Attorneys for the family of a woman killed in 2018 by Johns Creek police will host a virtual town hall to discuss how officers are trained to engage with people with mental illness.
Family members of Shukri Said have said that she suffered from schizophrenia among other conditions when she was shot multiple times in April 2018. Officers reported that Said refused to drop the knife she was holding.
A lawsuit was filed in April in federal court against the city and officers involved by Said’s family.
Awad Law Firm attorney Destiny Singh said panelists at the virtual town hall on Sept. 17 will discuss police policies and the amount of force necessary to use in a situation with a person with mental illness. Experts in mental health, human rights and police policy are scheduled as panelists. The forum is hosted by Awad and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
“We will discuss crisis intervention and how we can push for reform in the Johns Creek Police Department, so this doesn’t happen again,” Singh said.
The town hall forum will include an update on the lawsuit, Singh said. A Johns Creek spokesperson said officials couldn’t comment on the town hall due to the pending lawsuit.
The officers involved in the case were cleared of any wrongdoing by the police department’s Internal Affairs and returned to full duty, Johns Creek officials said previously. All four officers are named as defendants in the lawsuit, along with the city of Johns Creek.
Singh said the Said family is accusing Johns Creek police of using excessive force when they approached Shukri while she was walking along a sidewalk.
In June, City Manager Ed Densmore said officers respond to several calls a day involving someone with a mental health issue. Situations with a person who is armed, or not on medication, can be fast-changing, he added.
Densmore, who served as police chief before his current position, said that more training is always beneficial. “It can’t all fall on law enforcement,” he said in June. “Not every situation can be de-escalated.”
Shukri was a Somolia-born U.S. citizen according to the lawsuit. Singh said Shukri was having a mental episode when she left home the morning of her death. Shukri’s sister Aisha Hussein called for police hoping they would take her to the hospital. Hussein told the 911 operator that her sister might have knife, Singh said.
Previous Johns Creek police statements said officers saw Shukri walking and tried to stop her through conversation, Taser and foam bullets. She was then shot five times after police said she refused to drop a knife.
Singh said Hussein is upset by the lack of options she had to help her sister that day.
“It’s our position that (the officers) did not feel threatened and that is something they felt a need to say to secure their immunity,” Singh said.
Register for the virtual town hall through Eventbrite.