Police in Torrance, California, fatally shot a 39-year-old Black woman who they said used her car to ram into them. Michelle Lee Shirley — the mother to a young boy — had a history of suffering with mental illness, reported The Root.
On Monday, Oct. 31, police fired shots at Shirley’s vehicle near the intersection of Sepulveda Boulevard and Cabrillo Avenue in Torrance, according to Los Angeles County coroner's records.
Around 2:28 p.m., officers received reports of a reckless driver in a Ford Fusion. Shirley reportedly collided with several vehicles and drove her car on the wrong side of the road. Witnesses saw her vehicle with the airbags deployed.
Once Torrance police identified the car, several officers boxed it in with their vehicles, said reports. Officers surrounded the vehicle and instructed Shirley to put her hands up. Then, Shirley allegedly tried to get away by using her car to hit the police cruisers. Officers opened fire on the car, striking and killing the driver, the police release said.
Shirley was then taken to an area hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 3:05 p.m., according to coroner's records.
Although the police have justified their use of force, Shirley’s mother, Debra Shirley, believes they should have used alternative options since her daughter battled manic bipolar disorder.
“I don’t know what was going through her head as she was driving or trying to get away,” Debra Shirley, told the Daily Breeze. “But why did they have to kill her?”
Debra also believes that race played a factor.
“I feel like they paint people of color with a brush that says, ‘You’re disposable,'” she said. “I really feel like police are not equipped to deal with mental illness in the field. Shoot the tires or disable the car.”
In a video from mental health campaign It's Up to Us, Shirley spoke about her hallucinations.
“I started sleeping less and less,” Shirley said in the video. “One time I went out and just bought a bunch of plants and gave them away. I shaved my head.”
The shooting is being investigated under the direction of Capt. Martin Vukotic of the Torrance Special Operations Bureau with assistance from the Los Angeles County district attorney's office.
(Photo: ABC 10 News)