Man Tells Police Dispatcher His Mentally Disturbed Brother Is Carrying a Fake Gun, Police Kill Him Anyway


Shortly before 8 a.m. on June 28, police in Broomfield, Colorado, shot and killed Kyle Miller after he brandished a gun at them. Miller was mentally ill. The gun was fake. Miller's younger brother told the police dispatcher both of these facts. For some unknown reason, reports the Denver PostBroomfield police shot Miller anyway

A 911 call recorded just before Kyle Miller was shot to death by Broomfield police officers last week shows that his family warned dispatchers the 21-year-old was armed with an Airsoft pellet gun—not a real handgun.

In response, a dispatcher assured the victim's brother, "Officers are trained in this kind of thing. They're not going to go around shooting people."

Broomfield police received a 911 call around 7:20 a.m. June 28 about a "mentally distraught" man in the Aspen Creek subdivision. While officers were en route, they encountered Miller near the intersection of Aspen Street and Durango Avenue. Miller pointed the pellet gun at police and was shot by officers.

The 911 tape shows that Miller's younger brother, Alex Miller, told police about the Airsoft gun in an attempt to avoid a dangerous confrontation.

"My brother is having a breakdown," Alex Miller told the dispatcher, adding that he woke up to his mother's screams because Kyle Miller was trying to cut himself with a pocket knife. Screams can be heard in the background throughout the 911 call.

On the recording, Alex Miller repeatedly said his brother was carrying an Airsoft gun.

"Can you tell them he has a gun in his hands? Is there any way you can let them know he's got the gun in his hands?" Alex Miller said. "It's not real."

"I know," the dispatcher replied. "The officers are trained in this kind of thing. They're not going to go around shooting people."

According to Miller's mother, her son had schizophrenia, and was upset because he had recently been let go from his job. The shooting is under investigation by an "independent" review board affilated with the Broomfield Police Department. In the meantime, the officers involved (BPD won't say how many, or how many shots they fired) are on paid administrative leave. 

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  1. Unfortunate situation, but I wouldn’t risk my life to believe anyone that the gun was fake.

    1. Good thing you aren’t a cop, then. In a better country, this would be the sort of risk they would feel duty-bound to take.

      In this country, though, they seem to rank officer safety many multiples more important than protect and serve.

      1. In this particular case, my guess is that the fault surprisingly doesn’t lie with the cops who shot him. I’m betting someone failed to pass the information along, and they’re the ones who are at fault. Of course, it’s always possible the cops who actually did the shooting hadn’t gotten to kill any dogs recently.

      2. Sorry, I disagree.

        You can’t give the benefit of the doubt to a 911 caller like that.

        I could call 911 during Columbine II and say, “The guns the kids are carrying aren’t real.” The cops shouldn’t listen to me.

        This is one of those times that being crazy is hazardous to your health. There’s really no way to make it safe to be a raging schizophrenic running around waving an airgun. I rate officer safety lower than the 4th amendment, but not so low that I’d expect them to bet their lives on what dispatch claims some 911 caller said.

        1. Well…

          I’ll take your point about the officer’s safety and whether they should bet their lives on the information.

          But remember, the officer’s were called to the situation to help the disturbed man. Surely, taking into account that the disturbed man’s weapon was fake is something they need to do in order to effectively provide assistance.

        2. It pains me to admit, but I have to agree. If someone is waving a gun at me, I don’t care what his brother, or mom, or whoever says. Put it the fuck down or get shot. It’s a bummer that you’re crazier than a shit-house rate, but not my problem. It’s killin me to be on the side of the po-po. Ack!

          1. Nope. Especially when the 911 call was made to help the disturbed man. That’s why we pay the po-po — to take those risks. Had the lines of communication not been fucked up, and the officers properly trained and prepared, I have no doubt they could have handled the situation without shooting the dude. If they’re not up to the task, well, there are many other occupations available to them.
            Ok. Not many. But some.

          2. Because there are no options to diffuse such a situation other than with bullets.

            1. An appropriate time to use a tazer, but that would have been too sensible.

              1. ^^This^^

                This scenario seems practically custom made for a tazer.

