It took about three seconds for five Detroit police officers to kill Porter Burks as he approached them Sunday in the throes of a mental health episode. Incidentally, they have raised new questions as to whether even the police officers who are supposed to help people in crises actually do anything to make people of color less likely to die in the police hail of bullets.
Police say Burks, a 20-year-old black man who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, was carrying a knife around 5 a.m. Sunday when they responded to the scene. Body camera footage of a crisis intervention officer present shows Burks standing in the middle of the street as officers repeatedly offer him help and ask him to put down the gun.
“I just want to help you man, okay? 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. Porter, you ain’t got no problems, man,” the officer is heard saying in the video released by the department on Tuesday.
But the de-escalation tactic appeared to stop about four minutes into negotiations when Burks rushed toward officials. Within moments, five police officers fired 38 bullets at him. Police say Burks, who was about six feet from officers, was hit by gunfire at least 15 times. The police department has not released the names of the officers who fired, but has given the traditional advice that they are on administrative leave pending an internal investigation.
Attorney Geoffrey Fieger, representing the Burks family, told The Daily Beast Thursday the family is demanding answers for a situation he equates to an “execution” that should never have happened.
Fieger argued that Burks’ murder exemplified the inadequacies of the mental health system — showing that police officers are often too quick to use force during a mental health crisis, even when they’re supposedly trying to avoid fatal harm. The attorney added that he and the family plan to sue the Detroit Police Department and the officers who conducted the shooting for negligence and civil rights violations.
The pending lawsuit was first announced during a news conference Thursday, where Fieger stood behind Burks’ family as he rebuked the department and demanded answers, claiming the 20-year-old was handcuffed after he was shot. After the fatal incident, Fieger said, Burks was “dropped off” at the hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
“The point of this lawsuit is to make the public aware of the reality of limited mental health resources in Michigan and to oppose the status quo,” Fieger told The Daily Beast. “Things have to change in Michigan. Nobody deserves to go through what this family is going through.”
A Detroit Police Department spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Fieger added that the family has been “on a roller coaster ride” since Burks was killed on Sunday. Police first told the public that officers had used a stun gun on Burks before the shooting – before Chief James White admitted on Tuesday that it was unclear whether the de-escalation tactic was actually used. The admission came during a news conference Tuesday, at which White released body camera footage of Burks’ murder and defended his officers’ actions.
“Officials had to stop the threat,” White added. “The three seconds that someone comes at you with a knife is no time to see what other people are doing.”
In body camera footage, officers can be seen speaking to Burks’ brother, who explains that the 20-year-old had slashed his tires and was upset.
Chris Graveline, director of the Department of Professional Standards, said Tuesday that Burks is a victim of “a system that has failed [him] on several different occasions” and described several previous instances in which he had been violent towards his family. However, family members told local media that Burks was a sweet and easy-going man who loved music.
His mother, Quieauna Wilson, related this Detroit FreePress Burks was the third of their seven children and loved to dance. She admitted that following his diagnosis, her family struggled to adjust to their new reality.
“Porter needed help,” Fieger added to The Daily Beast. “Instead he was executed.”
https://www.thedailybeast.com/porter-burks-in-detroit-died-in-hail-of-bullets-despite-crisis-intervention-cop?source=articles&via=rss Porter Burks in Detroit died in a hail of bullets despite crisis intervention cop