Phoenix PD's Shooting of Michelle Cusseaux to Be Investigated by DPS

Categories: News

michelle-cusseaux-photo.jpg
Matthew Hendley
A woman holding a photo of Michelle Cusseaux in front of Cusseaux's casket.
A Phoenix police officer's fatal shooting of Phoenix resident Michelle Cusseaux will be investigated by the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

Cusseaux, 50, was fatally shot August 14 by Phoenix Police Officer Percy Dupra after, police say, she threatened officers with a hammer when they went to serve a court order to deliver Cusseaux to a mental-health facility. Family and activists demanded an external investigation of the shooting. This didn't happen -- until people marched outside City Hall with Cusseaux's body in a casket on Friday.

Police Chief Daniel Garcia initially had announced that the Phoenix PD would conduct the investigation, which would be subject to an independent review by the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. The people who brought Cusseaux's body to City Hall said that wasn't good enough, and a day later, Garcia announced that he asked DPS to investigate.

See also:
-Body of Mentally Ill Woman Killed by Phoenix Police Brought to City Hall

Sabinus Megwa, an attorney for the family, said he feared the Maricopa County Attorney's Office would "basically rubber-stamp what [Phoenix PD's investigation has] found."

The County Attorney's Office will still review the DPS investigation.

County Attorney Bill Montgomery held a press conference today to describe his office's role in reviewing these cases, and denied a practice of rubber-stamping police department investigations of officer-involved shootings.

"When it comes to these certain situations, we're going to do the right thing," Montgomery said. "I'm not afraid of the truth."

Interestingly, the Arizona Republic this weekend ran a piece that asked two people what would have happened if Michael Brown -- the 18-year-old Ferguson, Missouri, man whose shooting death has sparked protests there -- had been killed in Phoenix.

Retired Mesa police officer Bill Richardson replied, in part:

. . . I'd have to believe if Michael Brown were shot to death in Phoenix, the response would be somewhere between indifference and apathy.

The usual response to a law enforcement shooting in Maricopa County appears to be the same whether or not the person shot represented an immediate threat to an officer. The public as a whole, and that usually includes the media, accepts the prepackaged police version and predictable Maricopa County attorney's findings without question.

Richardson invoked an example: The 2013 death of Quentine Barksdale, who was shot by his neighbor, an off-duty law-enforcement officer for the Arizona Department of Transportation.

Richardson wrote:

I recently reviewed the January 2013 Phoenix police homicide investigation of Quintine Barksdale, an unarmed Black man shot to death by an off-duty White police officer with a history of integrity and misconduct issues. Shortly after the shooting the officer was fired for unrelated serious misconduct.

Even though determining justification is the duty of the county attorney, Phoenix police concluded early on the shooting was a "justifiable homicide." Predictably, the county attorney quietly rubber-stamped the Police Department's misguided conclusion.

To this editorial, Montgomery replied, "One case does not make for a policy of rubber-stamping."

Montgomery pointed out that three police officers have been charged with criminal conduct since 2002 in use-of-force cases, and two were convicted. One was Richard Chrisman, a Phoenix police officer who shot and killed Phoenix resident Daniel Rodriguez in 2010, and eventually was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Montgomery added that 13 police officers have been charged with crimes in Maricopa County since 2013, and also walked reporters through how the County Attorney's Office does its independent investigations of such cases.

The county's top prosecutor also brought along some statistics on officer-involved shootings in Maricopa County:

  • There were 43 officer-involved shootings in 2011, and in 42 cases, the suspect had a weapon.

  • In 46 officer-involved shootings in 2012, 39 of the suspects had a weapon.

  • In 49 officer-involved shootings in 2013, 44 of the suspects had a weapon.

  • In 31 officer-involved shootings so far in 2014, 24 of the suspects had a weapon.

  • Of those nearly 170 cases, 12 of the suspects were reported to have some sort of mental illness.

Montgomery said he's having another press conference on Wednesday to discuss how his office handles mental-health issues.

Got a tip? Send it to: Matthew Hendley.

Follow Valley Fever on Twitter at @ValleyFeverPHX.
Follow Matthew Hendley at @MatthewHendley.



