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Family, activists calling for investigation in officer-involved shooting

PHOENIX — The family of a mentally ill woman shot and killed by police last week met with the mayor of Phoenix Monday, urging an outside investigation into the incident.

“We need to have another independent investigation,” said Francis Garrett, the mother of 50-year-old Michelle Cusseaux, said alongside her attorney and several African-American community leaders outside City Hall.

“I would hate for this to happen to another mother, in losing a child,” she said.

Phoenix Police were serving an Emergency Mental Health Pick Up Order for Cusseaux in Maryvale. Police said Cusseaux threatened them with a hammer forcing one officer to shoot.

“(I) spoke with a mental health organization. I called to ask to get my daughter the help she needs, for her to have inpatient care,” Garrett said. “I did call, and this is the end result.”

The group is giving Mayor Greg Stanton until Thursday to decide.

The incident has also sparked outcry from activists who are calling for a change in the public’s perception of mental illness.

“We need to bring the human component back into this situation, into this illness,” said Tonya Norwood, president of the National Organization for Women.

Norwood and a few others gathered at the Arizona State Capitol on Monday morning with signs urging legislators, police and the public at large to better understand those with mental illness.

The group’s focus is to open dialogue and seek treatment for the mentally ill, because Norwood said mental illness is an issue that affects all parts of society.

“We need to bring it to the foresight, because those are a great deal of our homeless (and) a great deal of those who end up hospitalized and affecting our cost of care,” she said.