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Grand jury will examine officer involved shooting in Columbia Heights

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The Anoka County Attorney's Office has announced that a grand jury will review an officer-involved shooting that happened in November.

Around 2:30 a.m. on Nov. 24, police responded to a call regarding a man with a gun. When authorities arrived at the Columbia Heights business – where the the man's sister worked, the Star Tribune says – they found him inside with a weapon.

KSTP reports 45-year-old Michael Kirvelay was holding a gun to his sister.

Police called for backup, and officers from Fridley and Columbia Heights arrived. Officials say they asked Kirvelay to put down the weapon and show his hands, but he refused. Officers then fired shots and hit the man, who was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Pioneer Press says one of Kirvelay's sisters has stated that the shooting never should have happened. She said he had a BB gun.

According to the paper, when Kirvelay showed up at the business he was in mental distress, so one of the sisters went to the police to get help for him.

That sister told WCCO the women pleaded with the police, telling the officers that Kirvelay's weapon was not a "real gun," that they were not hurt, and everything was okay.

Police were wearing body cameras, and the women told KSTP in November that they hope the footage proves the shooting was unnecessary.

The officers who fired their weapons have been identified as Sgt. Erik Johnston and Officer Shawn Murphy. Johnston had been with the Columbia Heights department for 13 years. Murphy was with the Fridley police for a year.

They were placed on administrative leave following the incident, an early news release said.

According to KSTP, Kirvelay had a criminal record with assaults; but family members say he'd turned his life around.

On Saturday, Kirvelay's family members and supporters rallied at the Columbia Heights police station, according to a Facebook event. They demanded that video footage of the incident be released, Minnesota Public Radio says.

Facebook posts say the group did not want the case referred to a grand jury.

The jurors will review evidence to determine whether or not the police officers should be charged, the Star Tribune reports. That's expected to happen in May.

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