Officers avoid charges in fatal shooting of Detroit man suffering mental health crisis
Written by Erica Y King ABC News on November 24, 2022
(DETROIT) — Detroit police officers involved in the fatal shooting of a 20-year-old man suffering a mental health crisis in October acted in self-defense and will not face any charges, the Wayne County Prosecutor’s office said.
A report from the prosecutor’s office said the officers acted in self-defense because they spoke to Porter Burks using his first name, posed open-ended questions, asking what he wanted and then offered to take him wherever he wanted to go if he put the knife down.
The officers repeatedly told Burks to drop his weapon, which can also be seen on bodycam video released by the police department. Burks repeatedly refused to drop the knife and the officers did not make “any threats and used no hostile remarks or tones,” a statement from the prosecutor said.
Prosecutor Kym Worthy called the shooting a “truly tragic case.”
“Mr. Burks had a long history of mental illness and violent behavior and a propensity for carrying knives that had been communicated by his family to the responding officers,” Worthy said in a statement. “He previously allegedly cut two individuals and a seven-year-old girl in 2020. The police spent a significant amount of time trying to get him to drop his weapon. He suddenly ran at them with the knife and covered the distance between them in approximately three seconds. Eyewitnesses to the shooting were interviewed and indicated that the police did all that they could to de-escalate the situation before Mr. Burks charged at the police.”
She added, “Unfortunately, Mr. Burks was fatally shot by the officers in self-defense and defense of others.”
Burks had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, according to his family. His brother, Damondo Anderson, was the one who called authorities for help on Oct. 1 claiming he was “concerned for people” because his brother was walking around the neighborhood with a knife and was having a “real bad episode,” according to police. Anderson also told officers his brother was frantic and slashed his tires, which can be seen in bodycam footage.
Detroit police said they fired 38 shots in three seconds at Burks. According to the prosecutor’s investigation, Burks ran approximately 40 feet in under three seconds towards officers. Before he collapsed, he was approximately six to eight feet from the officer who tried to talk him into dropping his knife. The prosecutor’s investigation also indicated a taser was deployed but there is no evidence of whether the taser had an effect on Burks.
This report comes on the heels of Porter’s family announcing earlier this month that they plan to sue four unnamed officers for $50 million for wrongful death, according to the family’s attorney, Geoffrey Fieger.
Fieger claims Detroit Police Chief James White has “failed to provide the names of the officers who were involved in the execution-style killing of Porter Burks.”
The Detroit Police Department did not respond to ABC News’ request for comment on Fieger’s comments.
“The chief, despite my request to him directly to provide everything, the videos and everything involved in this case…to date for the last two weeks, I’ve received nothing,” Fieger said at a press conference on Nov. 1, announcing the lawsuit. “They have not been forthcoming with any information.”
White in a statement Nov. 23 called the shooting a “tragic event” and called for additional resources for individuals suffering from mental illness. He thanked Worthy’s office for its “objective review.”
“Their independent review confirms that the actions of our officers were justified under those circumstances,” the statement said.
According to Fieger, Burks’ autopsy report reveals that no shots were fired by police in close proximity and that Burks was hit at least 19 times with shots to the head, face, chest, arms and legs.
Fieger did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the prosecutor’s findings.
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