Detroit — A federal judge was shot outside his west side home Thursday night in what police believe was an attempted robbery or home invasion.
U.S. District Judge Terrence G. Berg was shot in the leg about 9:10 p.m. outside his home on the west side of Detroit, just south of Seven Mile, according to police. He was rushed to a local hospital, where his condition was unavailable. Detroit police described the injury as non-life threatening.
Berg was confronted by two people, a struggle ensued, and one of them fired a shot, striking the judge, police said.
“This happened in front of his house,” said Detroit Assistant Police Chief Steve Dolunt.
It wasn’t immediately clear if it was a robbery or home invasion attempt. A person briefed on the investigation said the pair told Berg they wanted to go in his house. When he told them they couldn’t, he was shot in the leg. WXYZ-TV (Channel 7) said Berg was taking out the trash when he was confronted by the two.
The suspects escaped in a dark-colored Dodge Charger.
Dozens of police officers and federal agents remained at the scene early Friday, where yellow tape cordoned off the brick home.
Chief U.S. District Judge Gerald E. Rosen said the entire federal court was thinking of Berg.
“While we are relieved to hear that all indications are that Judge Berg will be fine and make a quick recovery, the thoughts and prayers of our entire court family are with him and his family,” Rosen said late Thursday.
Only a handful of federal judges have been shot in U.S. history, most recently Judge John Roll, who was shot and killed in January 2011 near Tucson, Arizona, outside a Safeway where Rep. Gabrielle Gifford, D-Ariz., was holding a meeting with constituents.
Berg was nominated by President Barack Obama to the federal bench in April 2012 and appointed to the lifetime position in December 2012.
He is assigned to the federal courthouse in Flint. He has lived in Detroit for years, a rarity among the federal judiciary in the Eastern District. Many federal judges live in some of the more exclusive suburbs outside the city.
Berg, one of the more physically active judges, is known to run through his neighborhood, said friend Peter Henning, a Wayne State University law professor and former federal prosecutor.
“He’s committed to Detroit,” Henning said late Thursday.
“The lucky thing for whoever did this, is that they didn’t kill him,” Henning said. “Because then, my goodness. I’m glad he’s OK.”
While early reports indicated the shooting was random, the perpetrators could face federal charges if Berg was targeted because of his job, Henning said.
“If there’s any connection to his position as a judge, the guys would be prosecuted federally,” Henning said. “Criminals do dumb things. Whoever did this put themselves in the cross-hairs.”
Before his federal bench appointment, he was an assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan since 1989. Berg served as interim U.S. Attorney after former U.S. Attorney Stephen Murphy was appointed to the federal bench in 2008. His term ended in January 2010, when Barbara McQuade was sworn in as the first female U.S. attorney in the eastern district of Michigan.
As an assistant U.S. attorney, Berg successfully prosecuted West Bloomfield Township resident Alan Ralsky in 2009. Ralsky was known as the “spam king” for sending millions of emails to boost the price of Chinese stocks.
He was chief of the high tech crime unit under former Gov. Jennifer Granholm when she was Michigan attorney general, under whom he served four years. She also knew him from her stint as a federal prosecutor in Detroit in the early 1990s.
Berg, a Detroit native, was born in 1959 and is married with three children, according to the federal district court website. He received his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center in 1986.
Henning, a Detroit Lions season-ticket holder who along with Berg attended the Dec. 14 game against the Minnesota Vikings at Ford Field, said the judge is well respected among defense lawyers.
“He’s as thoughtful as any judge on the federal bench, and so even-tempered,” Henning said. “He isn’t easy on anyone, but you know you always get a fair shake.”
Others weighed in on Twitter after the shooting.
Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, said she was “praying for the health of federal judge Terrence Berg of Detroit, with best wishes for a speedy recovery.”