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28 comments
glyphhunter
glyphhunter

"When it comes to these certain situations, we're going to do the right thing,"


Am I the only one concerned by this? The County AG's office should be doing the right thing in EVERY situation...

bill.richardson
bill.richardson

The killing of Cusseaux is unfortunate but is what happens when you’re holding a deadly weapon and you back an officer into a corner. On the other hand the shooting of Quentine Barksdale by an off-duty rouge ADOT police officer is highly suspect and an example of a very flawed PPD homicide investigation.


The failure of Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton and Chief Daniel Garcia to give the same level of scrutiny to the Barksdale homicide as they are to the unfortunate shooting of Cusseaux is a sad commentary on what a human life is worth in Phoenix.  


tcon45
tcon45

For ten years, I worked in a program for mentally ill/emotionally disturbed individuals and my co-workers and I were assaulted pretty regularly, including with weapons (on two occasions I had to take guns away from people). We were trained in hand-to-hand defense and physical restraint techniques, and not once was anyone on either side ever injured, much less shot. In most situations, a police officer shooting someone armed only with a hammer cannot be justified.

RetiredArmy
RetiredArmy

ECON 101: If you spend all of your money on guns, there will be no butter.

 If this city/state spent as much money on family support programs  and supporting the mentally ill (butter that supports your right to life) as it did to send a car full of high tech equipment and two guys with guns on a mental health call they where not qualified to deal with, then the city/state could have afforded to send a small team of mental health experts trained to deal with the situation in a non lethal and human way.

Benjamin Meyer
Benjamin Meyer

I would love to see more proactive talking and jockeying for implementing ways to increase public safety regarding concerns like this. I work in Behavioral Health and we (as a field) are so far ahead of how public and political administrations are organized it is pathetic..the rights of the individual trump any collective enforcement per Brown v Texas (not to mention our Constitution) and until state agencies transform fully into having the same interests as protecting individual freedoms they will forever be at odds with the greater good and merely the indiscriminate arm of heightened assumption intermixed with ill-formed and over-utilized power and procedure..

MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

I think the FBI and the DOJ should be brought in to investigate.

And I think we need both a state and federal statute declaring the killing of a mentally ill person, regardless of intent, a hate crime.

Charlie Erb
Charlie Erb

cops investigating cops: "no wrongdoing."

MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

I distrust MontyPug to ever do the "right thing."

He's more afraid of the truth than anyone. I think the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's Office needs to be brought in.

I think this was intentional. Piss on MontyPug and most of Phoenix PD.

Hock
Hock

So, why are we giving Phoenix PD officers raises if they're not capable of doing a complete, thorough and unbiased investigation?  I'm being sarcastic.  I think it's absurd for Phoenix to bring in an outside agency to do their job.

eric.nelson745
eric.nelson745 topcommenter

The question for DPS will be whether the officers had no choice but to use deadly force to neutralize the threat. I keep asking that question every time an unarmed civilian is killed by cop. By unarmed I mean no gun. A hammer, a knife, a rock can do serious damage. But were the cops able to retreat, regroup and then allow cooler heads to prevail? I believe they could have. Or is deadly force always their go-to option?

ExpertShot
ExpertShot topcommenter

I live near the Phoenix Police Academy.  Matthew Hendley should hear what I hear every day out at the shooting range they have there.  Some guy comes over the public address system and basically exhorts his trainees to kill Kill KILL - pretty much the army recruitment scene from Arlo Guthries Alice's Restaurant.  Just go for a hike in the morning around the South Mountain park behind the police academy and you'll see for yourself the training in how to kill civilians is implemented.


rh19541954
rh19541954

Maricopa county? Nothing surprises me when one mentions Phoenix home to the Sheriff Joe Arpaio aka the devotee of the Marquis De Sade!

rh19541954
rh19541954

How does something like this happen, a involuntary mental commitment order being enforced with guns? If this is not a case of police incompetence at minimum I do not know what qualifies for such, it could be nothing less than murder since if they knew a mentally ill patient was being committed someone with intelligence, foresight ought to have seen officers were armed with non-lethal devices to control her into handcuffs and into a medical facility not a cemetery!

Nathan Schneider
Nathan Schneider

Agreed. There should always be an independent / outside investigation.

devilsbeatwildscats
devilsbeatwildscats

Shoot first & ask questions later seems to be the norm of European American officers around the country.

