Crystal cops cleared in shooting of man in park

Updated 11:11 a.m. | Posted 10:22 a.m.

Four Crystal police officers who confronted, shot and wounded a man at a local park will not face charges, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said Thursday.

Khaleel Thompson, then 18 years old, was shot just after 9 a.m. on May 24 in Crystal's Bassett Creek Park. Authorities say Thompson pointed a weapon at the officers, which was later found to be an airsoft pellet gun. Thompson was shot in the head and side. He survived the shooting.

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"This was a justified use of deadly force by the officers," Freeman said in a statement. The officers first pleaded with Thompson to drop the weapon and used a non-lethal bean bag rifle to get him to drop it. "All those measures failed and ultimately the officers feared for their lives and fired numerous shots," said Freeman, adding that Thompson is "fully recovering from his wounds."

The Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension's inquiry into the shooting found Thompson had a history of depression and paranoid schizophrenia and several potentially dangerous encounters with police the past few years.

That included an October 2015 confrontation with St. Louis Park police, who'd found Thompson on a street with an axe and he told the officers that people were going to die. "The officers convinced him to drop the axe and they rushed him to the hospital. They later learned that Thompson made the 911 call and hoped to commit suicide by having the police shoot him," Freeman's statement said.

In two cases in 2016, police were called on incidents where Thompson was taken to the hospital because he was depressed and threatening suicide. "Doctors said later that Thompson wanted 'death by police,'" Freeman added.

During the investigation into the Crystal shooting, Freeman said investigators discovered a bottle of red nail polish near Thompson and determined that he'd used it to "cover the orange tip of the gun so police would think it was a real gun, rather than a bb gun."

Two senior prosecutors reviewed the evidence and concluded the use of deadly force against Thompson was justified "because he put both of his hands on the gun and aimed it directly" at one of the officers, Freeman said.

Days after the shooting, Thompson's mother told MPR News that her son had just been diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia but was not a threat to officers. Naomi Thompson said Khaleel was out with friends who noticed he was going through a mental health crisis before the shooting and tried without success to get help for him.

On Thursday, Thompson told MPR News that her son is now in a care facility, and she is homeless.