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Last Updated: Wednesday, 14 November 2007, 08:04 GMT
US police defend brush shooting
Khiel Coppin
Police officers fired a total of 20 bullets at the 18-year-old
New York police have said they acted within guidelines when they shot dead a mentally ill teenager brandishing what turned out to be a hairbrush.

Police arrived outside Khiel Coppin's apartment on Monday night after receiving a call from his mother, who believed he wanted to commit suicide.

Officers mistook the 18-year-old's brush for a gun and shot him 20 times, police chief Ray Kelly said.

Mr Kelly said officers had reasonably believed they were under threat.

'Tremendous tragedy'

Speaking at a news conference, Mr Kelly said police received a call from Mr Coppin's mother at about 1700 local time (2200 GMT) on Tuesday.

He said that in the background of the emergency call Mr Coppin can be heard saying: "I got a gun and I'm gonna shoot you."

A candlelight vigil for Khiel Coppin
Brooklyn residents held a candlelit vigil for Mr Coppin

Once the officers were at the scene, the teenager began shouting from the first floor window at his mother and the police, before emerging and approaching the police brandishing two knives and appearing to hide an object under his shirt, Mr Kelly said.

As he got nearer to the police, he said: "Come get me. I have a gun. Let's do this."

"As we know the facts now, this shooting appears to be within department guidelines as officers fired at someone they reasonably believed to be about to use deadly force against them," Mr Kelly said.

A lawyer for the Coppin family, Paul Wooten, said they were disappointed that the police had "decided to rush to judgment somehow within 24 hours of this tremendous tragedy", the Reuters news agency reported.

A candlelit vigil was later held in Brooklyn to protest against the police officers' actions.

The incident follows a number of controversial shootings of unarmed men by the New York Police Department in recent years.

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