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Family of Irishman shot by US police must wait six weeks for autopsy results

Andrew Hanlon was gunned down by US police
Andrew Hanlon was gunned down by US police

The family of Andrew Hanlon, the young Irishman who was shot dead by a police officer in the United States, may have to wait six weeks to see the results of his autopsy -- three weeks after a closed grand jury police investigation takes place.

Mr Hanlon's sister, Melanie Heise, brother-in-law Nathan Heise and father John were finally allowed to see Andrew's body on Thursday.

The 20-year-old, originally from Sandyford, Dublin, was shot dead on Monday night in the town of Silverton, Oregon, by Officer Tony Gonzalez, who was responding to a reported robbery in progress.

Melanie, who has questioned why officers did not use tasers instead of guns, said yesterday that she counted seven bullet holes in her brother's body. She said Andrew, who in recent months had begun to experience slight psychological problems, had two bullet holes in his arm, three in his abdomen, one in his thigh and one between his shoulder blades.

However, she said she believed he was shot five times and that two bullets inflicted both entry and exit wounds.

Despite that, she said seeing her brother was "beautiful".

"It was hard but he was beautiful," Melanie said from her home in Silverton. "You looked at him and you think that he's going to open his eyes.

"They wouldn't even give us the autopsy. The medical examiner said I was only the sister and I didn't have to be given anything."

She said that when it was pointed out that Andrew's father was also present, the medical examiner still refused to hand over the post-mortem results.

"We have to wait six weeks to get them, unless the detective in charge decides to give them to us before then."

Andrew's friend Jessica Blade, who along with 100 others held a protest outside Silverton police station on Wednesday, said police in the town knew about Andrew's mental difficulties and should have known how to handle him.

"They knew he was paranoid, they knew he could be delusional," she said. "They 100pc knew."

She also said that most people in the small town, which has a population of just over 7,000, knew that AJ, as he was known to his American pals, had slight mental problems and would sometimes ask people if they were looking at him.

On the occasion of one such incident, according to Jessica, the police told Andrew to calm down. "I don't know the exact circumstances but I do know he had an interaction with the police.

"I know he didn't get arrested but the police came and calmed it down. From then on, they all knew."

Ms Blade and other friends paid emotional visits to see Andrew's body yesterday.

But Mrs Heise said that the exact circumstances surrounding Andrew's death were unclear and maintained that most stories were "hearsay" -- and said that someone had made a spoken-word CD which claimed to know the exact circumstances of Andrew's death.

She also said that she had not been told anything by the police and had to rely on news reports.

The family are being assisted by the Department of Foreign Affairs, and the consul general from San Francisco is having discussions with the Marion County District Attorney, Walt Beglau.

Mr Beglau had said that he was willing to meet with Hanlon's family to explain the investigative process.

However, the result of the investigation involving 35-year-old police officer Tony Gonzalez will not be revealed for an estimated three weeks.

And it is understood that the hearings involving Mr Gonzalez, which are being carried out by other police from a nearby town, will not be open to the public or Mr Hanlon's family.

"As an attorney said to us the other day: 'It's a fraternity'," Mrs Heise said.

Andrew's mother, Dorothea, is understood to be making preparations to travel to the United States, although the family anticipate a wait of at 10 days before Andrew's body is brought back to Ireland.

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