‘They didn’t have to kill Tyler’

THE mother of Tyler Cassidy, the teenager gunned down while menacing police with knives, rejected claims they had no alternative other than to shoot.
Nanjing Night Net

Speaking publicly for the first time since her 15-year-old son’s death on Thursday night she said: "He was only 5 foot 7 inches, [1.7 metres] he weighed only 58 kilograms and 10 bullets were fired at him.

"His life was taken from him unnecessarily and prematurely. His fate was not destined for the hands of police," Shani Cassidy said.

At a press conference at her Melbourne home, she said she warned police 30 minutes before the shooting that Tyler had left the house in a confused and distressed state.

"I had faith that the system would protect him from harm. That system failed him."

Yesterday, Tyler’s MySpace site was inundated with more than 400 condolence messages from family and friends, including members of the anti-immigration group, Southern Cross Soldiers.

His mother angrily denied accusations he was involved in the nationalist group.

"He was a 15-year-old school boy. His views were still developing. He attended a multicultural school and many of Tyler’s friends have come to my house in tears," Mrs Cassidy said.

Monash University criminologist and police expert Colleen Lewis urged Victoria Police to examine the strategies and techniques employed to defuse explosive situations.

Associate Professor Lewis said training programs needed to equip officers with the skills to undertake an initial risk assessment, followed by a planned response that included the "containment and cordon" of volatile incidents involving knives.

She said an official 2005 police report had noted a number of "disturbing similarities" and "recurring themes" surrounding the 42 fatal police shootings since 1987.

But Victoria Police Assistant Commissioner Tim Cartwright said the police had only seconds to respond on Thursday night.

"You have police who are backing off, a young man extremely agitated with two knives and three of them obviously saw the need to fire."

Melissa Kennedy, the wife of a Shepparton man shot dead by police in 2005, said her husband’s death, and that of Tyler, could have been averted if officers were equipped with stun guns.

She said the teenager would still be alive and "those poor police officers would not have to go through with the horrible thought that, ‘Oh no, I’ve killed somebody’ for the rest of their lives".

The stun guns, which deliver a 50,000-volt shock, have been linked with several deaths in the US.