- Associated Press - Thursday, May 19, 2016

PHOENIX (AP) - A police officer will not face criminal charges in the fatal shooting of man wielding a rod during a confrontation in a Mesa neighborhood, the county’s top prosecutor said Thursday.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery announced that his office determined Mesa police officer Dustin Gransee was justified in using lethal force on 47-year-old Ivan Krstic last December. Police video that showed Krstic disobeying commands and getting up after being Tasered as well as witness statements “puts together the picture for us to be able to conclude that the movements were an extreme threat after everything else that had happened,” Montgomery said.

“The decision to shoot was permissible under Arizona law,” he said.

Troy Hendrickson, an attorney representing Krstic’s family in a wrongful-death lawsuit against the city of Mesa, said the family was disappointed by Montgomery’s decision.

“I received the body cam video just yesterday. After I viewed that, I was quite sure they would be pressing charges,” Hendrickson said.

Police were dispatched to a gated community just before 10 p.m. on Dec. 3 after several 911 callers reported Krstic was banging a metal bar on the sidewalk and behaving erratically. Responding officers encountered Krstic holding a 3-foot-long steel rod. Police said he was shot after he refused to put the rod down and remained a threat. He was later pronounced dead at a hospital.

Video from the body camera worn by Gransee, which Montgomery played during a news conference, shows the moments leading up to the shooting. In the video, Gransee, an eight-year veteran of the department, has his gun raised and he and another officer can be heard commanding Krstic to “drop the metal bar” several times. A Taser is then deployed by the second officer and Krstic falls to the ground, dropping the rod.

As Krstic struggles to get up, the other officer yells that he has a knife. Krstic then starts to walk somewhat shakily while officers yell for him to “stay down” multiple times. Gransee then fires two shots. Krstic immediately falls to the ground.

“He’s clearly stumbling away from the officer when he’s shot,” Hendrickson said. “So, there’s no danger there.”

Montgomery said the fact that Krstic refused to comply, wasn’t fazed by a Taser and pulled out a knife before getting up supports police’s assessment that he was a threat. His office also factored in that one officer was aware of a prior police incident involving Krstic.

He was arrested in the neighborhood in 2012 after allegedly making threats, according to authorities. During a police standoff, Krstic said he had a rifle he would use if officers approached. A nearby elementary school was placed on lockdown for several hours while police negotiated with him. Krstic eventually surrendered and was arrested on suspicion of making threats, disorderly conduct and interfering with an education institution.

Krstic also had a history of mental health issues, Montgomery said. Toxicology tests show he had alcohol, amphetamines, anti-anxiety drugs and antidepressants in his system.

“In no way is our decision meant to be a comment about their loss or to diminish at all how much Mr. Krstic meant to his loved ones,” Montgomery said.

Hendrickson declined to comment on Krstic’s mental health history.

“I can tell you that (mental health issues) didn’t seem to play any role into what happened that night either way,” Hendrickson said. As for the toxicology tests, “I haven’t seen any of those reports so I can’t comment on that at this time.”

Family members filed a $10 million claim in January in Maricopa County Superior Court. A claim is a precursor to a lawsuit. According to court documents, the family says Krstic was checking for water leaks beneath the asphalt in his neighborhood and police reacted outrageously.

Hendrickson said they will now move forward with a lawsuit for a yet to be determined amount. They also plan to add Gransee and the other officer present to the suit.


Associated Press reporter Paul Davenport contributed to this report.

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