DETROIT (TSTIME) — Detroit police officers who fired 38 bullets at a 20-year-old black man wielding a knife will not be prosecuted for his death, a prosecutor said.
Porter Burks, who police said had schizophrenia, was believed to be experiencing a mental health crisis when he was fatally beaten 19 times during a standoff with officers early on the morning of Oct. 2.
Wayne County prosecutor Kym Worthy announced Wednesday her decision not to prosecute responding officers, saying they had little time to “remove the threat,” the Detroit Free Press reported.
“Police spent a lot of time trying to get him to drop his gun,” Worthy wrote in a statement. “He suddenly ran towards them with the knife and covered the distance between them in about three seconds. Eyewitnesses to the shooting were interviewed and indicated that police did everything they could to de-escalate the situation before Mr. Burks attacked the police.”
Body camera footage shows law enforcement begging Burks to drop the 3 1/2-inch (9 centimeters long) knife he was carrying on a dimly lit Detroit street.
“Drop the knife for me, man. Get here real quick. You’re fine,” a member of the Detroit Police Department’s crisis intervention team said at around 5 a.m. on the city’s west side. ‘You’re not in trouble. Can you just talk to me and drop the knife?
“You’re not in trouble, okay?” continued the officer. ‘I just want to help you. I just want to help you, man. OKAY? Can you please drop the knife for me? Please? Whatever you’re going through, I can help you.”
But Burks — who has struggled with mental illness in the past — didn’t drop the knife, and after walking down the middle of the street, he suddenly sprinted toward officers, who fired 38 shots in three seconds, hitting him 19 times. Burks was pronounced dead at a hospital.
The decision not to prosecute the officers who killed Burks “devastated” his family, says Michelle Wilson, Burks’ aunt.
The family’s attorney announced earlier this month that they are suing the city for $50 million in a wrongful death lawsuit for gross negligence, assault and more.
“He was a smart, loving person. He was human. That’s a life. He didn’t deserve to be killed,’ Wilson said.
“It feels like (Burks death) is happening all over again. We are hurt, words cannot describe the pain.”
Protesters near the scene of Burks’ death called for a change in how police respond to mental health calls.
Detroit Police Chief James White called the shooting a “very tragic situation.”
“Not the desired result. This is not what we wanted,” said White, who later added, “our mental health crisis in this country is real. Our mental health crisis in our city is real.”