts appeared. The victim said he’d asked a mutual friend to pick him up, and instructed Samuel to give the friend gas money if he needed it.
When the friend arrived the next day, Ward didn’t answer his phone. He waited in the driveway for two hours before he finally left.
Three days later, unable to reach Ward themselves, Ward’s family arrived in Kalkaska. They found him dead of a gunshot wound inside the rental house.
Charde Straughter, the mother of one of Ward’s children, said he traveled up north with his longtime friend, Jason, and Jason’s girlfriend.
Straughter told The Daily Beast that the couple is white, and that Jason had told her before that “it’s different” up north.
“Jason was his friend, I thought, but he was letting Brodrick know it wasn’t real cool for a black man to be out there,” Straughter said.
“Nothing about the story is adding up,” she added. “Nothing.”
Ward rode in Jason’s car to the cabin near Fife Lake and they all planned to return home together, Straughter said.
“They were all supposed to ride back together. For some reason, Brodrick felt the need to call his brother and have someone come and get him,” Straughter told The Daily Beast. “It’s like he felt like he was in danger.”
Ward was outgoing and considered everyone a friend, Straughter said. He was far from perfect, she concedes, but says he “paid his debt to society for those mistakes.”
Records show Ward was put on probation in January 2017, after he was found guilty of delivering/manufacturing under 50 grams of cocaine. According to Michigan’s corrections website, Ward has served time for drug offenses in years past.
Still, Ward’s family doesn’t believe he was killed in a drug deal. They’ve launched a GoFundMe site to pay for his funeral expenses and a #JusticeForBrock social media campaign to demand a full investigation into his death.
“My family is just so hurt because we can’t get no answers,” Samuel Ward told the Free Press. “Who do we turn to? If we can’t turn to the police, who do we turn to to get answers? They won’t tell the news anything, they won’t tell nobody nothing.”
Straughter said she fears the worst, given that one Kalkaska official prompted protests over racist Facebook posts this summer.
Jeff Sieting, Kalkaska’s village president, allegedly shared an anti-Muslim post titled “Kill them all, every last one,” MLive.com reported.
In another post, Sieting wrote that Black Lives Matter was out of control and that “it’s time to thin the herd of this crap.” Some village residents are attempting to recall Sieting from office, citing his vote to approve a budget with a $500,000 deficit, as well as his refusal to apologize for his controversial Facebook posts.
“It makes me feel like Brock was somewhere he wasn’t welcome because of the color of his skin,” Straughter says.
Straughter said police haven’t provided Ward’s family with updates on the murder investigation; rather, his kin found out someone had been arrested through social media and local news reports, she said.
Ward and Straughter have a 2-year-old daughter together. Ward has two other children ages 13 and 24 from a previous relationship, Straughter said.
“Just not knowing what happened to him, and the fact that he was a good loving person, it’s killing us,” Straughter told The Daily Beast.
“We’re not hell-bent on trying to put [Ward’s murder] as a hate crime or something racist. Whatever the case… it should really be investigated and taken seriously and not swept under the rug,” she said.