Man killed in police shootout reportedly begged for mental health care

George Hunter
The Detroit News

Detroit — Meagan Davis said her brother would still be alive if he'd received the mental health treatment he begged a doctor to give him.

"Instead, we have to plan a funeral for someone who didn't deserve this," Davis said of her mentally ill brother Michael Moza, who was killed early Wednesday in a shootout with Detroit police officers after leading them on a high-speed chase across the city.

Meagan Davis, a sister of Michael Moza is consoled near the spot where Michael Moza died in a police involved shooting in southwest Detroit in Detroit, Michigan  on November 4, 2020.

Detroit police chief James Craig called the case "tragic" and said the incident is the third time in recent months police have had to fatally shoot a mentally-ill suspect.

"This is yet another example of the broken mental health system," he said Wednesday at a press conference in the 4th Precinct in southwest Detroit. "When is this going to stop?"

According to Craig, the chain of events that led to Moza's death began about 4 a.m. Tuesday, when Moza fired 13 shots into an occupied flat in the 2300 block of Cabot in southwest Detroit. After the alleged drive-by shooting, Moza checked himself into Detroit Receiving Hospital's mental health Crisis Center, Craig said.

"This was an individual who knew he needed help, and he had the presence of mind to check himself into the Crisis Center," Craig said.

Davis said a doctor at the Crisis Center turned Moza away after a short consultation — and she said her brother gave the doctor a warning before he left.

"After my brother left the hospital, he came to my house," Davis said. "He said he told the doctor, 'if something bad happens to me, it's on you.' And now look what happened."

Cell phone image of Michael Moza

"We cannot provide any information about patients at the crisis center," Jason Barczy, a hospital spokesman, said Wednesday in an email.

After Moza left his sister's house, he again drove by the flat on Cabot, this time firing five shots into the residence about 1 a.m. Wednesday, Craig said. Nobody was hurt in either shooting.

Craig said Moza's mother once lived in a house next door to the flat. "We don't know if there's a connection," the chief said, adding that the investigation is open.

Police got a description of the shooter's vehicle and obtained video footage from a nearby apartment complex that showed a Pontiac was involved in the shooting, Craig said.

"While the officers were conducting their investigation, they observed a vehicle matching that description," the chief said. "They attempted to initiate a traffic stop, but the suspect fled at a high rate of speed, and they initiated a pursuit."

Because Moza was the suspect in a violent crime, DPD guidelines allowed officers to pursue him, but after a high-speed chase up Interstate 75 to Detroit's east side, a supervisor decided to terminate the chase, Craig said.

Detroit Police Chief James Craig press conference on a officer involved shooting of Michael Moza at the corner of Longworth and Springwells where Michael Moza was shot by police after an alleged drive by shooting and leading police on a chase, eventually crashing into telephone pole in Detroit, Michigan  on November 4, 2020.

"One of the sergeants went back and canvassed the neighborhood where the shots fired took place," Craig said. "Within blocks of the scene, he observed (Moza's) vehicle. The sergeant again attempted to effect a traffic stop, and the suspect again took off at a high rate of speed, and we again engaged in a high-speed pursuit.

"As the sergeant tried to stop the vehicle, the suspect from inside his vehicle began to fire shots at the sergeant," Craig said. "The sergeant returned fire through the windshield of his police cruiser." 

A second sergeant may have fired at Moza as well, the chief said, but the suspect kept fleeing.

"The suspect continued to evade police at a high rate of speed," Craig said. "At some point, the suspect may have stopped because the sergeant blocked him in ... as this vehicle was stopped, officers got out of their police vehicles ... multiple officers fired rounds at the suspect."

Moza still managed to drive away, Craig said.

"The suspect went a short distance, went through a fence and collided with a semi tractor-trailer truck," he said. "That same sergeant approached the wreckage, and transitioned from warrior mode into lifesaving mode."

An EMS unit took Moza to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Craig said.

Craig said officers saw that Moza wore a medical band on his wrist, and were able to determine that he'd checked himself into the hospital Crisis Center. The chief said if anyone at the facility had checked Moza's record, they would've seen that he was being treated for schizophrenia. 

"In 2010, there was a mental order that deemed him legally incapacitated, and there was a no-gun order as well," Craig said. "He's been in and out of treatment centers for 10 years. He had a health care provider. He was in the system."

Priscilla Moza, sister of Michael Moza, at the corner of Longworth and Springwells where Michael Moza was shot by police after an alleged drive by shooting and leading police on a high speed chase, eventually crashing into telephone pole in Detroit, Michigan  on November 4, 2020.

Davis confirmed her brother had long suffered from mental illness.

"He'd have times where he thought things were OK, so he'd stop taking his meds," she said. "He came to my house at about 5:30-6 (Tuesday afternoon), and hugged me and asked how I was. I could tell he was out of sorts."

Davis said her brother had just turned 30 on Oct. 24.

"Michael wasn't a bad person," she said. "He really didn't deserve to die like this."

Moza's death is the third time recently police have killed men suffering from mental illness, Craig said. The first was on July 30, when video shows 28-year-old Darrien Walker attacking police with a sword and dagger before they fatally shot him. Earlier that month, police had arrested Walker and referred him to the DRH Crisis Center; he was released the next day.

Last week, a 42-year-old man was killed by police following a standoff that lasted several hours. The man reportedly took a hostage, his girlfriend, who told a police negotiator, "I don't want to die this way," during a telephone call while her captor pointed a gun at her.

 "I've been talking about the broken mental health system, but it falls on deaf ears," Craig said. "When are we going to start challenging what's going on at the Crisis Center? Why do dangerous people keep being released? Hold them accountable."

Davis said she hopes some good will come out of her brother's death.

"Maybe this will shed light on mental illness," she said.

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Twitter: @GeorgeHunter_DN