Calif. Woman Who Struggled With Bipolar Disorder Shot to Death by Cops

Michelle Lee Shirley
San Diego Health and Human Services

Michelle Lee Shirley, 39, was fatally shot by Torrance, Calif., police as she approached a group of officers in her car, according to the New York Daily News.

According to authorities, Torrance police responded to a series of 911 calls in which they were warned of an "erratic and reckless driver."


When cops found Shirley, they boxed her in with their patrol cars. When she veered forward at them, officers opened fire at her, according to the report.

Shirley was taken to County Harbor-UCLA Medical Center and was pronounced dead a little after 3 p.m. Monday afternoon, the Daily Breeze reports.


It was unclear how many times she was shot.

Shirley's family said they believe she was off her bipolar medication during the time of the incident. Her sister, Karen, said that she saw her a few days before the incident and said that she hadn't been sleeping much and was speaking at a rapid pace.


"Her behavior was out of the ordinary," the sister said.

In a video titled, "It's Up to Us," intended to raise awareness about mental illness, Shirley can be seen discussing the struggles of her disorder and how it affected her life while trying to balance motherhood and law school.


"If you receive a diagnosis of a mental disorder, please take it seriously and seek help because ignoring it can take away years of your life," she says in the video, which was released in 2011.

According to the Daily Breeze, an investigation of the police shooting is being conducted by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Special Operations Bureau and the L.A. County District Attorney’s Office, and authorities are awaiting toxicology tests to reveal whether or not Shirley was taking her medications.


Shirley's mother, Debra Shirley, said she was frustrated that the incident resulted in a fatal shooting.

"I feel like they paint people of color with a brush that says: ‘You’re disposable.’ I really feel like police are not equipped to deal with mental illness in the field," she said. "Shoot the tires or disable the car."


See Michelle Shirley's story in the video below:


Read more at the Daily Breeze and the New York Daily News.

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