CRYSTAL, Minn. (KMSP) – No criminal charges will be filed against the four Crystal, Minnesota police officers involved in the shooting of mentally ill teenager Khaleel Thompson at the Bassett Creek Park frisbee golf course last May. Thompson was shot once in the head, once in the right side and once in the back on the morning of May 24. He survived the shooting and was released from the hospital July 5.
Prosecutors concluded the use of deadly force against Thompson was justified because he put both of his hands on his airsoft BB gun and aimed it directly at a police officer. Investigators said Thompson has a history of mental illness and this was at least his fifth documented incident of attempted suicide-by-police.
“This was a justified use of deadly force by the officers,” said a statement from Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.“The officers not only pleaded with Mr. Thompson to drop his weapon, but used a non-lethal bean bag rifle first, in an effort to get him to drop the gun. All those measures failed 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.”
In his report, Freeman added “ it was clear that the use of deadly force against Thompson was necessary to prevent harm or death to the officers or any bystander in the area.”
THE SHOOTING: According to the investigation conducted by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, Thompson returned from treatment in California on May 22 and was staying with a friend in Golden Valley. On May 23, Golden Valley police were called to the house because his friends reported Thompson was talking about suicide. Thompson assured police he was fine and they left. Thompson was asked to leave the house and when he left the morning of May 24, an airsoft BB gun was also missing from the house.
About 30 minutes later, just before 9 a.m., Crystal police were called to a report of a man with a handgun at 29th Place and Brunswick Avenue North. While responding, the location was updated to specify the Frisbee golf course at Bassett Creek Park.
Crystal Police Officer Bryan Elfstrom was the first officer on the scene. He drove his squad car onto the grass and encountered Thompson, who was walking back and forth on a hill and holding the BB gun. Officer Elfstrom told Thompson to drop the gun, and pulled out his 9mm handgun. Thompson was about 100 feet away and reportedly said “Not today,” or “I can’t today.”
Crystal Police Officers Mason Barland, Txheng Vang arrived and Kathleen Gomez arrived as backup. At that time, Thompson was smoking a cigarette and holding the gun in his left hand, sometimes pointing it in the direction of the officers. Officer Barland fired two bean bags at Thompson, bringing Thompson to his knees.
Officer Gomez grabbed her rifle and yelled at Thompson to stop, shouting, “What are you doing?” and “What are you thinking?” When Thompson stood up, he aimed his BB gun toward Officer Barland. Officer Elfstrom immediately fired at least a dozen shots and all of the officers fired at least one shot and most fired repeatedly, bringing Thompson down.
After the shooting, Minnesota State Trooper Sara Evans grabbed the BB gun from underneath Thompson and moved it 10 feet away. She also noticed a knife and moved it with her foot over by the gun.
Police recovered a cell phone from the hill, which showed a six-minute 911 call to police beginning at 8:53 a.m. When the call was played for friends, they identified the voice as being Khaleel Thompson. Investigators also recovered a bottle of Chic Merlot red nail polish near Thompson, which had been used to cover the orange tip of the BB gun.
HISTORY OF MENTAL ILLNESS: According to the BCA, Khaleel Thompson had a history of depression and paranoid schizophrenia. In October 2015, St. Louis Park police were called when Thompson was in the street with an axe, telling officers that people were going to die. Thompson was taken to the hospital and officer later learned Thompson was hoping to be shot and killed by police. In June and November 2016, police responded to two more incidents in which Thompson was attempting “death by police,” according to doctors.
In January, St. Louis Park police encountered Thompson outside a house, armed with a knife and threatening suicide. At the hospital, Thompson told doctors he was angry the police would not shoot him and said that next time, “maybe I’ll just get a gun.”