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Family attorney: Man with mental illness shot over 30 times by DPD officers

Posted at 5:53 PM, Oct 03, 2022

DETROIT (WXYZ) — Porter Burks' mother told 7 Action News her son suffered from schizophrenia, had a knife and that the family called Detroit police for help. Her family retained Fieger Law, which said Burks was shot over 30 times by officers.

Geoffrey Fieger said in a statement, "We have been retained to represent the family of Porter Burks. We are working to obtain all the evidence that we can. When we have sufficient evidence and an understanding of the facts of the case we will report to the media and the public."

"We are working hard to understand how and why a mentally ill citizen, whose family called for help, was tased and then reportedly shot over 30 times," the attorney concluded.

Aaron Montgomery lives across the street from where the incident happened. His charter bus was hit by at least five bullets.

“I honestly thought it was a drive-by shooting that happened," he recalled.

Shattered windows and bullet holes adorn the side of one of Montgomery's charter buses on Snowden Street. He said he had just gotten home from driving his other bus Sunday around 4:30 a.m. Montgomery said he heard gunfire about 30 minutes later.

Detroit Police Department Chief James White said the family of a man with a mental illness called police for assistance and reported he had a knife.

“Upon encountering him, there was some type of resistance. We’re looking into whether or not he charged the officers, whether or not he attempted to stab the officers. We just don’t know enough right now," the chief explained.

Before officers shot Burks, the chief said non-lethal force was initially used by officers.

“They deployed a taser. We’re looking into whether or not the taser took effect. Obviously, it did not. And that engaged in fatal force,” he said.

Burks' family wants to know what happened with that taser. They also have questions about the police response. So do neighbors.

“I believe law enforcement needs better training when it comes down to handling mental patients. I think that guy who lost his life that night, although shots rang out toward my home and my businesses here... the buses, could have been handled better," Montgomery said.

Detroit police have been working to change how they handle calls for people dealing with a mental health crisis. Last year, 7 Action News told you about a new partnership between DPD to train officers. There are a lot of questions still remaining in the wake of this shooting.

“Now I got to stop my money and my income coming in because of foolishness," Montgomery said.