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Two Detroit officers, one supervisor suspended after fatal shooting of woman

Detroit Free Press logo Detroit Free Press 11/15/2022 Andrea May Sahouri, Detroit Free Press
Detroit Police Chief James White speaks with media members during a press conference at Detroit Public Safety Headquarters on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022. © David Rodriguez Munoz, Detroit Free Press Detroit Police Chief James White speaks with media members during a press conference at Detroit Public Safety Headquarters on Friday, Nov. 11, 2022.

Detroit Police Chief James White on Monday announced two of his officers and one supervisor have been suspended following the Thursday killing of a woman experiencing a mental health crisis.

The woman was accused of assaulting her child and mother before struggling for a gun with an officer.

White will recommend to the Detroit Board of Police Commissioners all three be suspended without pay. White also directed the Office of Professional Development to review the case and decide whether the supervisor should be considered for a reduction in rank.

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On Friday, White said the woman and a Detroit police officer were engaged in a struggle over a gun inside a home on the 15700 block of Meyers Road on the city's west side when three other officers fired four rounds at her. The woman did not fire the gun, he said.

One of the suspended officers fired his weapon during the alleged struggle, the other did not, White said. Another supervisor has been placed on administrative duty, meaning he was taken off the streets and assigned a desk job within the department.

Neither of the supervisors were "directly involved" in the shooting, however, White said he holds supervisors to a higher standard.

"I expect and require supervisors to take command of situations, develop a plan of action that is consistent with the department's policies and practices to ensure officers execute the plan as instructed. It's imperative that supervisors take a leadership role to ensure that our policies are being met at every step of the way, and that the policies and practices are executed to perfection, and the plan is instructed," White said.

"Based on information I have today, I have serious concerns."

White said he expects strong objections from the city's police unions.

He declined to comment on specifics, saying he does not want to compromise the active investigation.

White has not released body camera footage of the incident, a departure from his course of action following a recent case in which police shot and killed Porter Burks, 20, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was experiencing a mental health crisis while holding a 3.5-inch knife when five officers shot him 19 times Oct. 2. Police released footage of that incident two days later. The video led to outrage in the community about police crisis response strategy and a lawsuit from Burks' family.

More:Detroit police release footage of officers fatally shooting Porter Burks

More:After Detroit man killed during mental health crisis, questions of police training abound

More:Lawyer: Porter Burks' family will sue Detroit police officers

White did release 911 audio from the Nov. 10 incident. The call was placed by the woman's mother, who said her daughter is schizophrenic and hit her grandchild.

"He's bleeding, please send an officer, she needs to get some help," the mother told dispatchers.

The mother said the woman was armed with knives and a bat and was outside with a gun. She expressed worry during the call that she may have to shoot her own child.

How and why police entered the home and engaged in the struggle for the gun is unclear. White previously said the woman's children, one of whom may have been injured, were inside the home, and that police entered after the woman opened her door, and that the woman rushed toward a gun and got hold of the weapon. Then, an officer attempted to wrestle the gun away from her, and during the struggle, three other officers fired, White said.

Much of White's Monday news conference emphasized the need to address mental health in Detroit.

“Detroit has a mental health crisis,” White said, adding that he sent a letter to city council on Sunday regarding the state of mental health in Detroit.

The police department's crisis intervention strategy has often been successful, but is "not a foolproof strategy," White said.

This weekend, the Crisis Intervention Team was sent on 11 runs, White said, six of them violent.

All of them were "resolved with patience," he said.

After the Burks killing and the most recent incident, community members and activists have expressed outrage over the killings and have advocated for alternatives to traditional policing when responding to mental health calls.

This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Two Detroit officers, one supervisor suspended after fatal shooting of woman


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