DPS to investigate fatal Phoenix police shooting

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By Christina O'Haver By Christina O'Haver
By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX -- The Arizona Department of Public Safety will take over the investigation into the fatal shooting of a mentally ill woman by Phoenix police.

Police Chief Daniel Garcia announced the decision at a press conference Saturday.

The police department was conducting a criminal and an administrative investigation into the officer-involved shooting, but family members and supporters of Michelle Cusseaux demanded that an outside agency investigate.

While marching Cusseaux's casket through downtown Phoenix in protest Friday, supporters said they would take the case to the United States Department of Justice if an independent agency was not named by Monday.

Garcia said he has been considering the request since speaking with Cusseaux's mother, Frances Garrett, two days ago.

"I want our department to stand for those issues of democracy and justice, but I also want the Phoenix Police Department to be known for compassion and trust," Garcia said. "This decision builds on our reputation of being a good department."

Garrett believes the shooting should not have happened, saying police officers should have been prepared to deal with Cusseaux's mental illness.

The 50-year-old woman was shot by a police sergeant Aug. 14 after she reportedly threatened officers with a claw hammer at her Maryvale apartment.

Officers had been called to the complex to serve an emergency mental health pickup order.

Garrett said she had called the facility to try to get inpatient treatment for her daughter, who suffered from depression, bi-polar disorder and schizophrenia.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office will still review the investigation and make the final case decisions.

Garcia said in a statement Wednesday that he has also ordered a complete review of the department's mental health pickup procedures and assigned a police commander to the Arizona Law Enforcement Academy to help train officers for these types of calls.

The department will also purchase more on-officer cameras to double the number of cameras in the field, Garcia said.


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