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Family of Irishman shot dead by US police vow to fight on

The family of a young Irishman shot dead by a police officer in the US have vowed to continue their fight for answers, despite a grand jury finding that the use of deadly physical force was lawful.

Andrew Hanlon's sister, Melanie Heise, said they were "disappointed" by the finding but that the case is "definitely not over".

The family could take a wrongful death suit against the police force, however, as yet, no decision has been made.

Relatives told a press conference in Silverton, Oregon, in the US, that they have been left with "even more questions than answers" and raised concerns about how police officers treat people who are mentally ill.

Mr Hanlon (20) was shot five times by Tony Gonzalez, who was responding to a 911 call about an attempted burglary.

Despite Mr Hanlon being unarmed, the grand jury decided that the shooting was legally justified.

Ms Heise said yesterday: "I acknowledge that my dead brother was disturbed, and perhaps even agitated, on that night. What does not make sense to me is how it is, over and over again, in Oregon and elsewhere, that a confrontation between law enforcement and a person with a mental illness ends up with the mentally ill person dead, law enforcement 'justified' and nothing changed?"

She said she will not continue "to press to understand what happened".

Ms Heise's husband, Nathan, asked why Mr Gonzalez, "a 240-pound expert martial artist and cage-fighter", didn't feel he could disable a "120-pound kid", and why the police officer had drawn his gun instead of a taser.

"There are things about the justification of officer Gonzalez's shooting that simply do not add up to me. Now that we have the stated justification for this shooting, I have even more questions than answers."

He said that, unless there was a "complete breakdown of communications" between the police officers and the 911 dispatcher, Mr Gonzalez would have been aware that he was dealing with an unarmed person in a confused state.

Meanwhile, Mr Hanlon's aunt, Mel Castelo, added that she was not surprised by the grand jury's decision, as it was a "law enforcement investigation of law enforcement".

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph