A family cruises Saginaw Street during the 12th annual Back to the Bricks classic car show on Wednesday, Aug. 16, 2017, in Burton, MI.
Family of Ken White, who was killed when a rock was thrown from an overpass on Interstate 75 in Vienna Township, MI, listen as the alleged perpetrators are arraigned in Genesee County District Court in Flint on Tuesday, Oct. 24, 2017. A judge denied bond to five Michigan teenagers who were charged with second-degree murder in the incident, which attracted national attention.
Jaymin Jubar, 11, an altar boy at Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in Burton, MI, sips from a drinking fountain during mass on Sunday, Nov. 5, 2017.
Junior middle linebacker Korde Ingram, 16, center, cheers with his teammates on the International Academy of Flint football team during a practice on Tuesday, September 19, 2017, at McKinley Park in Flint.
Cheerleaders and fans from Powers Catholic High School watch as their football team plays Davison High School on Friday, Oct. 20, 2017, at Atwood Stadium in Flint, MI.
Flint mayoral candidate Scott Kincaid, 64, leaves an election watch party at the Flint Golf Club in Flint, MI, on Tuesday, Nov. 7, after conceding defeat in an attempt to unseat Mayor Karen Weaver. Kincaid, a longtime city councilman, was the most viable of 17 candidates in the recall election, which became a referendum on Weaver's handling of the Flint water crisis.
Passersby leave the scene of a shooting that critically injured a 3-year-old boy on Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2017, on Black Avenue in Flint, MI.
In July, 2017, the Flint Fire Department hired 41 new recruits with funding from a federal grant. The recruits were desperately needed in a department that for several years had struggled with severe staffing shortages while attempting to protect lives and property in one of the nation’s most fire-prone cities.
This story won second place in the News Story division of the Michigan Press Photographers Association 2017 Photos of the Year contest.
Flint firefighters wade into the remains of a burning vacant house after midnight on Friday, July 21, 2017, on Dakota Avenue on the north side of Flint, MI. No one was injured in the blaze. It occurred two weeks after the city awarded badges to 41 new recruits, most of whom were hired through a $3.7 million SAFER grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In their first six months on the job, the recruits would collectively fight more than 200 significant structure fires, according to fire department records obtained at the end of 2017.
Daniel Edwards, third from left, and Ammad Bell, second from right, receive a few helping hands from their fellow firefighter recruits before receiving their badges in a ceremony on Friday, July 7, 2017, at city hall in downtown Flint, MI. Before the recruits were hired, a loss of funding in 2014 had caused the department's staffing to plummet to a low of just 57 total firefighters – fewer than half the number recommended by the National Fire Protection Association for a city of Flint’s size.
Newly-hired firefighters Kelvin Turner Sr., Lydia Denome and Sean Speese, front row from left, pull on their respirators during a training session on Tuesday, July 25, 2017, on the west side of Flint, MI. The department trained its recruits in vacant buildings filled with fake smoke, and in other settings designed to mimic real fires. "We can provide everything but the heat," said Safety Training Officer Christian Perkins.
Newly-hired firefighter Adam Beverly, 24, disconnects a hose under the watchful eyes of Nathaniel Lash, 8, center, and Nathaniel's brother, Franklin, 10, on Thursday, July 20, 2017, in Flint, MI. Beverly grew up in Flint and said he was "excited" to reconnect with residents, young and old, in the neighborhoods he knew as a child. "I enjoy seeing all of the people out here," he said. "It gives us a chance to talk with them and let them know that we appreciate their support."
Night falls on the scorched remains of a home on Seneca Street in Flint, MI, on Dec. 5, 2017. The home was vacant when it burned on Sept. 18, 2017. Since the 1960s, Flint's population has fallen by nearly half, to just under 100,000. Thousands of vacant homes litter the city, and hundreds of them burn each year. Many of these fires may be the result of arson, but due to staffing shortfalls in the Flint fire and police departments, and the difficulties of arson investigations, perpetrators are rarely caught.
Newly-hired firefighter Lydia Denome practices searching for fire in the walls of a vacant apartment complex on the west side of Flint, MI, during a training exercise on Tuesday, July 25, 2017. Since many of Flint's fires occur in vacant buildings, the department trains in them, too.
Newly-hired firefighter Justin Kinsman, right. searches for a photo of his father, who was also a Flint firefighter, on Friday, July 7, 2017, at Fire Fire Department Headquarters in downtown Flint, MI. Kinsman's paternal grandfather was also a firefighter in Flint.
Newly-hired Flint firefighters Jocquece Gipson, left, and Nicholas Zechar fold an American flag outside of Flint Fire Station 8 at sunset on Wednesday, Aug. 30, 2017, on the south side of Flint, MI. After being shuttered for several years as a result of staffing shortfalls, Station 8 had reopened the previous Sunday with the recruits filling out its shifts. Sergeant Brody Dietzel said he expected the fire department's response time in South Flint to "be drastically cut." Other stations, he said, had been "getting ran to pieces because they were coming down here."
