Mother Sues Cop Who Killed Her Daughter

     PHOENIX (CN) – A mentally ill black woman refused to let Phoenix police into her home because she was afraid they would shoot her, so they broke in and shot her to death, her mother claims in court.
     The late Michelle Cusseaux suffered from “schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, prolonged post traumatic stress disorder, major depression, personality disorders, and otherwise was diagnosed as seriously mentally ill,” her mother Frances Garrett claims in her July 14 federal lawsuit.
     A mental health facility asked police to do an “involuntary evaluation” of her, and she was alone in her home when police arrived, her mother, Frances Garrett says. In answer to its question, Garrett says, she told the mental health group that her daughter did not have a gun and never had.
     When officers arrived, “Michelle told the PPD officers that she did not trust them and thought that they would shoot her,” her mother says in the complaint.
     She says her daughter was not suicidal and was not a threat to herself and that officers knew they were called for a “mental health pick-up.”
     The officers did not call for anyone with training in dealing with the mentally ill, Garrett says. They asked, through the door, if Michelle had any weapons, and she said she did not. Defendant Sgt. Percy Dupra then told Officer Elizabeth Anderson to pick the lock on the door, according to the complaint.
     She did so, and the officers saw Michelle standing near the doorway with a hammer in her right hand. Dupra shot her in the chest and killed her, her mother says. She says two witnesses said “that they did not hear anything (e.g., orders to drop the hammer) before the gunshot.”
     Dupra is a 19-year veteran of the police.
     Garrett says in the lawsuit that “Dupra and the other PPD officers on scene either had not received any training from the PPD or the City of Phoenix regarding appropriate, permissible interactions with and counseling of the mentally ill and emotionally disturbed, or had not been adequately trained in this regard.”
     Dupra could have used a Taser or pepper spray instead of killing her, Michelle’s mother says. Or police could have simply kept her in her home until trained help arrived.
     After the Aug. 14, 2014 shooting, the Phoenix Police Department announced it would develop a mental health advisory board to improve how its officers approach mental health cases.
     Then-Police Chief Daniel Garcia said after the shooting: “I want the Phoenix Police Department to become the model of policing for mental health issues for law enforcement across the county.”
     (Garcia was fired in December after calling a news conference to demand a two-year contract.)
     Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said in March that Dupra was justified in shooting Cusseaux and that charges would not be levied against Dupra.
     Garrett seeks punitive damages for civil rights violations, including excessive force, unlawful entry, due process violations, negligence, assault and wrongful death.
     She is represented by Buddy Rake Jr.
     The City of Phoenix is a defendant, along with Officers Dupra and Anderson.

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