Detroit Cops Fatally Shot Mentally Ill Porter Burkes 38 Times

You can’t reform this!


Source: SETH HERALD / Getty

Boot-lickers for the boys in blue always ask, “Who will you call when you need help if you defund the police?” Abolitionists’ alternatives can’t be any worse than a firing squad of killer cops responding to Black people’s mental health crises.

When Porter Burks’ brother called 911 on October 2, he expected a Crisis Intervention Team to take the 20-year-old to a hospital during a psychotic break. CNN reports when five Detroit officers failed to de-escalate, they fatally shot Burks 38 times in three seconds. Now Burks’ family demands transparency, accountability, and justice for what they call “flat-out murder.”

According to police, the brother said Burks slashed his car tires with a pocket knife. He was reportedly frantic and wandering the street when police arrived at the scene. One of the officers, who was a trained member of the Crisis Intervention Team, tried to talk Burks down.

“I just want to help you, man, OK? Can you do me a favor and drop the knife? Can you drop the knife for me? Please? Please, whatever you’re going through, I can help you.” the officer said.

Although Burks was a distance away from the officers during the standoff, they claimed to fear for their lives over the 3.5-inch blade. White claimed that Burks charged one of the officers without warning.

“The officer fearing his safety, and the other officers fearing for their partner’s safety, fired their weapons. Despite this horrific act, the officers were able to quickly transition to a first aid mode and began to render first aid,” said Detroit Police Chief James White said at a press conference.

“The officers then conveyed Mr. Porter Burks to a local hospital where he unfortunately was pronounced dead,” he continued.

White pointed out that one officer performed chest compressions “the entire way to the hospital in an attempt to keep him alive” and stayed with him until he was pronounced dead. However, this offers no comfort to Burks’ grieving family after 38 gunshots. If the police nationwide can safely capture white mass murderers armed with military-style weapons, a Black man with a knife should be able to survive police encounters.

However, Detroit Free Press reports the family disputes the police’s heroic narrative at a press conference on Thursday and plans to sue the department.

“We have what I consider to be an intolerable situation that occurred in the city of Detroit, in which a clearly mentally ill young man was executed by a Detroit Police Department firing squad of five officers,” said the family’s attorney Geoffrey Fieger. “I hope that Chief White is listening — I have more questions today than answers.”

According to Fieger, Burks was a “tremendous” 46 feet away, putting his hands up at the time of the shooting. He called the cops’ claim that Burks charged at them, “absurd.”

“Why you can’t figure out a better way to deal with him than executing him by firing squad? You have all sorts of equipment, all that body armor that police have,” he said.

“They have helmets, they have arm and chest armor. They have bulletproof vests everywhere. Are you telling me that today, you don’t have sufficient equipment to send an officer toward somebody with a 3-inch knife and instead you have to execute him?”

“If that’s crisis intervention, God help us all,” Fieger continued.

The Michigan State Police’s Homicide Task Force, which includes other Detroit police officers, will investigate the shooting. White said the five unnamed officers are on administrative leave pending the outcome.

Law enforcement wasn’t the only one to fail Porter Burks. His family sought psychological services and facilities to manage his schizophrenia. He always ended up back on the street with medication that wasn’t effective enough to prevent psychotic episodes. Burks and his family needed help and well-funded mental health care. Instead, all they got was 38 bullets and excuses.

“People don’t understand there’s no such thing as mental hospitals in this state. If you think you can get long-term care for a mentally ill individual in the state of Michigan, you are whistling Dixie. It doesn’t exist,” Fieger said.

Our condolences go out to Porter Burks’ family and loved ones.

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