Union, family of woman shot by police team up against chief's decision

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By Tami Hoey By Tami Hoey

PHOENIX -- A family and many members of a police department who once went toe-to-toe, now see eye-to-eye, as they team up to voice their disappointment with the chief’s decision to hand off the investigation into the shooting death of a mentally ill woman.

Over the weekend, Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia announced he is asking the Department of Public Safety to take over the investigation into Michelle Cusseaux’s death.

Cusseaux was shot and killed earlier this month by Sgt. Percy Dupra, after police say she threatened officers with a hammer. The officers came to her house to serve a court order to take Cusseaux to a mental-health facility.

Community outrage spilled into the streets of downtown Phoenix, culminating in Cusseaux’s coffin being carted around town, as many questioned whether the officer used excessive force.

Monday, the president of the Phoenix Law Enforcement Agency questioned the motive and timing of the decision by the chief.

“You would have to be near dead not to recognize that all of this has politics on it,” Joe Clure said. “I  think you’d have to be kidding yourself if you didn’t believe that.”

A family spokesperson, Rev. Jarrett Maupin, agrees: “No one told the chief to stop Phoenix’s investigation. He did that on his own and in fact we advised him not to do that.”

Cusseaux’s family pleaded for the department to conduct its investigation and also have an outside agency conduct an independent investigation simultaneously.

"We felt it would help shore up the integrity of the police department," Maupin says.

They too are now disappointed with the chief’s decision to leave the investigation solely in the hands of DPS.

“It would have given Phoenix Police the opportunity to answer the questions; now they won’t have the chance,” Maupin says.

Clure says many members of the department now question whether their chief trusts them, pointing to “the perceived lack of support and confidence from police leadership.”

At a news conference earlier Monday, County Attorney Bill Montgomery said he has no problem with the chief asking for an outside agency to investigate. However, he did not see any reason why Phoenix could not do so itself.

“There’s nothing from the initial walk-through that we saw that would have suggested that Phoenix either did not have the capacity or the competence to have conducted a thorough criminal investigation,” Montgomery says.

The county attorney’s office will review the outcome of the DPS investigation, which is standard any time there is a case an officer-involved shooting.