New Evidence, Testimony in Fatal Shooting of Hatchet-Wielding UNT Student: Attorney

Ryan McMillan, 21, was shot and killed by police just north of the UNT campus, Dec. 13, 2015.

An attorney for the family of a 21-year-old University of North Texas student fatally shot by a campus police officer in December says she has evidence proving the shooting was not justified and is worried the case is being pushed through the system without a full and fair investigation.

Ryan McMillan was killed at the intersection of West Oak and Fry streets, just north of the UNT campus, Dec. 13, 2015. Dashcam video released by the university showed McMillan, while holding a hatchet in his right hand, advance on UNT Police Cpl. Stephen Bean while repeatedly saying "shoot me."

McMillan continued advancing despite Bean's orders to "back away." Bean then shot and killed McMillan, police said.

Prior to the shooting, McMillan was suspected of using the hatchet to smash the windows of several parked vehicles in the area, according to police.

Renee Higginbotham-Brooks, the attorney for McMillan's parents, released a statement saying, "police have failed to review all the evidence in the case" before an upcoming grand jury hearing into the shooting.

During a news conference in Denton Tuesday morning, Higginbotham-Brooks and Dexter Simpson, a criminologist and former police officer, addressed the media, saying they had several witnesses to the shooting who said the officer overreacted and had not been threatened by McMillan.

According to Higginbotham-Brooks, witnesses said McMillan was killed while he had his hands to his side, with his wrists up, while holding a Boy Scout hatchet in a non-threatening manner.

Higginbotham-Brooks said the officer should have used non-lethal means to detain McMillan, whom she added was acting like a typical, reckless college student out celebrating his 21st birthday.

"There are things that are ordinary. Ryan McMillan did what an ordinary college student would do — all college students do. He became intoxicated on his 21st birthday. In his extreme intoxication, he committed vandalism," Higginbotham-Brooks explained. "Vandalism is normal behavior throughout this country on college campuses. What is not normal is for an agent of a university to immediately use deadly force against a student when there are other non-lethal forms of force that should have been used."

"No Tasers, chemical sprays or tolerance were afforded this young man," said Simpson, who also spoke repeatedly about the Use of Force Continuum, a policy that guides a police officer's acceptable use of force.

Higginbotham-Brooks said her team has talked with "four key eyewitnesses who witnessed Ryan McMillan’s killing, and all four witnesses do not believe Ryan McMillan threatened UNT Police Cpl. Stephen Bean before he was killed."

"The four witnesses further believe that Officer Stephen Bean had ample time to use non-lethal force and that he overreacted," she said in a press release.

Simpson said during Tuesday's news conference that the police department has not commented on what kind of non-lethal weaponry Bean may have had at his disposal.

Higginbotham-Brooks said neither she nor the family have been granted access to McMillan's autopsy, saying officials refused to release it citing the ongoing investigation. Toxicology reports can take up to 60 days from the date of autopsy to receive.

The Texas Rangers are investigating the shooting.

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