DETROIT (WXYZ) — No charges will be issued against Detroit police officers in the shooting death of Porter Burks, Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy announced Wednesday, saying the officers acted in self defense and the defense of others.
“This is a truly tragic case. Mr. Burks had a long history of mental illness and violent behavior and a propensity for carrying knives that had been communicated by his family to the responding officers. He previously allegedly cut two individuals and a seven-year-old girl in 2020. The police spent a significant amount of time trying to get him to drop his weapon. He suddenly ran at them with the knife and covered the distance between them in approximately three seconds. Eyewitnesses to the shooting were interviewed and indicated that the police did all that they could to de-escalate the situation before Mr. Burks charged at the police. Unfortunately, Mr. Burks was fatally shot by the officers in self-defense and defense of others,” said Prosecutor Kym Worthy in a press release.
Burks was fatally shot during an early morning confrontation with Detroit police on October 2.
Burks' Oct. 2 death was recorded by police body cameras as officers pleaded with him to drop a knife he was carrying.
They initially were called to a home on the west side about a knife-wielding man who was having a mental health crisis and spoke to a man who identified himself as Burks’ brother. The man said Burks had slashed the tires on his car.
“Drop the knife for me, man. Come here real quick. You’re OK,” a member of the Detroit Police Department’s crisis intervention team can be heard telling Burks. “You’re not in any trouble. Can you just talk to me and drop the knife?”
“You’re not in any trouble, OK?” the officer continued. “I just want to help you. I just want to help you, man. OK? Can you just drop the knife for me please? Please? Whatever you’re going through, I can help you.”
Burks — who police say had schizophrenia — was shot as he sprinted toward officers from the middle of the street.
Burks’ family is suing the city for $50 million, their lawyer announced earlier this month. Five unnamed officers also are named in the wrongful death lawsuit filed by attorney Geoffrey Fieger. It claims gross negligence and assault and battery, among other things.
Detroit Police Chief James White issued the following statement Wednesday regarding the case:
"The death of Porter Burks remains a tragic event that continues to call attention to the need for additional resources for those suffering from mental illness. This includes reinstituting long-term mental health treatment centers, greater awareness of behavioral health challenges and additional training. It also includes recognizing our responsibility as a community to provide support, encouragement, and assistance to individuals in mental distress.
We greatly appreciate the time Prosecutor Worthy spent reviewing the facts and circumstances of this incident. Ensuring an objective review of such a tragic incident required the utmost professionalism within both the Michigan State Police and the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, particularly at a time like this when emotions are running high. Their independent review confirms that the actions of our officers were justified under the circumstances.
Enhancing and expanding mental health response and increasing crisis stabilization services remains a top priority for Mayor Duggan and the Detroit Police Department. We will continue to work with city departments and our community partners in this endeavor."
The Associated Press contributed to this report