Michael Moza was still wearing his hospital wristband when Detroit police killed him in a hail of gunfire during a car chase early Wednesday morning.
Moza, who’d just turned 30, was struggling with schizophrenia and had tried checking into a psychiatric hospital hours before he died. But his family says the hospital released Moza without the medication he desperately needed.
Maegan Davis, Moza’s sister, told The Daily Beast he was upset when he visited her Tuesday night. “I told the doctor, ‘If anything happens to me, it’s on you,’” Moza said of the medic who allegedly let him go.
Now Davis is piecing together Moza’s final moments, before he became the third person with mental illness to be fatally shot by Detroit cops since July. “He didn’t deserve this,” Davis said. “I can't emphasize enough what a kind, soft, goodhearted person he was.”
In a press conference Wednesday, Police Chief James Craig urged reporters to hold the mental health facility accountable for allegedly turning Moza away. He shifted blame for Moza’s death to the Detroit Receiving Hospital’s psychiatric center.
“This system is broken,” Craig said. “He was crying out for help. He wanted the help, and now he’s no longer here.”
Craig detailed Moza’s final movements and how officers went from disarming an “armed and dangerous” shooter to trying to save his life. Most of Craig’s comments, however, focused on the alleged failings of mental health workers, not law enforcement.
“I’ve been talking about the broken system—it falls on deaf ears,” Craig said, adding, “When are we going to challenge and find out what’s going on at the crisis center? Why are people being released? And if they are being released, is it because of short staff?”
Detroit Receiving Hospital, which is affiliated with the Detroit Medical Center network, didn’t return messages. A hospital spokesman would only tell The Detroit News: “We cannot provide any information about patients at the crisis center.”
For her part, Davis said Moza has been hospitalized at Detroit Receiving Hospital’s crisis center previously for schizophrenia. Craig told reporters hospital staff should have looked up Moza’s records and realized he had “a caseworker.”
Moza wasn’t the only alleged patient of the crisis center to be killed by cops. The hospital also reportedly treated 28-year-old Darrien Walker, who attacked officers with a sword and dagger before they fatally shot him July 30.
Craig told the News his department took Walker to the crisis center in early July after he allegedly brandished a gun at a neighbor. "He was back on the street in less than 24 hours,” Craig said. “So our officers tried to get this obviously mentally ill person some treatment, but what good did it do? What kind of treatment, if any, did (hospital staff) give him? Or was he just released? We don’t know.”
Last Friday, a Detroit police sniper killed a 42-year-old man who held his girlfriend hostage in a nine-hour standoff. The Detroit Free Press reported the unidentified suspect had bipolar disorder, hadn’t taken his medication for 48 hours, and had a history of violence. Craig said the incident marked the 28th this year involving a barricaded gunman—and that half those cases involved suspects with mental illnesses.
“This system is broken and it needs to be fixed,” Craig said after the man’s death last week. “This needs to be a priority, this is a public safety concern.”
Moza encountered police just five days after the sniper takedown. Craig said Moza fired 13 bullets into a home in southwest Detroit Tuesday around 4 a.m. No one was injured, and police had no immediate suspects.
Later that morning, Moza worked as an election poll worker and called EMS after having a mental health episode. Police responded and brought Moza to Detroit Receiving Hospital’s psychiatric crisis center, which reportedly released him hours later.
Moza allegedly returned to the same house around 1 a.m. Wednesday and fired shots again. After receiving a description of the suspect’s vehicle, police tried to pull Moza over. He led a sergeant on a high-speed chase across the city’s east side, in a pursuit that was called off because of speed, Craig said.
Still, cops caught up with Moza, and during a second pursuit, Moza allegedly fired shots at the officers. Craig said one sergeant shot back through the windshield of his police cruiser, and a second sergeant may have also fired into Moza’s car. A sergeant then blocked Moza and his vehicle stalled.
“Multiple officers fired rounds at the suspect,” Craig said. “The suspect then took off from that location, he went a short distance at a high rate of speed, went through a fence and collided with a parked semi-tractor truck.” Craig said a sergeant pulled Moza from the wreckage and tried to save his life before an ambulance arrived. Craig didn’t say how many times Moza and the responding officers fired shots.
But the barrage of gunfire concerns Davis, who says she visited the crime scene and took her own photos of the yellow evidence markers dotting the pavement. She claimed she counted 98 shell casings at the crash site.
Davis said Moza was diagnosed with schizophrenia 10 years ago and “suffered greatly” from the disorder which included symptoms of paranoia. “There were a lot of scary moments but never any violent moments. He wasn’t a violent person. I don't think Michael had ever been in a fight in school,” Davis said. “He was super loving and family oriented. He suffered a lot of loss in his life.”
Moza’s father and older brother died when he was young, and his mother died two years ago. She said her sibling struggled with schizophrenia and drug addiction, and for the first time, he was living on his own and managing his medications. “He was doing really well, so all of this was so shocking,” Davis said.
Davis said something seemed off in Moza’s voice Monday and she wondered if he was off his medication. He told her he’d been in a fight with someone, but Davis assumed the altercation might have been a delusion. She said she now believes this squabble might have been why Moza shot up a particular house.
Asked about the police response, Davis said, “I do understand that you cannot shoot at a police officer without there being an exchange of fire.”
But Davis questioned why what appears to be 98 bullets were necessary to stop one suspect with a single handgun. “It felt like overkill,” she said.
“They won’t even tell us how many times he was hit,” Davis said. “They’re telling us we have to wait until there’s an autopsy performed.”
In the meantime, Davis has organized a GoFundMe page to pay for Moza’s funeral.
“He was scheduled … November 4th, to receive his medication,” Davis wrote. “Instead, we are mourning the loss of a compassionate, loving and generous member of our family.”