Mickey McCormick
Mickey McCormick

Cops investigating cops:Never a good idea.There needs to be a #citizenspolicereviewboard with binding powers.In other words,people policing the police...

Brian Byrnes
Brian Byrnes

It shouldn't have had to come to this...Time to vote out ALL of the incumbants and start FRESH!!!! People who have never been in office before!! Because you know what? They would do a 100% better job than the already corrupted!

bpolarscam
bpolarscam

 Did Michelle break the law ? Last I checked It was not illegal to be "mentally ill".

Have we forgotten that America is supposed to be a nation where all law-abiding persons are guaranteed liberty? How can a person know what behavior is prohibited if the laws are not clearly written? People like myself who believe strongly in individual freedom argue that violation of the rights of others should be the only acts prohibited by law; others will defend victimless crime laws. In either case, violation of law should be the only basis for depriving a person of his or her liberty over his or her protest. http://www.antipsychiatry.org/due-proc.htm



Psychiatric Coercion and Restraint  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2ifitvaIe7k

There is opposition to psychiatry from people who SURVIVED its abuses.

 

bpolarscam
bpolarscam

Involuntary hospitalization or commitment is a violation of my civil rights under U.S. Code, Title 42, Chapter 21 § 1983, Civil action for deprivation of rights. Lawsuits for involuntary commitment have resulted in verdicts of $1 million or more against hospitals, doctors and other agencies and personnel:

  • Lund vs. Northwest Medical Center, (Case No. Civ. 1805-95, Court of Common Pleas, Venango County, PA, June 16, 2003), jury awarded $1,100,000 million in damages.
  • Marion vs. LaFargue Case No. 00 Civ. 0840, 2004 WL 330239, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, February 23, 2004), jury verdict of $1,000,001 in damages.
  • Dick vs. Watonwan County (Case No. Civ. 4-82-1.16, U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, April 11, 1983), more than $1 million in damages awarded to plaintiff.

Cozz
Cozz topcommenter

...and if you don't like that rubber stamp, there's plenty more from where that one came from.

Police here get away with all kinds of crimes the normal citizen couldn't dream of getting away with.

We'd be in prison for years if we pulled some of the shit they get away with.

Pearce getting away with careless vehicular homicide is a perfect example of that rubber stamp in action by the County Attorneys Office..

But in all fairness, our L/E here isn't 1/2 as bad as it is in other places.

Hock
Hock

@bpolarscam It not an issue of legal or illegal.  It's an issue of the police having the right to defend themselves against attack.


The real question is, in my mind, did the police do everything possible BEFORE they shot her to take her into custody for treatment?  Once she attacks with a hammer, I'm sorry, the police can take whatever action is necessary to protect themselves or others.

MaskedMagician1967
MaskedMagician1967 topcommenter

We don't have law enforcement Cozz.

We have the KGB, the SA and the SS for police.

bpolarscam
bpolarscam

@Hock multi billion dollar psychiatric industry that routinely violates peoples civil and human rights wants the police to be in charge of bringing it more victims.

There is a reason this woman threatened mental health workers on the phone and grabbed a hammer when they came to her door.  Inpatient psychiatry is a living nightmare, starting for many with handcuffs , a forced naked strip search, locked doors and forced drugs and or threats of scary injections to coerce those brain disabling health destroying drugs that help nothing.

The general public has no idea of the human rights abuses behind psychiatric locked doors wile going about calling it "help".  Inpatient psychiatry is just prison with Nuernberg Code violating medical experiments.

Sometimes it's the lucky ones who get killed by police before they are captured by this disgusting system called "help" and "care".

Look up human rights psychiatry to learn more.

johnQcitizen
johnQcitizen

@Hock @bpolarscam 


I understand the need of cops to protect themselves. I really do. But it seems more and more that they are more and more hiding behind that, and less hesitant to start shooting (which is an understatement in the horrifying Kajieme Powell murder).


What I mean is that, we call upon them for their supposed expert training and supposed bravery, with (for me) the intent of a safe outcome for everyone. If immediately blasting away at someone is all that was needed, hell, most of us in this armed to the teeth society could do it for them!

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