Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia responds to shooting death of Michelle Cusseaux

PHOENIX - Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia has released a statement after a woman was shot and killed by an officer last week.

Michelle Cusseaux, 50, had called a mental health facility on Thursday and threatened to shoot workers in the face, according to police.

When officers arrived to assist, Cusseaux reportedly confronted an officer with a hammer, prompting the officer to open fire.

Police said officers performed CPR on Cusseaux before paramedics arrived. She later died at the hospital.

The officer who shot Cusseaux was identified this week as Sgt. Percy Dupra.

On Wednesday, Police Chief Daniel Garcia said in a statement sent by email that answering questions of Cusseaux’s family is a priority for him.

READ THE COMPLETE STATEMENT ON THE NEXT PAGE

Garcia said the department is conducting two investigations into the incident, including a criminal investigation.

Also, he said he has asked the Maricopa County Attorney to conduct an independent review of the criminal investigation.

RELATED: Family of Michelle Cusseaux wants independent investigation into police shooting.

Garcia said he has assigned a police commander to the Arizona Law Enforcement Academy to help train officers on working with people in the community with mental health-related issues.

He said the department will work with mental health providers to “develop and recommend improvements to our procedures.”

Finally, Garcia said is applying for a U.S. Department of Justice grant to help analyze officer-involved shootings for the past five years, aiming to reduce the number of incidents.

“Over the past few days, the Phoenix Police Department has worked diligently on the investigation involving Ms. Michelle Cusseaux. The events of August 14 that left Ms. Cusseaux fatally wounded are tragic for everyone, and our heartfelt thoughts are with her family.

My responsibility is to ensure that the investigation into this case is thorough, prompt and fair, and I know that doing so is critical for the residents we serve to trust and have full confidence in the department’s ability to conduct its day-to-day operations.  Answering the questions of Ms. Cusseaux’s family is a priority of mine. 

The Phoenix Police Department is currently conducting two investigations into this incident, including a criminal investigation.  In addition, I have asked Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery to conduct a second – and independent – review of the criminal investigation.  Further, the County Attorney’s Office, which had staff on-scene during the investigation, will make the final case decisions and disposition.

In addition, I have taken several steps as we move forward:

·        Effective immediately, I have assigned a police commander to the Arizona Law Enforcement Academy to assist with training officers on how to work with those in our community who have mental health-related issues.

·        I have ordered a complete review of our mental health pickup procedures and an analysis of the department’s training requirements.  We will work with mental health providers to develop and recommend improvements to our procedures.

·        The department will begin the process of purchasing of additional on-officer cameras to double the number of cameras we have in the field. 

In recent weeks, our department has worked to strengthen its partnership with Arizona State University's Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety by applying for a U.S. Department of Justice grant to help analyze officer-involved shootings for the past five years. Through this study, we aim to reduce the number of incidents, improve our own tactics and enhance safety while, at the same time, increase transparency regarding the investigative process.

The Phoenix Police Department is committed to providing quality service to the community we serve. I would like to thank the community for its support. Volatile situations in other parts of the country are an important reminder that working together to solve problems is what community policing is all about – building trust and respecting each other as partners in public safety.”

Daniel V. Garcia

Chief of Police

Phoenix Police Department

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