Firefighters respond to a call on the north side of Flint, MI, on Wednesday, July 26, 2017. According to protocol, firefighters should not enter burning buildings unless at least four of them are on the scene. Due to staff shortages before the new recruits were hired, that rule meant that Flint firefighters often found themselves standing outside of a burning building, waiting for reinforcements to arrive. Flint firefighters would ignore the rule and enter the building if a resident's life was in danger. Sometimes, they would break the rule just to save a home, too. "Ultimately, what you're asking firefighters to do is pull up and watch somebody's house burn down," explained Fire Chief Raymond Barton. "We're in an impoverished community, and the house is everything (some residents) have got. So our firefighters wasn’t willing to do that."
Firefighter Daryl Jones stands in the entrance of a vacant apartment complex during a training session on Thursday, July 20, 2017, on the west side of Flint, MI. Jones was one of 41 new Flint firefighters who received their badges two weeks earlier. They were joining a fire department that fights more fires each year than most other departments in the nation. "Flint has always been one of the busiest departments per capita in the country," said their new boss, Fire Chief Raymond Barton.
Newly-hired firefighter Janarvis Burks, 22, plays with his daughter Alienah, 2, on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, in his adoptive mother's home in Flint, MI. Burks described fighting fires as his "first real job." He had previously been unable to find fulfilling work in Flint, which, in 2016, had the highest poverty rate of U.S. cities home to more than 65,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Firefighter Janarvis Burks, center, plays basketball with his brother, Brandon Wesley, left, and a childhood friend, Jeremiah Harris, right, on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017, at the Pierson Road Family YMCA in Flint, MI. The three grew up playing basketball together at the YMCA. "I'm so happy for him," Wesley said. "I feel like (fighting fires) is a perfect fit for him."
Firefighter Christian Major, 20, checks his phone before turning off the lights during the second 24-hour shift of his career on Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, at the newly-reopened Fire Station 8 in Flint, MI. "For nine days a month, this is our home," Major said. "It's (been) a journey from Day One."
Recently-hired firefighters Nicholas Zechar and Jocquece Gipson, center left and right, help load a 28-year-old woman into an ambulance on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, in Flint, MI. Firefighters were among the first on the scene when one of the woman's housemates reported that she was unconscious, probably as a result of a drug overdose. “People don’t realize all that [we] have to do,” said Flint Fire Chief Raymond Barton. “We go to everything that the police go to, with the exception of a routine traffic stop."
A fire in Bennings Painting and Industrial Flooring lights up the sky over downtown Flint, MI, before dawn on Sunday, Dec. 2, 2017. Flint firefighters enlisted the help of crews from two neighboring cities, but they were unable to prevent the blaze from consuming the business, which had occupied the site for 23 years. Owners Michele and West Benning, of Davison, used one word to describe their feelings as they watched the fire: "devastation."
Thousands of people gathered in Genesee Township to run, jump and grovel through 3.3 miles of mud and obstacles at the annual Michigan Warrior Dash in July, 2017. These eight photos are selected from a series of 100 portraits I captured at the finish line.
These portraits won second place in the Portrait Series division of the Michigan Press Photographers Association 2017 Photos of the Year contest.
Michigan Warrior Dash competitor Josh Krieder, 21, of Mt. Pleasant, MI.
Michigan Warrior Dash Competitor Cassidy Reick, 16, of South Haven, MI.
Michigan Warrior Dash competitor Aaron Oleniacz, 28, of Plymouth, MI.
Michigan Warrior Dash competitor Nevaeh Holbrook, 12, of Commerce, MI.
Michigan Warrior Dash competitor Josh Heuman, 18, of Sterling Heights, MI.
Michigan Warrior Dash competitor Nubia Espino, 35, of Mexico City, Mexico.
Michigan Warrior Dash competitor Grant Stroup, 16, of White Lake, MI.
Michigan Warrior Dash competitor Dee Kennedy, 47, of Clarkston, MI.
The opioid addiction crisis is worsening in Genesee County. But as painkiller prescriptions and overdoses have increased, so has the number of people seeking to escape from their habits. This story focuses on their journeys “in recovery” – and the emergency crews, case workers, counselors and relatives who struggle beside them.
Brian West, 54, right, waits to see a doctor while accompanied by Hope Not Handcuffs volunteer Aaron Rubio on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017, at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, MI. A few days earlier, West had turned to Hope Not Handcuffs for help with his addiction to cocaine, heroin and other drugs. Rubio shepherded West through a series of medical appointments before delivering him to the Salvation Army Flint Adult Rehabilitation Center on the east side of the city. Hope Not Handcuffs volunteers work with medical clinics, counselors and law enforcement to help addicts find treatment.
