Thursday, June 04, 2009

Ruling clears officer in death with airsoft gun

The Allen County prosecutor has determined a Fort Wayne police officer was justified in shooting and killing a suspect from an Avilla bank robbery in January who was using an airsoft gun.

Police believed Anthony Taylor, 37, of Bluffton was armed with a handgun and walking near businesses with people inside when officer Peter Mooney opened fire about 7:20 p.m. Jan. 14, Prosecutor Karen Richards said.

Taylor had gotten out of the taxi he was riding in after police pulled it over in the parking lot of Marathon Stop ‘N’ Go, 4233 N. Clinton St.

He ignored officers’ commands and was walking behind Aspen Dental, 720 Coliseum Blvd. E., and the adjacent Centennial Wireless store.

When Taylor turned toward police with what looked like a pistol in his hand, Mooney fired three shots from his 9 mm service pistol, striking Taylor once. Taylor died from his injuries at Parkview Hospital, police said.

When investigators examined Taylor’s weapon, they realized it was not a firearm but a realistic-looking Airsoft gun of a popular semiautomatic pistol.

But because Mooney believed the replica airsoft gun was a deadly weapon, he was acting to defend himself and his fellow officers, Richards said. The Airsoft pistol shoots small plastic projectiles at low velocities.

“From everyone’s vantage point, it was a real weapon,” she said.

As a result, no charges will be filed against Mooney, the prosecutor’s office said Wednesday.

Taylor served eight years in prison for the 1996 robbery of the Huggy Bear Quick Stop in Warren. During a police pursuit after that robbery, Taylor shot at a Markle deputy marshal.

That information was broadcast to police as they tracked Taylor in Fort Wayne in January.

Authorities believe Taylor robbed a bank in Avilla earlier in the day and carjacked a woman in the bank’s parking lot.

He then dumped the stolen van in LaOtto and forced his sister to drive him to Fort Wayne, where police eventually caught up with him, authorities said.

In March, prosecutors ruled that a police sniper’s fatal shooting of 59-year-old Stephen Thompson on Jan. 7 was justified.

Thompson walked outside of his Kenwood Avenue house with a shotgun and pointed it in the direction of officers after he threatened to harm police, kill himself and blow up the neighborhood, according to authorities.

Last month, an officer shot and wounded 22-year-old Carleon M. Ragsdale, who was armed with a loaded handgun and fleeing police, authorities said.

The prosecutor’s office has not received that case from police investigators, prosecutor’s spokeswoman Robyn Niedzwiecki said.

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