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Activists carry coffin of woman killed by Phoenix police

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) - Activists protesting the fatal shooting of a mentally ill woman by a Phoenix police sergeant last week carried her coffin to City Hall on Friday, demanding an independent investigation into her killing.

Michelle Cusseaux's family and other supporters paraded the 50-year-old woman's wooden casket through downtown Phoenix a day ahead of her funeral in what they said was a symbolic move to show they will not let her death pass without action.

"She can no longer speak, so we must do that for her," said the Rev. Jarrett Maupin, who helped lead the demonstration that also went to the U.S. Attorney's Office. "We are not giving up."

Phoenix police have launched two investigations into the Aug. 14 killing of Cusseaux, who died from a single gunshot wound after she threatened police with a claw hammer at the door of her apartment.

The officers had been serving an emergency court order to take the woman to a mental health facility.

Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia says the Maricopa County Attorney has been asked to review the department's own criminal investigation once it has been completed.

The department also is reviewing its procedures for mentally ill individuals and will bolster officer training, he says.

The Phoenix investigation comes amid continued protests in Ferguson, Missouri, over the police killing of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer.

Cusseaux, who is black, was shot by a veteran white police sergeant who has since been placed on administrative assignment.

A Phoenix police spokesman declined to comment on Friday's protest and said he could not confirm whether the woman's body was in the coffin.

(Reporting by David Schwartz; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Eric Beech)

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