Family suing city of Charlotte for wrongful death questions how police handle mental health calls

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Jury selection started Monday in a wrongful death lawsuit that claims a Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officer was not justified when he shot and killed a man on his porch.

The family of Spencer Mims is suing the city of Charlotte over the shooting case from five years ago.

The incident started when Mims, 55, approached officers in south Charlotte and told them he was having trouble with his son.

Minutes later, an officer shot and killed Mims after he lunged at an officer with a box cutter he had been holding to his throat.

CMPD and the district attorney ruled the shooting was justified, but Mims sister and her family are suing the city for wrongful death, and how police handle mental health calls.

Fonda Bryant, a mental health advocate, said how officers handle those calls can make the difference between life and death.

[PAST COVERAGE: Police: Officer shoots, kills man who charged with box cutter]

Last year, officers shot and killed an armed man in the Druid Hills neighborhood when his family said he needed mental health treatment.

Two months ago, police shot and killed a suicidal man in west Charlotte who came at them with a knife.

"No, we're not doing well enough,” Bryant said.

Bryant said the outcomes may have been different if more officers had the crisis intervention training that CMPD offers to confront calls like the one that now has the city on trial.

“If people knew that they could pick up the phone and request a special officer who could handle mental health issues we would not have these situations,” Bryant said.

Mental health experts are expected to testify when the trial begins after a jury is selected.