Family, Police Reflect On Last Year's July 4th Shooting

By: Shannon Kantner Email
By: Shannon Kantner Email

"It's still hard to understand the randomness of it, and if she just would have leaned one inch this way or one inch that way, we would still probably be here laughing," Elyse Packard said about her sister, Michelle.

It's been almost one year since a woman was killed during the Fourth of July fireworks at Adado Riverfront Park.

That shooting actually cost two lives, and a year's worth of heartache for Michelle Packard's family. It's also led to more security at the event this year.

Last year's incident is considered an open homicide investigation, and police are actively looking for tips from anyone who might have seen or heard anything that night.

Michelle Packard was sitting in the park waiting for the fireworks show to begin with her fiance, Wes Thomas, when she was hit in the head.

Packard's sister, Elyse, still can't believe her sister is gone.

"It's still hard to understand the randomness of it, and if she just would have leaned one inch this way or one inch that way, we would still probably be here laughing," Elyse said.

Instead, Elyse is getting ready for a Fourth of July without her big sister, Michelle.

"Everybody's excited about freedom and independence, and all of that got taken away," Elyse said.

It was taken away by a stray bullet, probably from a celebratory shot in the air as far as a mile away from the park last Independence Day. When Elyse got to the hospital, she said it was the biggest shock of her life.

"I just dropped to the floor and screamed when I saw, because I knew..." Elyse said.

She knew it was too late. Michelle's fiance was just as shaken up. Thomas was with her in the park when it happened, and he made an emotional statement about the love of his life, the 34-year-old MSU doctoral candidate, at the family's press conference after Michelle died.

"[She's] kind, accomplished, compassionate, fun, funny, dorky, beautiful, and in every way an amazing woman," Thomas said.

He never got over the pain though. Thomas took his own life this May.

"It's not just one person, it's two, and we're going to do our best to celebrate the lives that they had," Elyse said.

She described their relationship as the envy of all other couples, "the ying to each other's yang."

Lansing police are doing their best to get to the bottom of it, and make sure a tragedy like this doesn't happen again.

"Some extra steps will be taken to monitor any type of celebratory gunfire in the area, in the perimeter," Lansing Police Capt. Daryl Green said.

More than 100 police officers - including a dive team and undercover cops - will be patrolling the area during this year's fireworks, in the hopes no one else will have to experience the heartache the Packard family has gone through.

"We're never going to find out who did it, but if we can stop it from happening to someone else, then, that's the best we can attempt to do at this point," Elyse said.

Elyse and her mom plan to spend the Fourth of July up North. She said they want to get away from it all this year.

Green said he's confident in the plans the department has in place for security. All bags and purses will be searched at gated check points into Adado park. Absolutely no fireworks are allowed in, and they're getting extra light fixtures to make sure the streets are well-lit.

If you have any information regarding Michelle Packard's death, contact Lansing police.

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