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US: Seattle police fatally shoot armed history buff

03 Jan 2009 2:46 PM

SEATTLE, Jan 2 AP - A college student who was fatally shot by Seattle police while wearing a vintage German military uniform on New Year's Day was a harmless, eccentric history buff, his family and friends say.

Miles Murphy, a University of Washington senior, was shot several times at his apartment early on Thursday after police said he pointed a rifle affixed with a bayonet at officers and refused orders to drop the weapon.

Seattle police had converged on Murphy's apartment after receiving complaints that several men were firing rifle and shotgun rounds into the air.

Murphy emerged from inside and pointed what was later identified as a World War II Kar 98 German infantry rifle at the officers, police said.

When he refused several orders to drop the weapon, two officers fired seven shots, police Officer Jeff Kappel said. Murphy was taken to a hospital, where he died.

A witness told some officers at the scene that Murphy had been firing blanks that night.

Police searching the house found alcohol, live ammunition and a large collection of German, Russian and Nazi memorabilia including photographs and uniforms, Sergeant Sean Whitcomb said.

But Murphy "wasn't a Nazi," Hattie Taylor, a friend, told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

"He was just fascinated with the past ... He liked to dress up and have fun."

Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske called the situation "truly sad" but stood by the officers' actions. "Right now, I don't see any other choice that they had," he said.

The two officers who fired at Murphy were placed on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure.

Murphy, 22, was a senior Germanics major, university President Mark Emmert said in a statement on Friday mourning his loss.

Murphy wanted to be a German literature professor and had a large collection of World War II memorabilia, said his friend Spencer Bray.

He was "a peaceful and loving young man," his mother, Dianne Murphy, told the local newspaper.