Detroit family urges special attention to mental health after double fatal shooting

'Just educate yourself... See what some signs are'
Posted at 11:40 PM, Jun 07, 2024

DETROIT (WXYZ) — A Detroit family preparing to bury two loved ones because of gun violence is urging people to take mental health seriously. Detroit police say the Memorial Day tragedy stemmed from a mental health crisis.

Keachia Thompkins spoke with 7 News Detroit Friday. She's hoping to save a life and a family from heartache like the anguish her family is experiencing right now.

On May 27, she said her cousin, Kenneth Thompkins, suffered a mental health breakdown. Police said he shot and killed his nephew John Howard-Thompkins.

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Keachia Thompkins talks with 7 News Detroit reporter Darren Cunningham. (June 7, 2024)

“He’s been seeking helping from therapy for years. Years of mental health. He’s been getting the resources and help. So, this wasn’t just something that occurred overnight. We knew that he had mental illness, but it has never gotten to this level,” Keachia Thompkins explained.

His family said he’d been manic for about one week and had not slept in several days. So, he went to stay with his mom just before Memorial Day.

Kenneth Thompkins' condition escalated and the tragedy ensued.

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An undated courtesy photo of Kenneth Thompkins.

“He has never really had an episode because he would always take his meds. So, for this to happen, you know, he’s an adult. He doesn’t stay here. He’s not under her care anymore. We don’t know what happened up until those days," Keachia Thompkins explained.

Kenneth Thompkins' family said he didn’t own a gun, and it’s unclear how he got possession of one.

After he reportedly shot John Howard-Thompkins, his family called 911. When police arrived and entered the home, Chief James White said gunfire was exchanged. He said it's not yet clear if any of the three rounds from officers hit Kenneth Thompkins. But ultimately, investigators said he shot himself in the head.

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An undated courtesy photo of John Howard-Thompkins.

His family wants to warn others to take precaution before a crisis turns violent.

“Don’t take mental illness lightly in the African American community. It’s hard for us to trust. We have to learn how to trust the system. We depend on the system to help us as best as they know how," Keachia Thompkins advised.

“Just educate yourself. Find out. Even if it’s not in your family, read up on it. See what some signs are. It may be a friend that’s going through something, a friend of a friend."

The Thompkins family started a GoFundMe for helpwith their loved ones burial expenses. The family is also hosting a dinner and bake sale on Sunday, June 9th at 1330 Courville Street, Detroit, Michigan 48224.

Detroit police told 7 News Detroit it's department policy to release more information 45 days after the incident.