Catasauqua, PA – The Catasauqua police officer who fatally shot an armed suspect after the man pointed a gun at him will not face criminal charges in connection with the incident, the Lehigh County District Attorney’s Office announced.
The family of the gunman, 27-year-old Ryan Shirey, has argued that he was “in a heightened paranoid state” and that police should not have used deadly force against him during the Feb. 19 incident, The Morning Call reported.
The fatal encounter occurred in the basement of 133 South 14th Street, after Catasauqua police received a call from Shirey’s ex-girlfriend, Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin said.
The ex-girlfriend is also the caretaker for Shirey’s mother, WFMZ reported.
The woman told the 911 operator that Shirey had assaulted her and locked her out of the residence, according to investigators.
Police responded to the scene and tried to convince the suspect to come outside, but he refused and retreated to the basement, Martin said.
Officers made entry and headed into the basement, where they located Shirey in a bedroom armed with a gun, WFMZ reported.
Police ordered the suspect to drop the weapon, but he wouldn’t comply, Martin said.
“I told you not to [expletive] with me,” Shirey said in the bodycam footage, according to the prosecutor.
He then pointed the gun at one of the officers.
“[Expletive], you think I’m kidding?” Shirey asked, just before police fired five rounds at him, killing him, WFMZ reported.
The shooting occurred approximately 36 seconds after the officers first made contact with the suspect, according to Martin.
Investigators later determined the gun Shirey pointed at the officer was unloaded, WFMZ reported.
“Of course, neither officer…would have been able to determine that prior to the shooting,” Martin noted. “There is nothing to suggest that [Shirey] knew the weapon was not loaded.”
It had belonged to the suspect’s grandfather, who served as a law enforcement officer and used the gun as his duty weapon, WFMZ reported.
Martin ultimately concluded police were justified in using deadly force against Shirey.
None of the officers involved will face criminal charges, he noted.
Shirey’s family denounced the officers’ use of force, and argued Shirey was “a victim of a system that failed him,” WFMZ reported.
They said the suspect had been dealing with mental health issues since childhood and that he was in need of mental health treatment, according to The Morning Call.
“In the blink of an eye we lost a son, a brother, an uncle, shot dead in his home at the hands of police,” the family told Lehigh Valley Live.
“Those of us who knew Ryan know he posed no mortal threat to anyone,” their statement to The Morning Call read. “The family and close friends find ourselves thinking of the countless ways this situation could have been de-escalated. What he needed was treatment, and what he received was a death sentence in a chaotic encounter with law enforcement.”
Family member Jeff Purdon told The Morning Call that Catasauqua police had been to the residence on many occasions in the past and should have known that their presence had the potential to trigger his mental health issues and paranoia.
“I feel like there was no compassion, no understanding [from police] going in,” Purdon added. “We have no idea what was running through his head. Nobody gets to know what his last thoughts were.”
He said Shirey was a “vulnerable member” of the community and that his family hopes the police department will use this case to find ways to better handle situations involving those struggling with mental health issues, The Morning Call reported.
Purdon noted the family is considering a lawsuit.