Officers Who Fatally Shot Mentally Ill Man Get Hit With $50M Lawsuit

A family of a 20-year-old Black man is suing the city of Detroit and five police officers for $50 million.

Porter Burks, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia, was fatally shot by police after charging at one of the officers.

The complaint accuses five unknown Detroit police officers of gross negligence, assault and battery, and willful misconduct. It also accuses the city of violating the Freedom of Information Act.

The police chief has failed to provide the names of the officers involved in Burks’ killing, despite a direct request from the family attorney. The Michigan State Police are investigating the incident, but have not provided an update on the status of the investigation.

On October 2, Burks’ brother called 911 after the 20-year-old came to the family residence with a pocketknife, and an officer who was part of the department’s Crisis Intervention Team responded. Police found Burks walking alone on a street nearby and told him to put down his pocketknife. Burks repeatedly refused to do so, and said he wanted to get some rest.

Burks charged at one of the officers without warning, and the officers fired their weapons. Police were aware of Burks’ mental health condition and responded multiple times to separate incidents. The autopsy report revealed that Burks was hit at least 19 times with shots to the head, face, chest, arms and legs.

A family attorney said the shooting of a man with mental health problems should never have happened.

Detroit police released body camera footage that shows officers negotiating with Burks before shooting him. The family attorney, Geoffrey Fieger, believes the shooting was excessive force and questions why the officers didn’t use common sense to determine a more appropriate approach.

Because of Porter Burks’ severe schizophrenic episodes and history of mental illness, the family believes that he was not threatening enough to shoot at.

John Nightbridge is a veteran reporter, researcher, and economic policy major from UCLA. Passionate about world issues and potential ways to solve them is a significant focus of his work. Writing freelance and reading the news are John's passions at work. Outside of work, it's all about sky diving, surfing, and stock market modeling.