Family of ax-wielding UNT student calls his officer-involved death "senseless"

- The family of a University of North Texas student who was killed by a campus police officer says there is new evidence suggesting the officer’s actions were not justified.

An attorney for Ryan McMillan’s family said four eyewitnesses have come forward. All four said they do not believe the 21-year-old college student threatened the officer.

Campus police caught McMillan smashing car windows with an ax in December. Surveillance video shows Officer Stephen Bean confront him and then eventually fatally shoot him.

In the video, McMillan can be heard saying what sounds like “Shoot me!” several times. He and the officer move out of the view of the front-facing dashcam, but additional camera angles on the patrol car capture what happened next.

McMillan steps forward as Bean steps back, repeatedly saying, “Back away!” Bean shouts it a sixth time and then three gun shots are heard.

Immediately after, Bean is heard saying, “I've got a white man down with a hatchet in his hand, Fry and Oak,” and he communicates with dispatch.

But Attorney Renee Higginbotham-Brooks argues McMillan’s death was senseless.

She said he was intoxicated on his 21st birthday, which is normal for college students. In his extreme intoxication, he committed vandalism. But there were other forms of non-lethal force that should have been used.

According to Higginbotham-Brooks, the witnesses said McMillan was shot while his hands were down by his sides. He was carrying a Boy Scout hatchet, but was not threatening the officer, she said.  

She called it a “gross over-reaction” by a UNT police officer.

Dexter Simpson, a criminologist hired by the McMillan family, suggests Officer Bean lost control of the situation and instead of using something non-lethal like a Taser or pepper spray reached for his gun.

“We believe it is high time the university President gets control of his police department,” Simpson said.

The case is expected to go before a grand jury this month. McMillan’s family believes it is moving too fast for true justice.

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