Michelle Lee Shirley
May 20, 1977
October 31, 2017
Age at Death:
Ms. Shirley was described as an overachiever, helping to raise her six siblings while still excelling in school. Her parents, Michelle and Ron Shirley, said Ms. Shirley was the eldest -nicknamed "Mickey" - and she graduated from Gompers High School, the University of California, San Diego in 2001, then Loyola University of Chicago School of Law in 2006. Bipolar disorder derailed her life as she was raising her young son and studying for the bar exam about a decade ago. Since then, she struggled to manage the disease while pursuing her goals. Ms. Shirley's family was used to calls from police saying their daughter was acting strangely or had been hospitalized during a bipolar episode — like the time she was picked up for throwing french fries inside a McDonald’s restaurant. She’d never been violent or used drugs. She had recently moved to the Los Angeles area from San Diego, where she grew up and where her family still lives. She was staying in a hotel and planned to work as an Uber driver, per her family. She recently seemed to be off her medication because she wasn’t sleeping much and was speaking at a rapid pace, said her younger sister, Karen Shirley. Family said she had not been taking her medications.
Several people called police to report an “erratic and reckless” motorist driving through Torrance, CA. When police found her, she was still driving her car even though its side air bags had deployed and there was recent collision damage. Rather than stopping when police cornered her, she backed into one patrol car and then accelerated head on into another cruiser, according to a police statement and videos taken by onlookers at the scene. At least two officers fired many gunshots at her car as it lurched at them. Ms. Shirley was hit and taken to County Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, where she was pronounced dead shortly after 3 p.m. Her mother said Ms. Shirley suffered delusions when her illness was out of control and that she had come home once believing that the Mafia was after her.
Was justice served?
No. Ms. Shirley seemed to be experiencing an episode and needed a mental health intervention team not guns. She was unarmed and needed de-escalation. The 911 calls should have tipped off officers that a woman, alone in the vehicle, was driving erratically. Law enforcement training on how to respond to a mental health crisis was needed for Ms. Shirley rather than gunfire.