Mother of mentally ill woman slain by Phoenix police files $7 million claim
The mother of a mentally ill Arizona woman who was fatally shot last August by a Phoenix police officer has filed a $7 million wrongful death claim against the city, alleging excessive force and police brutality, officials said on Wednesday.
The claim, a precursor to a civil lawsuit, says the officer violated city policies in connection with the death of Michelle Cusseaux, killed last year as she confronted officers with a claw hammer at the threshold of her apartment.
Cusseaux, 50, was hit with a single bullet fired by Sergeant Percy Dupra at close range after officers were called to the home to serve an emergency court order to take her to a mental health facility. She was later pronounced dead.
“The mentally ill are among the most vulnerable of all citizens,” stated the claim, filed last Friday on behalf of her mother, Frances Garrett. “The Phoenix Police Department is charged with their protection not their execution.”
The fatal shooting sparked several protests in the following months, with civil rights activists taking to the streets to call for justice and press for reforms in how Phoenix police treat the mentally ill. Cusseaux is black and the officer who shot her is white.
Activists had sought an independent probe into the shooting, which came amid protests in Ferguson, Missouri, after a white policeman shot dead an unarmed 18-year-old black man.
City and police officials declined comment on the claim, which is required to be filed with the city before a lawsuit can be filed. A police spokesman said Dupra remains on an administrative assignment.
Three investigations have been launched by police and the state Department of Public Safety into the incident. No charges have been filed by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
County attorney spokesman Jerry Cobb said his office was reviewing the incident, and that there was no timetable for when a decision would be made.
(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Will Dunham)