Prosecutor: Unrest from police shooting unlikely

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By Jennifer Thomas By Jennifer Thomas

PHOENIX (AP) -- The unrest that grew out of a police shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, is not likely to happen in response to a shooting 11 days ago in Arizona in which an officer killed a woman while trying to serve a mental health order, the top prosecutor for metropolitan Phoenix said Monday.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said metro Phoenix will not likely face the same type of outrage that followed the Aug. 9 shooting in Missouri because police and prosecutors in Arizona have a record of running crime prevention and other community outreach programs that give them credibility among the public.

"We are embedded in this community. We are not strangers," said Montgomery, whose office will decide whether to criminally charge the officer who shot the woman.

The Rev. Jarrett Maupin, a civil rights advocate, said he believes the fatal shooting of 50-year-old Michelle Cusseaux on Aug. 14 was the result of police brutality and that the officer could have dealt with the situation using non-lethal means.

"Bill Montgomery would serve justice best in his community by waiting for a complete investigation," Maupin said.

Montgomery said it was irresponsible for critics like Maupin to label the shooting as police brutality.

Police say a Phoenix patrol sergeant fatally shot Cusseaux because she held a hammer above her head and came toward the officer. Officers had a court order to take Cusseaux, who had bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, to a mental health facility. Her mother had called a psychiatric facility to get inpatient treatment for her daughter.

Supporters of Cusseaux wheeled her casket along downtown Phoenix streets Friday to protest the way authorities have handled the case.

Cusseaux's mother has said the shooting demonstrates that the Phoenix Police Department needs to find a way of handling people with mental illness. The department is reviewing its policies for mental health pickups.

Montgomery declined to comment on whether he thought police policies for dealing with people with mental illness was adequate.

Initially, Phoenix police said it was going to handle the investigation into Cusseaux's death but eventually handed it off to the Arizona Department of Public Safety.

Montgomery said he will charge officers who break the law and has brought such cases in the past.

"No one is above the law," he said.

Nothing has emerged so far to suggest that anyone has been hiding or withholding evidence during the investigation, Montgomery said.

Prosecutors will determine whether the use of force was justified and consider such factors as whether the officer conducted himself in a reasonable fashion.

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