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Pennsylvania police officer cleared after fatally shooting mentally ill man with knife

Pennsylvania police officer cleared after fatally shooting mentally ill man with knife
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Authorities in Lancaster, Pa., cleared a police officer after video footage showed him shooting a man they say charged at him with a knife last month. 

Lancaster County District Attorney Heather Adams said in a press conference that there was “no question” the officer who shot Richard Munoz on Sept. 13 was justified. 

“Here, the officer’s belief that Munoz presented an imminent threat to his life and that deadly force is necessary is beyond reasonable as the officer was being chased by Munoz with a knife overhead,” Adams said. 

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One of Munoz’s sisters had called authorities to their mother’s home that day because her brother was being aggressive and “needs help,” according to audio of the 911 call that was played during the conference. 

The sister said he was schizophrenic and bipolar, that he had punched a car, and was trying to break into her house. To her knowledge, Munoz did not have weapons on him. 

Body camera footage released in September by the department indicated that Munoz emerged from his home and charged the unidentified officer with a knife. The footage shows the officer firing at Munoz several times. 

“In this scenario, there was a four-second interaction where the officer essentially runs for his life," Adams said. “So he retreats, confirms that the threat is still imminent, and he reacts by firing.”

Munoz’s family pushed back against Adams’s findings. Rulennis Munoz, another one of his sisters, told NBC News that the police should have reacted differently to her brother, who she said was diagnosed with schizophrenia and was in and out of hospitals.

“This wasn’t a criminal,” she told NBC News in an interview. “This was a mentally ill person.”

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Lancaster Mayor Danene Sorace (D) said in a statement Wednesday that the city is continuing its investigation about whether or not any police bureau policies were violated. She said the findings will be shared publicly when the investigation is complete. 

“We know the DA’s findings will not satisfy everyone in our community, yet the District Attorney was very clear,” Sorace said. “My hope is that we can work collectively to prevent a similar tragedy from occurring again.” 

Protests erupted overnight after authorities released the footage of Munoz’s death. More than 100 demonstrators took to the streets that evening, forming a crowd outside of the Lancaster police station. Police later deployed tear gas on a crowd of protesters, saying demonstrators had damaged buildings and government vehicles and thrown bottles.