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Twin Cities cops won't be charged for shooting teen with mental illness

His toy gun's orange tip had been painted over.

The police-involved shooting of 18-year-old Khaleel Thompson sparked a great deal of controversy earlier this year, with protesters saying the officers should face justice for opening fire on the mentally ill teen. 

But those four officers – who belong to the Crystal Police Department – will not be charged with any crimes, according to a Thursday news release from the Hennepin County Attorney's Office.

This follows a state-level investigation into the May 24 incident, when police were called to Bassett Creek Park over reports of a "black man with a handgun." 

They soon encountered Thompson, who refused repeated orders to drop the weapon, prosecutors say. He was first shot with a bean bag gun, but continued resisting, and when he "brought his handgun up and aimed it with both hands" at one of the officers, they opened fire.

He was shot multiple times and was seriously injured, but managed to survive his wounds.

Investigators soon found that Thompson's weapon was actually an airsoft BB gun, whose orange tip – a common feature of toy guns meant to distinguish them from the real thing – had been painted over, the release says.

And it was later revealed that Thompson was no stranger to local law enforcement, having threatened suicide multiple times in the past. The threats brought out the cops each time, and the teen was hospitalized on no fewer than five occasions.

The last of those encounters happened the night before the Bassett Creek Park incident, but in that instance, Thompson assured police that "he was fine and they left," the release says. 

Controversy erupts

The history between Thompson and the police department is one of the main reasons the shooting sparked such outrage.

That included a Black Lives Matter protest, and a march on the Crystal City Hall (video on that below) in the weeks following the incident.

As the Star Tribune points out, Thompson suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, and family members argued that the police had missed many opportunities to help him in their previous encounters.

Protesters said the teen was shot more than 18 times, the paper notes.

The decision not to charge

“This was a justified use of deadly force by the officers,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said in the release.

He went on to point out that the officers took many steps to prevent opening fire, including pleading with Thompson to drop his weapon, and trying a non-lethal bean bag rifle first. 

"All those measures failed," Freeman said, "and ultimately the officers feared for their lives and fired numerous shots."

"We are grateful that Mr. Thompson did not die and is fully recovering from his wounds,” he added. 

You can read the full report from the attorney's office right here.

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