Police in Crystal, MN shoot man with airsoft gun

On Wednesday, Crystal, Minnesota police shot a man in a park who refused to drop a gun. Today it emerged that the shooting involved an 18 year old man, Kahleel Thompson, with an airsoft replica gun. Social media is ablaze with cries of injustice, and how the cops should have known better, etc. Before we address some of the realities of this type of situation, lets take a quick look at the facts as reported as of the time of this writing.

According to the initial reports by the police the subject refused to drop his gun, they warned him and then fired. Today the BCA announced that the subject pointed his gun at officers, one officer fired less lethal rounds and the other three fired live rounds. The mother of the subject reported her son has a history of mental illness, and that Crystal police had been called to check on him numerous times. Story here.
Police fired dozens of rounds at Thompson, reportedly “eventually” per the BCA, indicating that the officers attempted to allow the less lethal rounds have effect before firing. There is squad video of the shooting but it will not be released for some time. The Crystal police chief noted that the officers immediately provided first aid. Story here.

3 friends of Thompson called police Tuesday night around 10pm, saying he had been recently diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and had attempted suicide months earlier. According to the friends the police spent about two minutes checking on him and then left. He is also reported as having been pulled from school recently, been hospitalized more than 10 times for mental illness, and had attempted suicide many times including an incident in St. Louis Park that required a negotiator. Story here. 

So what we have here is a tragedy that involves a number of factors that could have prevented it. This is not a social blog, so I will just briefly touch upon the complete disaster that the mental health system is in Minnesota, the questions of why this young man did not have better help or supervision, and why after such serious incidents he was wandering around with a realistic looking replica firearm.

The realities that are not well known are what is the root of the matter. When law enforcement, private security or armed citizens are faced with a deadly threat, there are rarely seconds to react. It can quite literally be a split second decision with the average gunfight being just a few seconds from start to finish. The decision to fire or not is just a small part of that. Then we get to the realism of replica firearms. My firm, Pistolcraft, trains civilians, military, law enforcement etc. utilizing replica firearms that are designed specifically for force on force training as the only way to properly practice these skills is in as realistic a setting as possible. Yet it would be accurate to say that they are toy airsoft guns that shoot plastic BBs.

Save the orange tips, which can easily be altered or removed, there is almost no chance these guns could be distinguished by most quickly, they are all metal, weigh the same as the real thing, and are machined to be exact replicas. So cries of “it was just a toy” have no basis in reality until evidence is released and we see the gun that was being held by Mr. Thompson.

Law enforcement and other trainers have cautioned for years about real guns being painted to look like toys, and there have also been real guns concealed in nerf guns and super soakers. So even if a person points what externally appears to be a bright plastic gun there is still no guarantee that it shoots water. I won’t even delve off down the dirt road that other harmful substances can be used in squirt guns.

Then there are the claims by the mother that the Crystal police should have known who the subject was, that he was mentally ill, and not fired. Even if they knew his identity – and there has been NO mention of that being the case – would it be reasonable to expect the officers to react differently to someone who is known to be suicidal and has forced the use of a negotiator who is holding what may well have been indistinguishable from a real firearm? Suicide by cop is a real phenomenon and, in this case Thompson’s friends stated to police that they believed that was his motivation on Wednesday.

In the end, until we see the video, we at Pistolcraft cannot form an opinion to the justifiability of this shooting. All we can do is recognize the horrible events for what they are. A troubled young man has been shot including in the brain and the spinal cord and his life, at best, will be dramatically changed. Four officers have to learn to live with what happened that day. It is no small thing to learn to live with taking or nearly taking a life. The families of all involved have had their lives altered. And the hysteria from the SJW crowd is not helping any of them. Should we be vigilant? Of course. Should we ensure that justice prevails? Every time. But allowing hysteria and misinformation to rule is doing everyone involved an injustice that will, if allowed to become the norm, have grave consequences for our society.

-The staff at Pistolcraft.

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