                1. Or less lethal rounds at least. Rubber bullets or something.

              2. And how close do you have to be to fire a taser?

        3. If you are a citizen, fine. But if you are a government employee paid to take that risk, you take that risk. Otherwise, find a job doing something productive. I imagine most cops are qualified to pick up cans on the side of the road if nothing else. Officer safety should never be a concern when the officer is dealing with citizens.

          1. You realize that Border Patrol are “cops” too, right Slappy!?

        4. We’re gonna disagree on this one, Fluffy.

          A protect and serve cop gives the benefit of the doubt to his fellow citizens before putting a bullet in them, even if that means taking risks.

          Now, if you have no reason to doubt that the gun is real, fire away. But if you have been told by the guy’s brother that he’s disturbed and its a toy gun, and you have no reason to doubt this information, then you give the citizens the benefit of the doubt.

          1. Don’t airsoft guns usually have colored tips to distinguish them from real guns?

            1. they do. by law. but some people modify them. what’s the story on the orange tip on this one?

          2. then you give the citizens the benefit of the doubt


        5. Right, so if a 911 caller says a suspect is unarmed, the cops should go in with guns-a-blazing as if a rampaging T-800 were on the loose anyways.

      3. Hero cops in this country have feared for their lives and been forced to shoot people holding watering hoses and radios and other people that were passed out with ten feet of a gun.

      4. All I know is…I finally get to kill somebody.

        /Francis ‘Psycho’ Soyer

  2. Any bets on the “review board”‘s ultimate ruling?

    1. Awards and commendations? Hookers and Blow?

    2. Any bets on the “review board”‘s ultimate ruling?

      Shots were fired…
      Officer safety is paramount…
      Hands off our ursurious pensions…

      And nothing else will happen.

    3. Round here they just recently ruled an incident where police shot and killed a man who was brandishing a kitchen knife a good twenty feet away from them as justified, so I’m thinking that they’ll get a promotion.

      1. I’ve heard of pepper spray use against kids fighting at a football game. The spray injured a nearby boy.

      2. The Tueller (SP?) Drill definitively shows that a person with a knife 20 feet away is an “immediate” threat. Try it sometime.

        1. Even when you and a dozen of your friends have guns drawn and a car between you and the guy with the knife?

          1. If he closes the distance, (and he can, really, really quickly) it’s too late to shoot, as he’d be among the officers. As for the car, it depends on everyone’s relative position.

  3. “Officers are trained in this kind of thing. They’re not going to go around shooting people.”

    I want that on a t-shirt

    1. With a Shepard Fairey rendering of Kelly Thomas, post-beating, on the front. What should the word below the picture be? “Hope?” “Obey?” “Resist?”

      1. “Respect my authorit-ay!”.

      2. For the safety of heros.

        1. Snap!

      3. There was a web site where you could Fairey-ize any photo. I have one of myself that says “Dork”. A Kelly Thomas one would be awesome. I’ll see if my Google-fu is up to the task of finding that site.

        1. Well, I tried, but the photos of Kelly post-beating don’t translate well into that format. Anyone else care to try? You can adjust the color balance, etc.

          1. To be honest, I find that photo so disturbing I can’t look at it long enough to do any work on it.

            1. I just kind of pretended it was movie makeup. Seriously. Sometimes denial is useful.

              1. Sometimes denial is useful.

                If you’re into that whole maintaining-sanity thing. So passe IMO.

  4. I’d just like to point out that airsoft guns have little orange tips on them. You can differentiate between an airsoft gun and a real gun very easily. You know, if you’re trying.

    1. You know, if you’re trying.

      You’re giving them too much credit.

    2. But..but…but…you can paint a real gun!

    3. Not all of them have the orange tips. Don’t know if this guy’s did or not. But, you know, just because a gun has an orange tip doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not real either. Because you can always paint a tip orange. Also don’t know what else led to the shooting, since this is only a partial story. People in a manic state can be extremely violent and dangerous. I’d suspend judgment and not immediately jump to condemn the cops. But the libertarian way is to condemn all cops.

