11/14/2007

In post-shooting investigations, NYPD confirm slain teen claimed he had a gun

"[The] officers fired at someone they reasonably believed was about to use deadly physical force."

BY ROCCO PARASCANDOLA
Newsday
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 NY teen with hairbrush, thought to be a gun, fatally shot by police

BROOKLYN — A mentally ill Brooklyn teen shouted at police Monday that he had a gun before officers shot him, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly said Tuesday. Officers later found out Khiel Coppin was holding a hairbrush.


The window, left, at 590 Gates Ave. from which Khiel Coppin jumped toward police is photographed Tuesday. (AP Photo/Gary He)
"As we know the facts now, this shooting appears to be within department guidelines, as officers fired at someone they reasonably believed was about to use deadly physical force," Kelly said.

"This was a terrible tragedy for Khiel's family, no question about it," he said. "Our condolences go out to his mother and his family.

Kelly suggested that had events played out just a bit more slowly, Coppin, 18, might have been taken into custody by Emergency Services officers, who have more experience dealing with the mentally ill. They arrived at the scene only moments before the shooting.

"There is a procedure, but the individual acted too quickly to the resources in place to appropriately restrain him," Kelly said.

Police played the Monday night 911 call made by Coppin's mother, Denise Owens, during which Coppin is heard cursing and yelling that he has a gun.

Police also displayed four rambling handwritten notes they said were found on Coppin after his death. "Happyness is death," one note read.

"There's no credible evidence at this time to suggest that this was a suicide attempt," said the family's lawyer, Paul Wooten.

Emotions yesterday were raw as friends and neighbors gathered outside the Coppin family's Gates Avenue home in Bedford-Stuyvesant. "He didn't have to be killed," Reginald Owens, Coppin's stepfather, said Tuesday night.


Family members of the Khiel Coppin walk out to a news conference outside Kings County Hospital, Tuesday. (AP Photo/Gary He)
The window, left, at 590 Gates Ave. from which Khiel Coppin jumped toward police is photographed Tuesday. (AP Photo/Gary He)Earlier Monday, Coppin had accused his mother of stealing his public assistance money, police said, and she was frustrated by his refusal to get home before a curfew.

Kelly also said his mother wanted him out of the apartment because of his erratic behavior and refusal to take his antipsychotic and antidepressant medications

On Monday afternoon, Kelly said, Owens called a mental health crisis team at Interfaith Medical Center because her son "was talking about suicide."

The team went to the apartment, but Coppin had left. Interfaith said the team stayed more than an hour, consoled Owens, then left about 6:30 p.m.

After Coppin returned, Owens called 911 at 7:05 p.m. "Got no respect," she told the dispatcher, according to the transcript. "You know ... I can't deal with this tonight."

Throughout the 77-second call, Coppin could be heard in the background yelling, "I got a gun and I'm gonna shoot you" and " -- -- the police."

The first two police officers who arrived moved Owens and Coppin's sister, Jahna Owens, out of the apartment. Coppin had a butcher knife in each hand, told officers he also had a gun and lunged at them, urging them, "Shoot me. Kill me," police said.

The officers retreated, and Coppin moved to a rear bedroom.

"Come and get me," he said, according to Kelly. "I have a gun. Let's do this."

Moments later, apparently after dropping the knives, Coppin climbed out a first-floor window into a courtyard and ran to the front of the building. He moved toward officers, who took cover behind parked cars and a tree.

"Without hesitation, Khiel went in the officers' direction, ignoring the officers' directions to stop, show his hands and get down on the ground," Kelly said. "As he closed the distance between him and the officers, he reached under his sweatshirt, pulled out an object and pointed it in the officers' direction as if he was aiming a gun."

Two sergeants, two officers and a detective fired 20 shots, and Coppin, hit eight times, died at Woodhull Hospital.

The cops, each with more than 10 years on the job, tested negative for alcohol and were placed on desk duty pending an investigation by the Brooklyn district attorney's office.

Matthew Nestel and Pervaiz Shallwani contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2007, Newsday Inc.

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