In newly-released body camera footage, five Detroit police officers shot and killed 20-year-old Porter Burks, according to the Detroit Free Press. Burks was reportedly experiencing a mental health crisis as he wielded a knife toward the officers. His family believe the shooting was more like an execution.
Burks, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia three years ago, was armed with a knife and had allegedly slashed his brother’s tires. The brother had contacted the police in fear of Burks’ safety. Per the footage, officers found Burks standing in the middle of the street and slowly approached him while trying to get him to drop the knife.
“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. Porter, you’re not in any trouble, man,” one officer is heard saying.
However, the video shows Burks running frantically toward the officers and then the screen goes black. The report says the officers shot more than 30 rounds at Burks within 3 seconds. Police say 15 bullets struck Burks causing his death.
More on the case from the Detroit Free Press:
Detroit Police Chief James White said it is not department policy to release video this early in the investigation, but that he was willing to make an exception for the sake of transparency.
Police previously stated Burks was first shocked with a stun gun before officers ultimately shot and killed him. On Tuesday, White said the department is still working to determine whether the stun gun was deployed. The video footage is unclear as well. Members of Burks’ family, however, told the Free Press that they were told by authorities he had been shot and shocked “at the same time.”
White had defended his officers and their crisis intervention training. He and Chris Graveline, the director of the Department of Professional Standards within the Police Department, said Burks was a victim of “a system that has failed (him) on several different occasions.”
In the video, it doesn’t seem that there were even 10 seconds between when the Taser was allegedly deployed and when the shots were fired. Maybe Burks would’ve had a chance to survive if they had tried to detain him instead of using fatal force.
How ironic is it that this shooting happened just after the city launched a program to train officers to better de-escalate mental crises? According to Fox 2 Detroit, the plan was to create a crisis intervention team trained to connect people like Burks with mental support.
It appears from the video that the officers tried to offer Burks some help. However, whenever there’s a weapon in a Black man’s hand, mentally ill or not, that’s a certified death sentence.
“Help them yourself, don’t call 911, they might not make it,” said one of Burks’ family members outside the press conference.