While waiting to see a doctor at Hurley Medical Center in Flint, MI, on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017, Brian West extends two fingers to illustrate the length of the first line of cocaine he ever inhaled. West thinks he turned to street drugs to cope with an underlying case of depression. "I made a decision to do a line that big; I felt like superman,” said West, who has struggled with addiction for 14 years. "It eventually snowballed."
District Judge Mark Latchana meets with drug court compliance officer Ronda Judd, court supervisor Susan Johnson, Catholic Charities therapist Heidi Shock, and defense attorney Heather Burnash, from left, as well as probation officers, before a session of the Genesee County Adult Felony Drug Court on Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, in district court in downtown Flint, MI. The drug court is an intensive form of probation that diverts non-violent, felony drug offenders into a rigorous treatment program instead of incarceration. Successful participants may see their charges dismissed and their sentences reduced. Latchana argues that the court is the criminal justice system's most effective response to drug abuse crimes. In November, 2017, a White House commission agreed, calling for the creation of a national network of drug courts to combat the U.S. opioid addiction crisis.
District Judge Mark Latchana listens to the details of a defendant's case before a Genesee County Drug Court hearing on Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, in Flint, MI. In 2015, Genesee County's opioid prescription rate was the third highest in the state, a 46 percent jump since 2009, according to the most recent state data. Latchana argues that it's more effective to treat drug offenders than simply imprison them. "If you put them in jail or prison, you're just delaying the problem, because they're going to come back out an addict."
Flint resident Cody Hatfield, 26, cries as he graduates from Genesee County Adult Felony Drug Court on Monday, Oct. 9, 2017, in district court in Flint, MI. His grandmother, parents and uncle stood with him for the ceremony. Drug court "has given me what I have today – getting a job, confidence, getting my life back, my family back," said Hatfield, who spent 18 months in the program. "I worked hard. It took a lot of pain."
David Witkop, 26, finishes an oil change while working at Tuffy Auto Service Center in Fenton, MI, on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. After spending more than a decade addicted to crack cocaine, heroin and other drugs, Witkop had been sober for nearly a year. "It was fun" at first, he said of his drug use. "But then that good time started going away and I started using it for other things, like self esteem."
First responders carry a 28-year-old, female, opioid overdose victim to an ambulance on Monday, Dec. 4, 2017, on the south side of Flint, MI. A relative called for help after finding the victim lying unconscious in an attic bedroom. Paramedics were unable to revive her at the scene, but she later regained consciousness at Hurley Medical Center – narrowly avoiding becoming one of the approximately five Michigan residents who die from opioids every day, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. Opioids were implicated in twice as many overdose deaths in 2015 as in 2011, according to state and federal statistics.
Scott Daup, left, talks with Chris Horne, one of his probation officers, on Tuesday, Oct. 17, 2017, in downtown Flint, MI. Daup participates in the Genesee County Adult Drug Court. He said that, after nearly 20 years of addiction to heroin and other drugs, he committed himself to his recovery because he "got tired of starting over, of going backwards."
Bruce and Patsy Williams sit for a portrait in their home on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2017, in Flushing, MI. In late November, 2016, their son, Zach Williams, died after overdosing on the synthetic opioid, fentanyl. While Zach was alive, Bruce and Patsy fiercely disagreed about how to respond to his addiction. Every week since his death, in an attempt to help others avoid a similar loss, they have shared their story at a local meeting for family members of addicts. Their experience taught them that it is almost impossible to protect loved ones from the dangerous consequences of opioid addiction – homelessness, criminal offenses, death – without also insulating them from the hard realities that might force them to become sober. “You can literally love your child, your addict, to death,” Bruce said. “The hardest thing to do is not to be an enabler.”
David Witkop straps on a leg brace while preparing for work in the house he shares with his mother in Grand Blanc, MI, on Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017. In January, 2016, Witkop suffered a severe overdose that damaged his liver, kidneys, and his nervous system, impairing his ability to walk. He stayed sober for 100 days after that, and then he began using again before checking himself into treatment. "I realized that something had to change," he said. "I was killing myself."
Brian West, right, checks into his room at the Salvation Army Flint Adult Rehabilitation Center on Monday, Oct. 23, 2017, in Flint, MI. Due to addiction, West lost his career as a computer technician and descended into homelessness. He decided to seek treatment when he realized that he would not survive the winter sleeping outside. "I'm 54 years old and I have to start all over," he said.
Residents of the Salvation Army Flint Adult Rehabilitation Center pray together during a graduation ceremony on Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, in the facility in Flint, MI. The center offers free residential addiction treatment and other services to men who live in its service area, which spans much of mid-Michigan. Residents "graduate" from the program after six months, but many choose to live in the facility for a full year, the maximum allowable time. The center offers them jobs and a chance to reassemble their lives in a stable, sober, environment. It is one of the few, affordable, treatment facilities in the region.
Residents and visitors attend a graduation ceremony at the Salvation Army Flint Adult Rehabilitation Center on Monday, Oct. 23, 2017, in Flint, MI. "This is a safe haven," said the center's rehabilitation director, Daniel Martinez.