Inside the fatal officer-involved shooting in Richfield - New York News

Inside the fatal officer-involved shooting in Richfield

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RICHFIELD, Minn. (KMSP) -

After nearly a year, FOX 9 News has learned for the first time what happened inside a Richfield home that led officers to shoot and kill a man who was mentally ill.

For months upon months, police would not say a word about what transpired. Earlier this summer, a grand jury cleared the officers involved, but the family's attorney says that does not mean the case is closed.

FOX 9's Leah Beno was the first reporter to get a glimpse inside the investigation file, and just like any officer-involved probe, the details are complicated.

When it comes to police, it's well-known that people are quick to take sides -- but even the family members at the center of the case aren't sure whose side they are on yet.

"Figuring out what the truth is in these things is very difficult," Bob Bennett, the attorney who represents the dead man's family, conceded.

Bennett has been working through binders full of police reports and autopsy information to try and understand what caused Richfield police officers to shoot and kill 25-year-old Jeffrey O'Connor in October.

"Jeff had lived with an aunt who he had a very good relationship with. He had not hurt her before he was killed -- certainly have to question what was the need to so quickly go in there without any sort of discussion or plan of what to do in certain events," Bennett said.

According to the police interviews with O'Connor's aunt, he had psychiatric issues, Asperger's syndrome, anxiety and depression. He had been hospitalized a few years ago and had recently gone off his medication.

The day he died, O'Connor grabbed a butcher knife and though his aunt tried to talk him into putting it down, he refused. His mother came to the door to look for him and also tried to get him to let go of the blade, but to no avail.

That's when police were called and three officers entered the home. Sgt. Mark Shelley, a 23-year of the veteran of the department, said in his interview that two of the officers each used a Taser on O'Connor; however, both said he immediately got back up in a threatening manner and thrashed the knife at one of the officers.

It was then that Shelley fired two shots, killing O'Connor inside the home. By mid-July, all three had been cleared of any wrongdoing -- but the family remains unconvinced.

"There are some very and glaring inconsistencies about critical facts and critical moments -- just before and at the time of the shooting," Bennett explained. "There are more unanswered questions than answered questions."

At this point, Bennett says it's still premature in his investigation to know if the shooting was warranted or if the family should file a civil suit, but it's clear the family still feels there are too many questions.

At the end of the interview with O'Connor's aunt, she said, "He's clearly disturbed, but I don't know why anyone would have to shoot him."

"Having a child killed is a horrible thing for anyone. Having it done in a traumatic situation that is basically kept under wraps for 11 months is even harder," Bennett told FOX 9 News.

FOX 9 News asked the Richfield police chief to talk about the case once more now that he has opened the reports, but he continues to say this is not the time.

The three officers involved were placed on a week of paid leave after the shooting, and they have been back on the job since.

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