FORT BENTON (AP)
A coroner's jury on Wednesday cleared a Chouteau County sheriff's deputy and a Montana Highway Patrol trooper of wrongdoing in the death of a Havre teenager. Fergus County Coroner Dick Brown conducted the inquest into the death of Mark A. Keeley, 13, who bled to death from 14 gunshot wounds in the early morning hours of April 22. Coroner's inquests are required by law when law enforcement officers are involved in a fatal shooting. Officials say Keeley was driving a car, believed to have been stolen in Havre, that matched the description of a reported gas drive-off in Chester, about 55 miles north of Fort Benton. Chouteau County Deputy Kyle Meier tried to stop him at about 11:30 p.m. April 21. The boy wouldn't pull over, and Highway Patrol trooper Jason Wickum later stopped the car by Placing "stop sticks" on the highway about five miles north of Fort Benton. The boy then fired a gun, striking the patrol car, and continued driving south on Montana 223, authorities said. Just north of Fort Benton the driver fired multiple rounds at the deputy and the trooper, authorities said. The officers responded by firing 34 times into the car over the next two minutes. They testified Wednesday that they stopped shooting when they saw Keeley slump over and drop his gun. Thomas Bennett, the assistant state medical examiner, said three bullets went into the back of the teen's head, two into his back, three in his thigh and six in his shoulder and arm. Most of Keeley's wounds were superficial. However, two bullets broke his rib, sliced his aorta just above his heart, caused his right lung to collapse and struck his right kidney. Meier, who was an emergency medical technician for 16 years in California, pulled Keeley from the vehicle and administered CPR. A helicopter then airlifted the boy to a hospital in Great Falls, where he was pronounced dead. Investigator Lee Johnson with the state Division of Criminal Investigation told jurors it's not unusual for officers to fire multiple times. "We don't train to shoot to kill," he said. "We don't train to wound the arm or the leg. We train to shoot until the threat is eliminated." DCI agent Mark Hilyard said interviews with Keeley's friends suggested the 13-yearold was upset about breaking up with his girlfriend and was suicidal. Hours after the breakup, Keeley told friends he wanted to get into a car chase with police, even saying he planned to drive by the Havre police station with a gun to provoke one. "He said he didn't want to kill anybody, he just wanted to die," Hilyard testified. Keeley even told friends what songs to play at his funeral. Efforts to talk him out of his plan, as well as adult intervention, failed to stop Keeley, who then allegedly stole a car, drove it to Gilford to get his grandfather's shotgun and continued on to Chester. Chouteau County Sheriff Vern Burdick called in 14 officers from Cascade, Blaine, Hill and Toole counties and the Montana Highway Patrol to provide security for Wednesday's inquest. "There have been some threats since the beginning, and we felt there should be adequate security to handle the threat," said Arlyn Greydanus, who headed the investigation for the state's Division of Criminal Investigations. Mike Batista, administrator for the state Division of Criminal Investigation, previously determined that the officers were justified in shooting the boy. Keeley's mother said she wasn't surprised by Wednesday's ruling. "I don't expect the jury to come back and say the officers committed a criminal act," said Michelle Keeley, who left before the jury returned from deliberations. "It's very frustrating. It's all their side."