The Civil Service board Thursday upheld the demotion of a Phoenix Police sergeant who shot and killed a mentally ill woman.
In August of 2014, Michelle Cusseaux threatened police with a hammer, and Sgt. Percy Dupra responded with gunfire.
Three Phoenix police officers, including Sgt. Dupra, were answering a mental-health call that day. When they got into Cusseaux's apartment, they say Cusseaux was charging towards Dupra "with the hammer over her head in a chopping motion," explained Sgt. James Smith with the Phoenix Police Sergeants and Lieutenants Association, which is Dupra's union.
Dupra fired one shot, killing Cusseaux.
The shooting sparked outrage from the community.
The Maricopa County Attorney's Office ruled that there was no criminal wrongdoing.
However, the Phoenix Police Department's Use of Force Board, which is comprised of three community members and three PPD employees, found Dupra's actions violated department policy.
Phoenix Police Chief Joe Yahner accepted a department disciplinary review board's recommendation to demote Dupra, a 20-year police veteran, from sergeant down to officer.
On Thursday, April 14, the Civil Service Board upheld the demotion of Officer Dupra.
Dupra's attorney Steven Serbalik said that the Board's ruling sends a bad message to other officers.
"The message is that even when you are faced unfortunately, with a tragic situation with a deadly threat to officers on the scene, that your career could be in peril," said Serbalik. "Sgt. Dupra will never be a supervisor again."
Outside the review board hearing, members of "Blue Lives Matter" gathered in support of Dupra and other officers.
They said it's unfair to question the split second, life or death decisions officers make while protecting the public.
"I feel like if our police officers are being so scrutinized for every decision that they make -- how are they gong to do their job," said Jennie Yehuda, with Blue Lives Matter. "They should never hesitate to protect somebody or to help a victim."
Cusseaux's family has filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Dupra and the Phoenix Police Dept.
The Phoenix Police Department has since made several changes in the way its officers handle mental health cases.
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