      1. You can be certain that even if this one had an orange tip, it didn’t by the time the investigation was over.

      2. But the libertarian way is to condemn all cops

        And as long as they act as a Praetorian Guard for a corrupt and authoritarian state, they shall be condemned.

        1. +an unknown number

      3. They are required by law to have them. Unless this guy tampered with his and either removed or painted it, there was an orange tip.

        They had information that this guy had a schizophrenic break. None of this was premeditated, and the chance that this guy had decided, in his moments of insanity, “Gee, I think I’ll pull out the ol’ airsoft gun, paint the orange tip black and THEN start brandishing it at people!” is very slim.

        You don’t have to shoot to kill, regardless. As I’ve always understood it, police are trained to shoot to injure or disable before they try to shoot to kill. This was obviously not done.

        I’m not condemning all cops, I’m condemning the ones that didn’t take the two seconds to reason things out, and the ones that shot to kill rather than to disable. The ones who are at fault, basically.

        1. As I’ve always understood it, police are trained to shoot to injure or disable before they try to shoot to kill.

          Not true. They are trained to shoot at center of mass the moment they feel scared.

          They always shoot to kill. Always.

          1. Well then I was wrong. That’s fucked up.

        2. Personally, I’m one of those who think “shooting to disable” is a dangerous fallacy.

          Anytime you are throwing bullets at someone, you are likely to kill them. So, don’t do it, unless that’s what you mean to do.

          Further, you should never shoot at someone unless they need killing.

          Put those two together, and I don’t see any room for “shoot to disable.”

          1. Yes – shooting to “disable” is largely a Hollywood myth. When you shoot, you shoot to kill. That’s why cops should shoot very rarely.

            1. Reminds me of a credo I credit to the USMC: Never let your weapon cover anything you are not willing to destroy.

            2. Which is why they do shoot very rarely. If they shot half as often as the idiots here seem to think they do there would be a hundred stories a day here on Reason, not a handful every year.

              1. Per FBI statistics, police kill around 400 unarmed citizens per year. That’s enough for a story a day.

                Here’s a summary that includes a link telling us that in Houston one out of every 3 people shot by police is unarmed. Seriously. Also included here, one of every 10 people killed by gunfire in Los Angeles county are killed by the police. I’d assume that the denominator on that one includes suicides too, making that astounding ratio even more disturbing.

                Google revealed an article at a site unknown to me until now listing quite a few more than a handful of beyond-the-pale incidents of police brutality.

                Hmmm…. idiots?…. It seems a quote from Inigo Montoya might be appropriate here.

          2. Yeah but sometimes Niko Bellic fails the mission that way

        3. As I’ve always understood it, police are trained to shoot to injure or disable before they try to shoot to kill.

          Nope. Always shoot to kill. That’s what the gun is for. Tazers and pepper spray OTOH are not. So the better question is did the officer have a tazer and if so why didn’t he use it instead of the gun?

    4. I have one that doesn’t have an orange tip. I also have a rubber gun that I use sometimes to practice gun disarming techniques in martial arts that doesn’t have an orange tip either.

      I wouldn’t point either of them at a cop (with or without orange tip), or brandish them in public without first putting an orange tip on them. But then again, I’m not schizophenic either.

  5. Sounds like the issue was with the dispatcher. Instead of actually telling the cops, s/he just said they are trained. Well, yes, they are trained to shoot when someone has a gun pointed directly at them, and airsoft guns look like real guns.

  6. What is a good alternative to calling 911 in this sort of situation? Involving the po-po just seems to guarantee that the loved one having a breakdown and making ineffective suicidal threats will be killed when the po-po arrives. They only seem to have one tool in the bag.

    1. Exactly. Brian Aitken and his family learned this the hard way also. Luckily he’s still alive.

    2. Remember Kenneth Chamberlain.

  7. The solution is to not call the police in the first place. I’m not sure why the family thought the police would be better equipped to handle this sort of thing. Pellet guns hurt, but at least their son would be alive. There’s just too much that could go wrong.

    My Marine buddy said the general operating procedure in Iraq was to wait until you were fired upon before shooting back, at least in his unit. I don’t expect the police to wait to be shot at first in most situations, but if you have information that the gun is fake, that would seem to be as good a time as any to practice the same restraint as is often seen in combat.

