Detroit woman with mental crisis killed by police during gun battle

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Detroit police shot and killed a woman who was going through a mental health crisis and who was accused of assaulting her child and her mother Thursday night at a home on the west side.

The woman and a Detroit police officer were engaged in a struggle over a gun when three other officers fired four shots at her at the home on the 15700 block of Meyers Road, Detroit Police Chief James White said at a news conference Friday morning. The woman did not fire the gun, he said.

“(What) we’re all going to try to understand and unpack with this investigation is what made the officers decide to go in, if it’s within our policy, if the fatal violence policy applies,” White said.

“And there will be strict accountability if the policy is violated.”

Detroit Police Chief James White speaks at a press conference at Detroit Public Security Headquarters on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022. The chief spoke on Thursday about the shooting of a woman who was having a mental health crisis at her home on the West Side.

According to White, it was the woman’s mother and grandmother who called the police at 6:20 p.m. Thursday. They had gone to the house to see what the woman’s children, aged 7 and 1, were like.

There, the woman’s mother realized that her daughter was going through a mental health crisis and that the woman’s 7-year-old child had been hit on the head. The mother told police her daughter suffers from schizophrenia and, according to White, was armed with a bat, knives and had access to a handgun.

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When the mother and grandmother tried to leave the house, the woman reportedly started hitting her mother multiple times, and as they left the house, the woman went outside on her porch in her underwear, brandishing a gun, White said.

The mother called the police twice, White said. The first time, she told police her daughter was armed, mentally ill, and had beaten her and her grandson, White said. She told police she was afraid she would have to “kill her own daughter,” White said.

Detroit Police Chief James White speaks at a press conference at Detroit Public Security Headquarters on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022. The chief spoke on Thursday about the shooting of a woman who was having a mental health crisis at her home on the West Side.

Detroit Police Chief James White speaks at a press conference at Detroit Public Security Headquarters on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022. The chief spoke on Thursday about the shooting of a woman who was having a mental health crisis at her home on the West Side.

The second time the woman’s mother called, she asked 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 there were children inside, a crisis intervention officer tried to negotiate with the woman and asked to see the children. The woman opened the door and revealed her children behind her, White said. When the officer tried to ask the 7-year-old directly if he was okay, the woman didn’t let the child answer and told the children to go to their room, White said.

She then closed the door, White said, and got excited when officers began to surround the house. Finally, she opened the door again and officers were able to enter the house.

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White said the woman ran to a gun and grabbed the gun. Then an officer tried to wrestle the gun away from her, and during the struggle, three other officers fired, White said.

“As she runs away, you can hear the officer yelling, ‘Don’t pick up that gun, don’t pick up the gun. Pistol, rifle pistol. Then there’s a struggle and then you hear the shots go off,’ White told the news conference.

White said the children were upstairs in a bedroom when the struggle took place.

White initially told the public Thursday night, while stressing that the information was preliminary at the time, that police had classified the scene as a barricaded gunman incident. White said Thursday that they did not, in fact, treat the situation as such due to the fact that the woman’s two children were in the house.

“When children are at risk, decisions to protect them are our top priority,” he said. “We want to be transparent with the community.”

More:After Detroit man was killed in mental health crisis, police training questions are high

White said body camera images are being reviewed but will not be released to the public immediately.

An internal investigation into the incident and an independent investigation by the Michigan State Police are ongoing, according to Chris Graveline, director of professional standards and constitutional law enforcement for the Detroit Police Department. Once the Michigan State Police investigation is complete, it will be sent to the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office to determine whether any criminal charges are appropriate.

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The three officers who shot the woman have been placed on paid administrative leave per department policy.

More:What to do in a mental health crisis: tips for families

The murder comes just over a month after Detroit police shot and killed 20-year-old Porter Burks, who had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Burks’ brother had called the police and informed them that Burks was going through a mental health crisis and was wandering 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 have questioned police crisis intervention training and demanded the names of the officers who shot Burks. White said his department will release names once the investigation is complete.

Activist Kate Stenvig of the group By Any Means Necessary expressed her outrage at the latest incident of a mental health crisis that ended in death.

“We no longer need crocodile tears from Chief White or anyone else when these were preventable deaths, and police policy is clearly to shoot to kill,” Stenvig said Friday. “We are going to march tomorrow at 4 pm and invite everyone to join us.”

A rally organized by several social justice groups calling for better crisis response is scheduled for Saturday at 3 p.m. at the Adams Butzel Complex, 10500 Lyndon St. in Detroit.

According to police data, calls for mental health have increased since 2021. The police received 18,106 mental health calls in 2021. On Nov. 6, the police received 20,007 mental health calls in 2022, according to the data. The largest number of calls were about drug overdose, the data shows, followed by calls from the mentally ill and violent but unarmed individuals, then the mentally ill and nonviolent individuals.

Andrea Sahouri handles criminal justice for the Detroit Free Press. You can contact her at 313-264-0442, [email protected] or on Twitter @andreamsahouri.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Detroit woman in mental crisis killed during gun battle with cop