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Family, community blame DTE as

Four family members die after utility shut-off

Published Jul 27, 2009 10:02 PM

The greed of DTE Energy Co. led to the July 16 deaths of four members of an African-American family in Detroit. The Reed-Owens family had their electricity cut off on July 15 by DTE for nonpayment.

From left, DeMarco, Mar'Keisha
and DeMonte as a toddler.

The family was desperate when their power was cut off because several family members suffered from serious medical conditions—including asthma, neurofibromatosis and bronchitis—and required the use of electric breathing machines.

The Reed-Owenses went to their church to borrow a gas-powered generator which they placed in their basement, unaware of the danger of doing so. Only hours later four of the five family members died due to suspected carbon monoxide poisoning. The mother, Marquetta Owens, was the only survivor. Her partner, Vaughn Reed, and their children Mar’Keisha Reed, 17, DeMarco Owens, 12, and DeMonte Owens, 6, perished in their home. (Detroit News, July 17).

Like millions of other families in the United States, the Reed-Owens family, through no fault of their own, had fallen victim to unemployment. Mr. Reed was laid off from an auto parts supplier in January, which created many financial hardships for the family, including the foreclosure of their home.

The Reed-Owens tragedy is particularly heart-wrenching and outrageous as the family had filed for bankruptcy protection, making it illegal for DTE to shut off their utilities. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court on June 25 sent DTE an electronic notification of the Reed-Owens bankruptcy filing. But DTE didn’t stop the shutoff. Instead the corporation claims the shutoff notice was sent to the wrong address—not to the home where the Reed-Owenses resided.

Although Reed telephoned DTE on July 15 and told the company he had filed for bankruptcy, power wasn’t restored immediately. DTE claimed it was going to turn the power back on the next day, but by then it was too late.

Neighbors and family members of the Reed-Owenses are outraged and aghast over DTE’s criminal actions. “At these times of crisis, what is the problem?” asked Pamela Jackson, Owen’s cousin, who said DTE never should have turned off the power.

People before profits! Utilities are a right!

DTE Energy is a monopoly corporation whose 2008 operating revenues were $9.3 billion. The company claims over $24 billion in assets and $546 million in net income, according to its 2008 financial filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

DTE’s two primary utilities are Detroit Edison, an electric utility with 2.2 million customers in Michigan, and the Michigan Consolidated Gas Company (MichCon), its natural gas utility with 1.3 million customers.

DTE’s board of directors is crawling with Chrysler, Ford, Comerica Bank and other corporate thieves, including investment “advisors” and a former general who worked for the Pentagon and the Army’s 1st Infantry Division. (www.dteenergy.com)

Despite the corporation’s slogan of “making dreams real,” the reality is that DTE’s top priority is making profits, no matter what the consequences are in terms of life and death for real people who need gas and electricity.

A protest and press conference called by the Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions will take place on July 24 at DTE headquarters in Detroit, One Energy Plaza, beginning at 4 p.m. to express the community’s outrage over the Reed-Owens deaths and other atrocities committed by DTE.

The demonstration will also demand that Gov. Jennifer Granholm declare an immediate state of economic emergency in Michigan, including a moratorium on all foreclosures, evictions, utility shutoffs, layoffs and plant closings. For more information, visit www.moratorium-mi.org or call 313-887-4344.