    On a related note, if the police handled this without injuring the guy, I doubt we would have heard about it. That’s too bad, because some positive reinforcement for doing a good thing would have gone a lot further than rationalizing a hot-headed, absolute-officer-safety trigger pull (or 50).

    1. I think soldiers are actually trained, whereas pigs are merely “trained”. Sometimes a “trained” dog still shits on the rug.

    2. The solution is to not call the police in the first place….

      This is what I was thinking. Why on earth would you call the cops when a friend or family member with a known medical condition was brandishing a “weapon” which you knew to be a toy? If the guy is trying to “cut himself”, take him to the ER. 5-10 mg of haloperidol will fix him right up. Jesus H. Christ.

      1. I dunno. Besides their law enforcement function, I think a lot of people look at the police as a way to control a situation and let others in the area know that nothing will get completely out of hand, which was probably on the neighbors’ minds during this whole incident. Growing up, a cop would usually show up whenever we had a big neighborhood (20+ kids) snowball fight, just hanging out a block away or so, generally out of sight. I don’t think he thought anything was wrong at the time, he just wanted to make sure it didn’t escalate, and I guess he thought that was a valid police function.

  8. Well he got what he wanted. If the family didn’t want their boy killed they shouldn’t have called the cops.

  9. NEVER call the police because somebody needs “Help”. NEVER.

    Reporting actual crimes against persons property is one thing. Asking for help is quite another.

  10. I wonder what the autopsy will report, because it should say where they shot him.

  11. Ah, paid Administrative Leave, the worst type of punishment there is.

    1. Ah, paid Administrative Leave, the worst type of punishment there is.

      For a cop, it really is. Being a cop is not a job, it’s a lifestyle.

      Strutting around, issuing “lawful commands”, and beating the shit out of anyone who disobeys.
      You get to help people if you like them, and fuck with people if you don’t. You can lie, cheat, steal, even commit murder, and as long as you have that uniform on the “justice” system will find a way to cover for you.

      It’s all about power. Having that power taken away, even if they still get a paycheck, is great punishment indeed.

      1. Watchya wanna bet that if a cop on “paid admin leave” beat the shit out of someone he would would get the same treatment as if he were on duty? I.e. swept under the rug and never charged or prosecuted.

        1. They actually do get prosecuted for crimes committed while not in uniform.

          However once they put on that uniform they can get away with murder. Literally.

      2. Since when is the uniform required. “Used to be a cop” usually gets the same result. Meanwhile, “used to be in the military where they actually follow a just procedure despite actually being in harms way” does not.

        200 years ago there were places in this world a person could move to in order to live a life free of government fuckwads. But we have iPhones, woohoo!

        1. Since when is the uniform required. “Used to be a cop” usually gets the same result.

          For some things, yes, but when they have that uniform on anything goes.

    2. In the summer, no less. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the officers alone, out in the hot sun, struggling to find food by tricking fish into biting a hook on the end of a line and thinning out their blood with depressants. Administrative leave is hell.

  12. You guys all know my thoughts on the police by now, but I have to say there is a lack of factual evidence here to make an informed judgement.
    1. Was the tip of the airsoft gun orange (older ones aren’t always painted)?
    2. Did dispatch pass on the info the brother provided?
    3. Did he point it directly at the cops (if a no on #2)?
    4. How far was he from the policemen?
    5. How were the cops arrayed around him, and how many were there?
    6. Was a non-lethal method of action available?
    7. How long did they assess the situation before firing?

    I could think of a few more, but you get my point. I can only hope there is dashcam of the interaction, because it’s the only way the facts of the situation will come out. If none exists, I’ll have to raise an eyebrow. No way in hell should cops respond to any call where a firearm is involved, whether real or fake, or it involves a crazy person, without cameras rolling. It protects the cops from false accusations and preserves an incorruptible piece of evidence. Without it to corroborate a cop’s story, his/her testimony should be treated with a great deal of skepticism.

    1. 1. Was the tip of the airsoft gun orange (older ones aren’t always painted)?

