Columbia Heights, Fridley officers cleared in man's death

Bill Kirvelay
Bill Kirvelay writes a protest message on the sidewalk in front of the Columbia Heights Police Department. Kirvelay's brother, Michael, was killed November 2015 during an incident with police. His family is asking authorities to release video of the incident and prosecute the officers involved.
Elizabeth Dunbar | MPR News

An Anoka County grand jury cleared two police officers in the fatal shooting of Michael Kirvelay last November in Columbia Heights, the county attorney's office said Friday.

On Nov. 24, Columbia Heights Police Sgt. Erik Johnson and Fridley Police Officer Shawn Murphy responded to a report of a man with a gun at a Columbia Heights business.

Columbia Heights Police Chief Scott Nadeau said officers encountered Kirvelay, 45, who had what appeared to be semi-automatic handgun. In a statement released Friday, Nadeau said Kirvelay was acting "erratically and irrationally," ignored officers' orders to drop the weapon.

"Within minutes of the officers' arrival, Kirvelay, who was still armed with a weapon, threatened a hostage he was holding at gunpoint," Nadeau's statement said. "This hostage was later determined to be his sister, and she later told police that she feared for her life because of her brother's actions."

Nadeau said the officers feared for the woman's life and safety, so they shot.

Officers discovered later Kirvelay had a "replica firearm or BB gun, with no markings to indicate it was anything other than a real weapon," the Columbia Heights chief said.

Kirvelay's family disagrees with that narrative, saying "dispatch audio proves they knew the gun wasn't real," according to a statement Friday.

"The Kirvelay family is devastated but not surprised that justice was not served today," the statement continued.

As did Columbia Heights' Nadeau, Fridley Police Captain Mike Monsrud said his department extends its condolences to Kirvelay's family "as they deal with the sudden and tragic loss of his life."

Monsrud said Fridley police will begin an internal review to determine if its policies and procedures were followed during the incident.

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