Black man's family claims Detroit police killed him by 'firing squad' during apparent mental health crisis




  • In Health
  • 2022-10-06 20:50:34Z
  • By USA TODAY

Attorneys for the family of Porter Burks announced Thursday they will file a lawsuit against the officers who killed the Detroit man by firing 38 shots while he was in an apparent mental health crisis.

Porter Burks, a 20-year-old Black man diagnosed with schizophrenia, was shot by five officers on Sunday, the Detroit Police Department announced during a tense news conference Tuesday following the release of body camera footage of the killing.

Police believe 15 bullets may have struck Burks, who had a knife at the time of the incident.

Attorney Geoffrey Fieger chastised Detroit police during a Thursday news conference announcing the planned lawsuit.

"We have what I consider to be an intolerable situation that occurred in the city of Detroit, in which a clearly mentally ill young man was executed by a Detroit Police Department firing squad of five officers," Fieger said.

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Porter's body was handcuffed after being shot multiple times and "dumped" at the hospital, Fieger said. The Detroit Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the handcuffs from the Detroit Free Press, part of the USA TODAY Network.

Police will not release the names of the involved officers, but they are on administrative pending the outcome of Michigan State Police and internal investigations, Police Chief James White said. The findings will then be turned over to the Wayne County Prosecutor's Office to determine whether charges against the officers are appropriate.

Michelle Wilson, Aunt of Porter Burks left, hugs Burks distraught mother Quieauna Wilson before the Detroit Police Department holds a press conference on October 4, 2022, at Detroit
Michelle Wilson, Aunt of Porter Burks left, hugs Burks distraught mother Quieauna Wilson before the Detroit Police Department holds a press conference on October 4, 2022, at Detroit's Public Safety Headquarters regarding the fatal shooting of Porter Burks that happened on Sunday.  

Body camera footage, photos released

On Tuesday, White showed a picture of a knife with a 3.5-inch blade that police say Burks was holding before showing portions of body camera footage from the vantage point of a crisis intervention officer at the scene.

The video shows Burks wandering in the street at about 5 a.m. Sunday.

Burks' brother had told police he was experiencing a mental health crisis and was frantic. Earlier that evening, Burks used a pocket knife to slash his brother's tires, he told police, saying he was concerned for Burks and others.

In the video, the crisis intervention officer can be seen with his hand out to Burks, repeatedly asking Burks to put the knife down.

"I just want to help you, man, OK? Can you do me a favor and drop the knife? Can you drop the knife for me? Please? Please, whatever you're going through, I can help you. Porter, you're not in any trouble, man," the officer said.

Burks was mostly inaudible, but he could be heard saying he wanted to rest. He refused to put the knife down.

Attorney Geoffrey Fieger and associates, representing the family of Porter Burks, the Detroit man killed by police Sunday during a mental health crisis, announced Thursday at a press conference they will be filing a lawsuit against the officers who shot 38 rounds.
Attorney Geoffrey Fieger and associates, representing the family of Porter Burks, the Detroit man killed by police Sunday during a mental health crisis, announced Thursday at a press conference they will be filing a lawsuit against the officers who shot 38 rounds.  

Later, the footage appears to show Burks attempting to run toward or quickly approach the officers. Police began shooting almost immediately. White said police believe Burks was about 6 feet away from officers after the last shot.

"The officers had to stop the threat," White said Tuesday.

On Thursday, Fieger said the distance apart was "tremendous" - closer to 46 feet. He accused White of purposely misleading the public.

Police also initially told the public that officers deployed a stun gun before shooting Burks. But on Tuesday, White told reporters it's unclear whether a stun gun was actually used. Family members said they were told moments before the Tuesday news conference that he had been shocked and shot "at the same time."

"Why you can't figure out a better way to deal with him than executing him by firing squad?" Fieger asked.

Burks had gone to the hospital due to mental illness at least twice prior to his death, according to Chris Graveline, director of the Department of Professional Standards within the police department.

Tension between police, victim's family at news conference

Burks' family was not invited to the media-only news conference on Tuesday at the Detroit Public Safety Headquarters. But several family members still attended.

"We are here to hear what they have to say," Michelle Wilson, Burks' aunt, told the Free Press. "Say it to our face."

The family was denied entry to the news conference, and an officer at the door told them the room was reserved for media only. Tensions grew while the family waited outside the room.

Attorney Geoffrey Fieger and associates, representing the family of Porter Burks, the Detroit man killed by police Sunday during a mental health crisis, announced Thursday at a press conference they will be filing a lawsuit against the officers who shot 38 rounds.
Attorney Geoffrey Fieger and associates, representing the family of Porter Burks, the Detroit man killed by police Sunday during a mental health crisis, announced Thursday at a press conference they will be filing a lawsuit against the officers who shot 38 rounds.  

Quieauna Wilson, Burks's mother, described her son as a laid-back person who loved to listen to music and dance. He was her third child out of seven in a family Wilson said is large and loving.

Navigating Burks' schizophrenia diagnoses had been difficult for the whole family, family members said.

"The community knows Porter. They trusted Porter. They helped Porter. They loved Porter. He wasn't a threat to no one," Michelle Wilson told the Free Press.

After the conference, she called the shooting "flat-out murder."

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Porter Burks shooting: Family announces lawsuit against Detroit police

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