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Family of mentally ill man killed by police preparing to sue five officers involved in fatal shooting


Porter Burks was shot and killed by Detroit police on Sunday, now his family is preparing to sue the five officers involved.

Police shot at Burks 38 times while the 20-year-old was having a mental health crisis. Burks was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Detroit Police Chief James White says Burks charged at officers with a knife… who had only seconds to stop the threat to their lives.

Attorney Geoffery Fieger says says the shooting started while Burks was about 45 feet away, and that the five Detroit police officers who responded to the incident should not have resorted to gunfire.

“Are you telling me that today, you don’t have sufficient equipment to send an officer towards somebody with a three-inch knife, and instead you have to execute him, beginning at 45 feet? That’s patently absurd," Fieger said.

At least one crisis intervention officer was involved in the fatal shooting of Porter Burks. Fieger says his death is a consequence of defunding mental healthcare in the state.

Fieger says after the shooting Burks was handcuffed and dropped off at Sinai Grace Hospital without explanation to the attending doctors. The Detroit Police Department disputes that claim, saying an officer performed chest compressions on Porter Burks as he was transported to the hospital, and were on site when doctors pronounced him dead.

Family members say their contact with DPD has been minimal, and many were barred from a Tuesday press conference updating the public on the shooting.

Eli Newman is a Reporter/Producer for 101.9 WDET, covering breaking news, politics and community affairs. Newman is an award-winning radio journalist and was named the Michigan Associated Press Media Editors Broadcast Rising Star in 2017. His work has appeared on NPR, Marketplace and the Detroit Free Press among others. Newman joined WDET as a newsroom intern in 2014 and is a graduate of the University of Michigan, where he first worked in radio at the student-run station WCBN.