Board: Police sergeant violated policy in shooting

There are new developments surrounding the shooting death of a mentally-ill woman.

Michelle Cusseaux was shot and killed by a Phoenix Police officer last summer.

That officer was cleared of criminal wrongdoing, but a review board says he did not follow police policy.

A Phoenix Police Use of Force Board decided the events that led up to the shooting of Cusseaux fell outside of Phoenix Police Department's policy. Now a sergeant of 20 years on the force may lose his job.

The family of the woman and activists praised the decision. They had hoped for an outcome like this.

Michelle Cusseaux's mother and supporters have been on a year-long push for changes in police policies for dealing with the mentally ill.

"To me this will shed light around the world and let them know we can get justice and strength in numbers, and just go about it in a correct way," said Fran Garrett.

Cusseaux was killed in August of 2014 when she allegedly threatened mental health care workers. The officers received an order to pick her up and take her to the mental health care facility; she refused to leave her apartment. When officers went in to take her into custody, she was holding a hammer.

"At that moment in time Mrs. Cusseaux presented herself in front of the officers holding a hammer over her head in a chopping manner," said Sgt. James Smith.

Sgt. Smith said the focus should be on the events leading up to the shooting, not the shooting itself.

"You have to look at that exact window in time when they are presented with that deadly force option, and the appropriate response was a firearm, and it was to fire," said Smith.

The Maricopa County Attorney's Office decided not to prosecute Sgt. Percy Dupra, but that doesn't mean he can't be punished by the department.

"If the city's policy is not in line with state law, how health is that policy, and how does it protect both law enforcement and people in the community," said Rev. Jarrett Maupin.

Since the shooting Maupin and other activists have pushed to establish a mental health advisory board and bring about other changes to the department.

"We've come a long way and that has set us apart from the Baltimore's, the New York's, Los Angeles', we have a real chance to redefine what justice looks like in situations like this.

The decision from the Use of Force Board was approved by Chief Joseph Yahner. Now the issue will go to the disciplinary review board.

The punishment could range from no action to suspension, to being fired.