      Sloop, the orange tip was required on toy guns when I was but a youth working at Toys-R-Us in the mid-80s. I can’t imagine he has one that didn’t come with an orange tip.

      1. Was it that long ago? I assumed it was sometime in the last decade. The question still stands, but it is much less likely that it was not noticeably an airsoft gun. Thanks for the heads-up.

        1. I have two airsoft guns that don’t have orange tips, that I bought from an airsoft gun store, in a regular mall, within the last two years.

          I have no idea where this myth that they all have orange tips is coming from. There may be some law on the books, but it damn sure isn’t heavily enforced.

          1. They’re state laws. Some states don’t have them, and in some states they’re ignored because they have no teeth.

  13. If an off duty cop (out of uniform) tells me to leave a place and comes at me, I’m probably gonna push him back as well. If he tells me I am under arrest, I’m gonna struggle with him.

    Sorry, but once the uniform is off and you are working a part-time gig as a bouncer, you shouldn’t get to tell people they are under arrest and expect them to know you are really a cop.* This charge is bullshit.

    *Police officers should not be able to have part-time jobs and use their arrest powers unless they are in uniform at the time. A fake badge and ID are pretty easy to come by, and they have resulted in more than a few assaults, robberies and rapes. Nobody, and I mean nobody, should ever be held accountable for telling someone to fuck off unless they are easily identified as a cop.

  14. If your house is on fire, feel free to call 911, firemen don’t usually shot people. If they are more likely to send the cops, I would be very hesitant to call.

  15. I’m having a hard time getting my dander up over this one. Maybe dispatch relayed the info to the cops; maybe they didn’t. More important, some of these airsoft guns look very, very real. I mean holy fuck, this thing looks just like my HK USP. If someone pointed it at me, my first reaction would be to assume that a real gun was being pointed at me.

  16. FYI: Legal restrictions on the orange tips of airsoft guns in the US.

    It’s not unlikely that the orange tip was legally removed after purchase.

  17. This is silly. The 9-1-1 call didn’t identify the guy well enough and he was moving. “While officers were en route, they encountered Miller …”

    How were the cops supposed to know this was the same person?

    I almost always assume the cops are at fault. Not here. Anybody waving around something which looks like a real gun is at risk of the appropriate response, whether by civilians or police.

    (And don’t give me that crap about police are civilians too; that’s obvious, but so is the context, and to pretend you can’t see the context only shows how dumb you think everyone else is.)

    1. (And don’t give me that crap about police are civilians too; that’s obvious, but so is the context, and to pretend you can’t see the context only shows how dumb you think everyone else is.)

      Here’s the deal: when you say “civilians or police”, you are setting up a disjunctive, where civilians and police are two separate classes. Using the language perpetuates the mindset.

      If you think that’s just fine, then keep perpetuating it. And, if I see you perpetuating it, I will assume you are all in favor of paramilitary policing via an “us v. them”, dominate and control mindset.

      1. No, sweating the use of “civilian” is still crap. I use it all the time with my co-workers to indicate people outside this line of work. Others do too. Everyone understands this meaning, just as you did, but a lot of people pretend to act upset, just as you did.

        If you can come up with another word for the concept, go ahead, enlighten me. Laymen is similar, but it started with religion, just as civilian started elsewhere.

  18. I think that, if a gun is pointed at them, the cops should fire. The idea that the cops should risk their lives so that some guy whose running around pointing a gun at people can live, and possibly shoot more people, is among the most unlibertarian I can think of. Yes, the gun was fake, but the officers had no way of knowing that, nor could they confirm that this was indeed the mentally disturbed man they were told about. This is the same kind of Utopian, “it’s always their fault” politics libertarians criticize the left for. Bad things happen sometimes, particullarly to metally disturbed people, that may sound darwinistic, but it’s true. Being a libertarian means not having all the answers to every little, local, problem.

  19. The dispatcher should have known better, and told the guy that if the cops show up and his brother points anything that looks dangerous at them they will shoot him. Then he could have said “never mind” and found a safer alternative to cops.

  20. Don’t you just love it when cops get off with just a slap on the wrist — ie: get paid leave — and don’t really get in trouble; I hope the family sues!

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