Woman shot, killed by Phoenix police at apartment complex

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by The Associated Press and azfamily.com

Video report by Jason Volentine

Posted on August 14, 2014 at 5:00 PM

Updated Monday, Aug 18 at 9:43 AM

PHOENIX -- A woman was shot and killed by a Phoenix police sergeant Thursday after allegedly threatening police officers and mental health workers.

Police responded to an apartment complex near 55th Avenue and Indian School Road in the Maryvale area around 2:15 p.m. for an emergency mental health pickup order.

According to police, 50-year-old Michelle Cusseaux was threatening mental health workers, saying she would show up at the mental health facility where she was supposed to be receiving treatment and shoot the workers.

When police arrived at Cusseaux's apartment to pick her up they said she was agitated and swinging a hammer. 

"When our officers go to serve mental health pickup orders, they're some of the most dangerous calls to even go on because those people often have mental challenges," said Phoenix police spokesman Sgt. Tommy Thompson. "And that's what we're dealing with at this time."

When officers, including a sergeant, tried to get Cusseaux to come out of the apartment, she opened the door and allegedly had a claw hammer raised above her head.

Police said the sergeant fired one shot, striking Cusseaux. Officers administered CPR, and the woman later died at a hospital.

Police said a weapons examination and information from witnesses confirmed the 48-year-old sergeant fired his weapon only once.

"All of a sudden, I heard them screaming, 'Drop the hammer, drop the hammer, drop the hammer,' " said Michael Lebay, a maintenance man who witnessed the incident. "This person lunged out at them with the hammer, swinging it crazy, and the officer unfortunately had to shoot."

Police said they are still investigating whether Cusseaux had a gun in the apartment.

"When she lunged out at them, she was trying to hit somebody in the head," Lebay said. "The way she was swinging that hammer, if she would have connected, one of the officers would have been seriously hurt. So in my opinion, they had no choice."

Neighbors said Cusseaux was known around the complex for having bouts with mental illness.

"It's sad because ... mental illness, we need to take care of it," neighbor Linda Garcia said.

The sergeant, a 19-year-old veteran with the department, will be placed on administrative leave, which is standard procedure in officer-involved shootings. The case is being investigated both criminally and internally.

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PHOENIX (AP) -- A woman is hospitalized in critical condition after being shot by a Phoenix police officer following an altercation at a Maryvale apartment complex.

Police say mental health workers were trying to serve a mental-health order on the 50-year-old woman about 2 p.m. Thursday.

They say she threatened the workers and police were called to the scene at the Graybriar Condominiums.

Arriving officers say the woman was holding an unspecified weapon in a threatening manner during a confrontation with police and she was shot.

Her name hasn't been released yet.

Police say no officers were injured.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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PHOENIX (AP) -- A woman is reported to be in critical condition after being shot by a Phoenix police officer following an altercation at a Maryvale apartment complex.

Police say mental health workers were trying to pick up the 50-year-old woman for treatment about 2 p.m. Thursday.

They say she threatened the workers and police were called to the scene.

Police say the woman came at officers with a weapon and she was shot.

Her name hasn't been released yet.

© 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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