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No charges against deputies who shot Chanhassen teen

KARE-TV Minneapolis-St. Paul logo KARE-TV Minneapolis-St. Paul 10/11/2018 Dana Thiede
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CHASKA, Minn. - No criminal charges will be filed against two Carver County Deputies that fatally shot a Chanhassen teen in July as he struggled with mental health issues.

Carver County Attorney Mark Metz made the announcement Thursday afternoon, just hours after meeting with the father of 16-year-old Archer Amorosi and his attorney. The decision was based on an investigation conducted by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA).

In an interview, Metz called the case "heartbreaking" but said officers had no other choice to fire their weapons.

"You don't want somebody's life to be taken," Metz said. "But the officers weren't left with any other alternative in the moment."

Prosecutors reviewed reports, witness statements, autopsy and toxicological findings, squad car videos and a single bodycam video that captured the fatal shooting. The Carver County Attorney's Office also hired an independent use-of-force expert to render an opinion on whether Carver County Corporal Jacob Hodge and Carver County deputy Travis Larson shot Archer Amorosi in self-defense.

Key to the findings were statements from Deputy Larson, who described Archer Amorosi pointing what appeared to be a black handgun at him. When Larson told the young suspect the gun was fake, he recalls Amorosi saying "You don't want to know if this f****** gun is real or not, you don't want to find out. You know, shoot me, shoot me, I'm gonna kill you."

Larson told BCA investigators that Amorosi then ran directly at Corporal Hodge, yelling "I'm gonna kill you."

Hodge told investigators that Amorosi "gave out a war scream... he was coming straight at me with that hatchet and that gun... went out in a full out, fastest sprint as I could run... this guy's going to kill me."

At that moment both officers fired their weapons.

"It is compelling that both Corporal Hodge and Deputy Larson fired virtually simultaneously at Archer Amorosi once he charged Corporal Hodge. Both officers independently reached the same conclusion at the same time - that Archer Amorosi posed an immediate threat to the death of Corporal Hodge," the decision reads. "Once Corporal Hodge was placed in a life-threatening position, he and Deputy Larson used reasonable force to stop the threat. Their actions are reasonable under law and there is no legal basis to charge either with a crime."

Archer Amorosi was fatally shot July 13 by officers responding to his mother's Chanhassen home on reports the teen was suicidal and threatening his mother with a baseball bat. Amorosi's father told KARE 11 on the scene that Archer had been struggling with mental health issues. After calling a crisis hotline and police on Thursday, Don Amorosi said his ex-wife called authorities again on Friday morning.

"My ex-wife called them because they said if they came back they would take him in for an evaluation. They said wouldn't ask questions," the father stated. "Instead, they killed him."

Investigators from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) say once deputies arrived, they tried firing pepper spray and a Taser into the house to subdue Archer Amorosi, but they were unsuccessful. Witnesses say the teen then ran out the front door holding a hatchet and what appeared to be a handgun.

BCA investigators say deputies continued to use verbal commands and again deployed a Taser, but it was ineffective. Carver County Corporal Jacob Hodge and Carver County deputy Travis Larson then shot the teen.

"They tried other non-lethal techniques," Metz said. "They tried to de-escalate the situation."

Amorosi died at the scene, and investigators recovered a hatchet and a handgun-style BB-gun near his body.

RELATED: Father of Chanhassen teen shot by police fights for mental health care

In the weeks since his son's death Don Amorosi publicly lobbied for increased awareness of mental health issues, He appeared before the Chanhassen City Council issuing a passionate plea for more resources to deal with mental health issues. He is also working to erase what he calls gaps in the county system, pointing to the fact that deputies were called to the home the day before the shooting, but did not take Archer to the hospital because he wasn't threatening himself or others.

“If Archer had been taken to the hospital that day or if a mobile crisis team had come to your home, do you think this could have all turned out differently?” KARE 11 asked.

“I am certain of it. I am certain of it,” Amorosi replied.

In Thursday afternoon's interview, Metz said protocols for approaching people with mental health issues are an "important" conversation to have. However, he said when officers were called to Amorosi's home the day before about a mental health emergency, deputies reported that Amorosi denied wanting to harm himself or others.

It was not enough to trigger a mandatory 72-hour mental health evaluation, according to the investigation.

In the end, Metz said he could only base his decision on the specific facts of the shooting, as well as the threat that he believed officers faced.

"This is a horribly tragic incident," Metz said.

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