Detroit police fatally shot a woman with a mental health crisis accused of assaulting her child and mother at a West Side home Thursday night.
The woman and a Detroit police officer were engaged in a gun fight when three other officers fired four bullets at her inside the house in the 15700 block of Meyers Road, the Detroit police chief said. , James White, at a press conference Friday morning. The woman did not fire the gun, he said.
“(What) we’re all going to be looking to understand and unpack with this investigation is what led the officers to decide to come in, if that’s our policy, if the policy of lethal force is applies,” White said.
“And there will be strict liability if the policy has been violated.”
It was the woman’s mother and grandmother who called police around 6:20 p.m. Thursday, according to White. They had gone to the house to check on the woman’s children, aged 7 and 1.
There, the woman’s mother realized her daughter was going through a mental health crisis and the woman’s 7-year-old child had been hit in the head. The mother told police her daughter suffered from schizophrenia and was armed with a bat, knives and had access to a gun, according to White.
When the mother and grandmother tried to leave the house, the woman allegedly began hitting her mother repeatedly, and on leaving the house the woman came out onto her porch in her underwear, brandishing a gun. fire, White said.
The mother called the police twice, White said. The first time, she told police her daughter was armed, mentally ill and hit her and her grandson, White said. She told police she was afraid she would have to “kill her own daughter,” White said.
The second time the woman’s mother called, she asked the police to come immediately because her daughter was pointing the gun at her, White said.
Police arrived 10 minutes after the 911 calls, White said. Knowing that children were inside, an emergency response worker tried to negotiate with the woman and asked to see the children. The woman opened the door, revealing her children behind her, White said. When the officer tried to ask the 7-year-old directly if he was okay, the woman wouldn’t let the child respond and told the kids to go up to their room, White said.
She then closed the door, White said, and became agitated as officers began to surround the house. She finally opened the door again and the officers were able to enter the house.
White said the woman rushed to a gun and grabbed the weapon. Then an officer tried to snatch the gun away from him, and during the struggle three other officers fired, White said.
“As she runs away, you hear the officer yelling don’t grab that gun, don’t grab the gun. Gun, gun. Then there’s a struggle, then you hear the gunshots. fire,” White said at the press conference.
White said the children were upstairs in a bedroom when the fight took place.
White first told the public Thursday night, while stressing that the information at the time was preliminary, that police had designated the scene as a barricaded shooter incident. White said Thursday that they actually didn’t treat the situation as such due to the fact that the woman’s two children were inside the home.
“When children are at risk, decisions to protect them are our top priority,” he said. “We want to be transparent with the community.”
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White said the body camera footage was being reviewed, but would not immediately be released to the public.
An internal investigation into the incident as well as an independent Michigan State Police investigation is underway, according to Chris Graveline, director of professional standards and constitutional policing for the Detroit Police Department. Once the Michigan State Police investigation is complete, it will be sent to the Wayne County District Attorney’s Office to determine if criminal charges are appropriate.
The three officers who shot and killed the woman have been placed on paid administrative leave, in accordance with department policy.
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The killing comes just over a month after Detroit police shot and killed Porter Burks, 20, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Burks’ brother had called the police, informing them that Burks was going through a mental health crisis and was walking around the west side of town near their home with a 3.5-inch knife.
Burks was shot 19 times by five officers, who fired 38 rounds in three seconds. Burks’ mother has filed a $50 million wrongful death lawsuit. Community members questioned police crisis response training and demanded the names of the officers who shot and killed Burks. White said his department would release the names once the investigation is complete.
According to police data, mental health service calls have increased since 2021. Police received 18,106 mental health calls in 2021. As of November 6, police received 20,007 mental health calls in 2022, according to the data. The highest number of calls were for drug overdoses, according to the data, followed by calls from mentally ill and violent but unarmed subjects, then mentally ill and nonviolent.
Andrea Sahouri covers criminal justice for the Detroit Free Press. She can be reached at 313-264-0442, firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @andreamsahouri.
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