Man killed on fishing trip, family says it was a racially motivated murder

Broderick "Brock" Ward had been up north on a fishing trip with a friend for just under 24-hours when he called family asking for help getting home. 

Things in Kalkaska, the 42-year-old Ward said, were “crazy,” according to his brother Samuel Ward, 38, who remembers Brock telling him about how a resident had questioned what he — a black man from Inkster — was doing there. 

"You never heard of Kalkaska? There are three Ks in Kalkaska for a reason," the man, according to Samuel Ward, told Brock — a reference to the Ku Klux Klan.

Explaining that he felt uncomfortable — the friend he had traveled up north with had instructed him to hide in a backroom should his "racist" friends come over — Brock Ward told his brother that he had asked a mutual friend to come get him. Should the pal need gas money, the father of three said, Samuel should give it to him.

That was Nov. 17, the last time the brothers spoke. The following day, when the friend arrived, Brock Ward's phone went unanswered. Three days later on Tuesday, Nov. 21, Samuel Ward and two other family members traveled the five hours to northern Michigan in search of their missing kin.

In Fife Lake — a 20-minute drive from Kalkaska — they discovered Brock dead inside a rental house. He was covered in blood. He was all alone. He had been shot to death.

Since then, according to several news media accounts, police have arrested three people, although none has been arraigned yet. A woman who answered the phone Sunday at the Kalkaska County Sheriff’s Office declined to provide any information to the Free Press.

Samuel Ward said Sunday that police have told his family that a black man confessed to the murder and stated that it had to do with drugs. Ward said his is not buying it.

"The house had no drugs. I don't know what these people had when they caught up with them, but what does that have to do with my brother?" Samuel Ward said. "I don't know if this is a smokescreen. They're lying so much about everything and not telling us anything. They're saying a black guy confessed saying it was a drug deal gone bad. But ya'll won't tell us his name. I think they want us to put it out there to ease up the race thing. It will take the light off them." 

The family launched a #JusticeForBrock campaign on social media and are asking for a thorough investigation into Brock Ward's death. 

Fishing trip

On Wednesday, Nov. 15, Samuel Ward says his brother stopped by their mother Betty Ward's house and brought with him a friend. Brock and his friend were heading up north to go salmon fishing the next day.. 

After saying goodbye, Samuel Ward said he called his brother. 

"'Brock you're going way up north, you need to let me know where you're going,'" he remembers telling his brother, asking him to text him his address when he arrived. 

Brock Ward texted the location Thursday, but by Friday he called saying he felt uncomfortable because he was told by his friend, "that it is racist up here, it's very racist," Samuel Ward said.

"So at that point, I guess my brother was getting nervous. He called for a ride. He was telling me, I'm on my way back down. Make sure Mike come get me. If they need gas money give them some gas money to come get me." 

A family friend who runs a transportation service drove up to give Brock Ward a ride home. 

According to Samuel Ward, Mike arrived at the address Brock Ward had texted — a rental house on Gonyer Road in Fife Lake — on Saturday morning. When he tried calling Ward's phone, there was no answer. He waited around the driveway for about two hours thinking Ward maybe went out, but when the calls kept going unanswered he drove home. 

Samuel Ward said he began making phone calls looking for his brother. He called the police, local hospitals, bail bonds. Nobody had seen him. By Tuesday, Nov. 21 he felt sufficiently worried. He, his sister Tangela Ward and a nephew Pre'Andre Ward made the drive north in search of Brock. 

When they arrived at the house, they found it locked and nobody around. Walking around the house they found one room with a window open. A breeze blew the curtain slightly, which is how they saw Brock's feet. 

"You couldn’t see the rest of the room so the wind was blowing and it blew up and I seen a pair of shoes and I just knew it was my uncle because the shoes he had on are the shoes that I bought him," Pre'Andre Ward told a northern Michigan TV news stationthe following day.

The nephew, according to Samuel Ward, hopped through the window and then let the rest of the family in. They called police. 

When the police arrived, according to Ward, he began to notice some oddities. For example, while the family was being questioned by police, a tan Yukon pulled into the driveway. According to Samuel Ward, the officer asked who the person was and when the driver identified himself as the homeowner, the officer told him to leave. 

"They had all our IDs, our information down and that's the homeowner! Why weren't you questioning him?" Samuel Ward recounted. "He would know everyone! Why are you letting him go?" 

The following day the Kalkaska County Sheriff’s Office shared with local news media that they arrested their first suspect: a 36-year-old man from Wisconsin. Samuel Ward said that is the suspect the family was told confessed to the crime over a drug deal. They were not given a name, he said. 

The sheriff's office also shared with local news that day that they believe the crime to be drug related and that the house was owned by one man but rented by two additional suspects. 

By Thursday, police said two more suspects — a man and a woman — were in custody. 

Samual Ward said his family has been told an arraignment will occur Monday, but they were not given a time. The website for the Kalkaska County Circuit Court was down on Sunday. 

"My family is just so hurt because we can't get no answers," said Samuel Ward. "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." 

Samuel Ward said his brother owned a local cleaning company and was not only a dad but a granddad as well.

"He was just like anyone else, a thriving guy, just trying to get ahead. He worked every day, took care of his family, got a lot of respect, he played football, basketball," said

The family has set up a GoFundMe site to help with funeral expenses.

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© 2017, Detroit Free Press


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