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Map Kong was shot and killed by police – now his family is suing

The lawsuit argues officers essentially escalated the situation. A lawyer for the officers say that's untrue.

Map Kong was in a car, holding a knife and bouncing, not responding to officers' calls to come out and drop the weapon. So Burnsville police broke the passenger side window and used a stun gun on Kong – who bolted from the car with the knife, ignoring officers while running away.

That's when three of the officers fired their weapon.

Kong, 38 years old, fell to the ground of the McDonald's parking lot and died that March morning. He had multiple gunshot wounds. Tests later found amphetamine and methamphetamine in his system.

A grand jury cleared the officers of any wrongdoing, and the incident was recorded on body cameras.

But Kong's family is now suing the police department and three officers, arguing they escalated the situation and acted unnecessarily against a mentally ill man who was having a health crisis.

"The use of force, including deadly force, by the individual Defendants against Map was excessive and unreasonable, and violated Map’s Fourth Amendment rights," the civil lawsuit (which you can read here) says.

The lawsuit argues officers essentially escalated the situation by yelling at Kong and breaking the window – who, while in the vehicle, was not suspected of any crime and was clearly in crisis.

Joe Flynn, a lawyer representing Burnsville police and the officers, told GoMN the officers "made significant efforts to de-escalate" things.

"These officers were found to have acted properly in very difficult circumstances. They were faced with an individual that posed a grave danger to the public, and their actions were proper," Flynn said.

During interviews afterward, officers said they were concerned Kong might hurt somebody – it was a weekday morning, outside a restaurant, Kong had a knife, and the stun gun seemed to have no effect, the officers said, according to the suit.

The lawsuit argues this is "unreasonable speculation," and also accuses the City off Burnsville of not training its officers properly to handle a mental health crisis.

But Flynn said that wasn't an option considering the potential threat.

"In terms of what his mental status was, they didn't have the luxury of time to take a history from him," Flynn said. "He's an individual with a knife and the public is all around the area."

Flynn said they intend to vigorously defend the officers' actions.

Police shootings

Twelve people have been shot and killed by police officers in Minnesota so far this year, the Washington Post's Fatal Force database shows. Half of those involved had some sort of mental illness.

Across the country, the database has 791 fatal police shootings recorded, with mental illness being a factor in 187 of them.

The Treatment Advocacy Center said half of all police shootings from 1980 through 2008 involved someone with a mental illness. A Ruderman Foundation study meanwhile found one-third to half of all people shot by police had some sort of disability.

Nearly 8 million Americans suffer from a mental illness, USA Today reported. They also found people with a mental illness were significantly more likely to be killed by police.

People who have called for reform often suggest officers be required to get more mental health crisis training. In Minneapolis, Mayor Betsy Hodges requested money for a pilot program, in which officers would work with mental-health professionals.

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