One month to the day after his teenage son’s death at the hands of police, Don Amorosi stood before the Chanhassen City Council to demand change.
“Our kids cannot be killed by those who are here to protect and serve,” he said during Monday night’s meeting. “We cannot second-guess, as parents, whether it is safe to call upon law enforcement under any circumstance.”
On July 13, two Carver County sheriff’s deputies shot 16-year-old Archer Amorosi several times after a standoff outside his mother’s Chanhassen home as his parents watched. The teen, who authorities say was suicidal, died at the scene. A preliminary investigation by the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (BCA) found he had a handgun-style BB gun and hatchet when he was shot.
Archer’s family was scheduled hold a candlelight vigil Tuesday night to celebrate what would have been his 17th birthday.
Don Amorosi called on the city to conduct an independent investigation of the incident by creating a special committee of social service workers, parents, law enforcement officials and mental health professionals, among others. The goal, he said, would be to identify any missteps by deputies and opportunities for improvements — with the hope of preventing similar incidents.
“It was a horrific and unnecessary tragedy by my account,” said Amorosi, of Wayzata. “I see that neither the judiciary nor the BCA’s scope are broad enough to drive change. Nor are either of those entities advocates for your constituency — us. You are.”
City Manager Todd Gerhardt said that the city cannot take action until the BCA investigation is done. Amorosi called that a “cop-out.”
Archer Amorosi’s death comes amid an increase in mental health crisis calls in Carver County. Calls rose 33 percent from 2016 to 2017, and they are up another 29 percent so far this year. To help manage the uptick, Sheriff Jim Olson received $100,000 in funding from the County Board to provide de-escalation training for deputies this year.
Every licensed staff member is expected to complete the intensive crisis intervention team (CIT) training by fall. The specialized program teaches peace officers how to defuse mental health crisis situations without using force.
In June, Gov. Mark Dayton signed legislation mandating that all officers in the state undergo training in three areas, including mental-health crises and conflict de-escalation. Right now, mental health advocates estimate only about 15 percent of the state’s largest police departments have completed this training.
At least two of the three deputies involved in Archer Amorosi’s shooting had already completed the crisis training course, said Chief Deputy Jason Kamerud. He declined to comment on the investigation ahead of the BCA’s findings.
Last week, Don Amorosi e-mailed council members to chastise them for their lack of response.
“Is this not a priority among things like re-striping roads, filling potholes and ribbon cuttings or do you just not care? Do you think that the vast majority of your constituents are not concerned even appalled and seeking answers?” Amorosi wrote in an e-mail obtained by the Star Tribune through a data practices request.
“Are you so out of touch that you do not know that many of Chanhassen and Carver County’s youth and their families are grieving?” he said.
Gerhardt responded two days later to say that the city intended to wait for the BCA’s final report. “We regret that this incident occurred and the number of people affected by the event is devastating, but at this point we are not going to speculate until the investigation is complete,” he wrote.
Two other e-mails from Amorosi were not answered.
Mayor Denny Laufenburger expressed his condolences Monday night, saying he attended the Minnetonka High School student’s funeral. “Please don’t interpret our silence as not caring,” Laufenburger said. “You’re right; nobody on this council wants to see any member of our community — young or old — die in this manner.”
Carver County deputies Travis Larson and Cpl. Jacob Hodge remain on paid administrative leave — standard protocol following police shootings. Another deputy, Cpl. Josh Baker, discharged his Taser that day.
They went to Archer Amorosi’s home after his mother called 911 to report that her son was suicidal and threatening her with knives and a baseball bat. Police had responded to a similar call at the home the day before.