By Rick McCrabb
HAMILTON, Ohio — One teen is dead, a veteran police officer is home with his family, and a lot of questions surround the 18-year-old who fired an AK-47 Saturday morning in a quiet neighborhood.
Brandon Keeler, 18, of the 1100 block of Southern Hills Boulevard, shot a rifle at a Hamilton police officer, Chad Stafford, shortly after 7 a.m. Saturday in the 1100 block of Sipple Avenue.
Keeler had fired several shots into the air, and numerous residents called 911. Stafford was the first officer to respond, and according to police, Keeler fired several shots at the officer, striking him in the head.
Stafford, a firearms instructor and 16-year veteran of the Hamilton Police Department, returned at least two shots from his service weapon, killing Keeler.
On Sunday, the place were Keeler was killed and where he lived — separated by less than four miles — were both quiet, as residents remained indoors. Jason Faucett, who said he was Keeler's stepfather, answered the phone at the house and said the family had no comment.
When asked if Keeler was a student at Hamilton High School, Faucett said no. Keeler had no adult record, according to police, but did have two juvenile incidents. Police have not released a possible motive for the shooting. No one seems to know why Keeler was in the neighborhood and why he was firing a weapon at 7 o'clock in the morning.
Hamilton police Chief Scott Scrimizzi described Keeler as a young man "who obviously had some issues."
Several neighbors along Southern Hills Boulevard said they rarely saw or spoke to Keeler. Some said they didn't know his name until after they heard about the shooting.
"He was very quiet," one neighbor said.
When asked where Keeler could have obtained an AK-47, another neighbor said: "No idea. That's not something you just have stored in the closet."
Police said Keeler also was armed with a handgun.
All the neighbors agreed it was a tragedy that an 18-year-old's life was cut short. Still, they said they were relieved the officer's injuries were minor. After the shooting, Stafford, 44, was flown to University Hospital in Cincinnati. He was released later Saturday to his wife and two children, Scrimizzi said. The bullet that struck Stafford only grazed the top of his head, the chief said.
James Stewart, 90, of the 1100 block of Sipple Avenue, said on Sunday that he witnessed plenty of death during the World War II battles he fought as a member of the First Armored Division. He just never figured to see it on his sidewalk.
On Saturday morning — he can't remember the exact time — Stewart said he was awakened by a loud knock at his side door.
When he answered the door, no one was there. A little time later, he walked outside to pick up his Journal-News, and that's when he saw Keeler's body lying across the sidewalk. Police picked up Stewart's newspaper and handed it to him.
Stewart said growing up in the country, he often "entertained" himself by shooting a pistol into the air. He has no idea what would have caused Keeler to fire his weapon into the air, then shoot several times at the officer. Based on Keeler's actions, the officer had no other choice but to fire back, Stewart said.
"He done crossed the line," he said of Keeler.
An autopsy is scheduled for today at the Butler County Coroner's Office, said Clint Nigg, county coroner's investigator.
This was the second officer-involved shooting in Butler County in less than a month. Fairfield Police Officer Scott Conklin on Jan. 18 shot and killed 23-year-old Caleb Surface after responding to a report of domestic violence. The last officer-involved shooting in Hamilton was April 25, 2010.
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