Hanlon not a threat, says sister

The sister of an Irishman shot dead by a US police officer insisted her brother had not posed a threat, despite a grand jury ruling backing the officer.

Melanie Heise, who lives in Silverton, Oregon, said her 20-year-old brother, Andrew Hanlon, may have been suffering from mental illness but had no history of violence and had never used a weapon in his life.

"I acknowledge my brother was disturbed and perhaps even agitated on that night," Mrs Heise said last night at a news conference at her lawyer's office.

"What does not make sense to me is over and over again in Oregon and elsewhere that a confrontation between law enforcement and a person with mental illness ends up with the mentally ill person dead."

A Marion County grand jury in Salem said on Thursday that Officer Tony Gonzalez was justified in shooting Mr Hanlon in Silverton on June 30.

Donald Abar, the deputy district attorney handling the case, said there was an eyewitness to the shooting and the grand jury heard extensive testimony.

"My heart does go out to the family. It was a tragic loss for them," Mr Abar said.

"They might not like the legal principles on justifying lethal force, but all the facts were presented and the legal principles were applied."

Mrs Heise's husband Nathan compared Mr Hanlon, who weighed nearly 9st, to Officer Gonzalez, a former US Marine who weighed about 17st.

Unless there was a complete breakdown in police communications, "the officer would have been aware he was dealing with an unarmed person in a confused mental state", Mr Heise said.

"Was he not trained in how to respond in that situation?"

Mr Abar said he could not comment on police training or standards.

The lawyer for the family, Steve Crew, said his firm would investigate and decide whether a wrongful death lawsuit was appropriate.

The Marion County district attorney's office has been in touch with the Irish consul over the case, Mr Abar said.

Post-mortem examinations were done in both Oregon and in Ireland, but the results had not been released. Mr Hanlon's family was making funeral arrangements in Ireland.

Silverton is a small town 45 miles south of Portland. Mr Hanlon came to the US from Ireland last summer and remained illegally after his visa expired.

Investigators had released little information about the Irishman's death before Thursday. They said it began when a woman, Shannon Kelley heard someone pounding on her front door late at night and saw a man, later identified as Mr Hanlon, acting strangely.

Ms Kelley asked him to leave but Mr Hanlon demanded to enter. Ms Kelley said Mr Hanlon had said he had a sword and yelled such phrases as: "Thou shalt let met in!".

Ms Kelley, who phoned police, said Mr Hanlon at one point screamed that he was the "angel of death". She said she and her parents visiting from Montana had to put their bodies against the door to stop him from breaking it down.

Mr Hanlon then apparently gave up and ran towards a main street, where he was met by Officer Gonzalez responding to the call.

The officer told investigators he heard the sound of shattering glass and thought Mr Hanlon might be brandishing a broken bottle, although investigators believe he had probably bumped into a recycling bin.

Officer Gonzalez said he ordered Mr Hanlon to show his hands and get down on the ground, and he appeared ready to comply before he suddenly leaped at the officer, kicking and screaming.

The policeman said he moved back but could never get more than 5ft away. He then started firing.

A witness driving by backed the officer's story.

Meanwhile, Gonzalez, 35, is in jail on an unrelated matter. A woman and her daughter have accused the officer of sexually abusing the girl several times, including at least once after the Hanlon shooting.

Irish Examiner live news app for smartphones lets you quickly access breaking news, sport, business, entertainment and weather. appstoregoogle play
Irish Examiner ePaper app gives you the entire newspaper delivered to your phone or tablet for as little as 55c a day. epaper
Home

More From The Irish Examiner