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Vic: Family hits out at police who shot dead teenage boy

By Greg Roberts
12 Dec 2008 6:51 PM

MELBOURNE, Dec 12 AAP - The family of a boy shot dead by police have vowed to fight for their "scared little boy," saying the officers involved had "pursued ... surrounded and hunted" down the teenager.

Tyler Cassidy, 15, was shot and killed when three officers opened fire on him in a Melbourne skate park on Thursday night after he allegedly threatened to kill them with two knives.

The shooting is being investigated amid revelations that Tyler was a member of a nationalist white supremacist group, and was prone to violent outbursts.

Both Victoria Police and the police union have defended the officers involved, saying they did everything they could to subdue the teenager.

Tyler's mother, Shani, said in a written statement that she would "fight" for Tyler, describing him as a "scared little boy".

"He died alone without his family at his side, gasping his last breath," the statement said.

"The entire family and friends of Tyler Cassidy are appalled at the actions by Victoria Police last night.

"Their heavy handedness and lack of negotiating skills at the scene of the shooting contributed to the untimely death of our beautiful 15-year-old."

But Assistant Commissioner Tim Cartwright said the officers acted in accordance with their training and fired when they felt Tyler was threatening their lives at the Northcote park.

Mr Cartwright said a warning shot was fired before three of four officers involved in the standoff opened fire.

"He was saying 'Kill me, I am going to kill you'. He had been saying that through the confrontation," Mr Cartwright told reporters on Friday.

"I don't think police were trigger happy but that's why we've got a coroner and the homicide squad to do a full investigation on (the coroner's) behalf.

"There was a young man with knives moving about, clearly intent on doing some damage or being damaged. There's certainly phone calls to suggest he was threatening members of the public."

Witness Hariet Stewart said Tyler appeared angry and agitated.

"He was walking holding the two knives, kind of storming along holding them," she said.

Mr Cartwright said there was no history of drug use or psychological problems, but Tyler was believed to have been upset about the recent anniversary of his father's death.

Tyler's page on social networking website MySpace revealed he was a member of a nationalist white supremacist group, called the Southern Cross Soldiers.

An associate in the group told News Limited that Tyler had a violent temper and would have made good on his threat to kill police.

"He was always angry and after trying to help him out for longer than anyone else, I know more than anyone, I know he was beyond help," he said.

The police say the Northcote youth left his family home angry on Thursday night and went to the Northcote Plaza where he stole two knives from a K-mart store, slashing boxes on his way out.

Police tracked him down to the skate park, less than 100 metres from the shopping centre, where they said he threatened them.

The family said police should have been better prepared.

"He was surrounded and gunned down by four officers firing at least 6-7 shots," the statement said.

"An eyewitness confirmed Tyler patted her dog and was confronted by police and sprayed with capsicum foam, then pursued to the skate park, surrounded and hunted down."

Friends and family gathered at the scene of the killing on Friday, one posting a sign saying: "Murder in the law is still murder."

Victoria Police's Ethical Standards division will conduct an internal inquiry into the shooting, while the homicide squad is investigating on behalf of the state coroner.

The shooting has sparked calls to introduce non-lethal taser stun guns.

"Our people are being sent out there on behalf of the public to do a pretty difficult job and they're clearly not being provided with the range of technology that they should have," Police Association secretary Greg Davies told reporters.

Premier John Brumby and Police Minister Bob Cameron refused to comment on the shooting.