“To shoot an unarmed woman 33 times who had never done anything wrong in her life – really? --- Couldn’t you shoot out the tires?” says Danny Abir, managing partner of Abir Cohen Treyzon Salo in Los Angles, California which has filed a wrongful death suit against the Torrance Police Department, the city of Torrance and a police officer in relation to Michelle Shirley’s death.
“She was bipolar. She also had a J.D. She had not passed the bar but she had a law degree and she had not had a bipolar episode in over ten years,” says Abir. “She was a mother and she had recently moved to California to re-establish her life and bring her son to live with her. No prior history, no guns, no drugs, nothing. She was just bipolar.”
“We do civil rights cases all the time and believe me this woman was an angel,” says Abir. “This case really upsets me.”
There were bouts of mental illness in her distant past, but Abir describes Michelle Shirley as a bright young woman from “a salt of the earth, well-educated family from San Diego” who certainly did not look like a threat to anyone.
Shirley was driving for Uber on the day of the shooting. According to the statement of claim just prior to the incident she had been hit by another car on the driver’s side.
“She had been T-boned on the driver’s side a few minutes before, which I think probably triggered a bipolar episode," says Abir. "She continued to drive. Witnesses called the police saying there is a woman playing loud Mariachi music driving somewhat erratically down the street. The cops come and chase her eight to seven minutes and then they block her in. They get out of their cars guns drawn and she puts her foot on the gas and starts driving again.
“I don’t understand how you shoot a woman in a car, unarmed, 33 times. That doesn’t work for me. That bothers me. This is wrong!” he says. “And there was a gas station on the street!”
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At the crux of the issue Abir says is the fact that Michelle Shirley was black.
“She had not done anything wrong in her past,” says Abir. “Carrie Fisher was bipolar and Catherine Zeta Jones is bipolar. You want to tell me if one of those people was behind the wheel the police would have been shooting 33 bullets into the car?”
The case is now moving into the discovery phase.
The lawsuit is brought on behalf of Michelle Shirley’s 14-year-old son and his guardian. The suit states 7 causes of action including wrongful death, negligence and negligence in hiring, retention and training.