North Texas Daily

Attorney: Cpl. Bean wrong to kill Ryan McMillan

Attorney: Cpl. Bean wrong to kill Ryan McMillan

The press leans in as Attorney Renee Higginbotham-Brooks claims Ryan McMillan didn’t have to die. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

Attorney: Cpl. Bean wrong to kill Ryan McMillan
February 25
10:45 2016

Tiffany Ditto | Staff Writer


Rain fell from the sky Tuesday while tears fell from the eyes of Gina McMillan-Weese and Walter McMillan, just as they did months before, when their son, Ryan, was shot and killed by a UNT police officer.

The parents sat next to their attorney as she recounted the critical decision made by UNT police Cpl. Stephen Bean to shoot and kill their son, and painted a grim picture of how UNT and police officials have shut the public out of the investigation.

The family suspects Bean lacked the proper training and lost control of the encounter the early morning of Dec. 13, 2015, when police responded to a criminal mischief call on the corner of Oak and Fry streets. They’ve hired Renee Higginbotham-Brooks to challenge the Texas Ranger investigation into Bean’s actions.

“We believe it was a senseless overreaction by an agent of the university,” Higginbotham-Brooks said. “Parents send their children to the University of North Texas to be educated and protected. In the case of Ryan McMillan, no protection was offered.”

The response

Police released camera footage showing McMillan walking toward Bean holding what authorities are calling a hatchet, telling the officer multiple times to shoot him. Bean, in the video, tells McMillan about six times to stop, but he doesn’t. Bean felt threatened and shot the 21-year-old.

But the problem, according to the family’s legal team, is Bean positioned himself too close to McMillan, which caused the officer to lose control of the situation. What’s more, they said, is Bean moved too quickly to kill McMillan instead of subduing him with a non-lethal weapon, such as a Taser or pepper spray.

Gina McMillan-Weese sits next to Ryan's father Walter McMillan as she covers her face and cries during the news conference held by their attorneys on Feb. 23. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

Gina McMillan-Weese sits next to Ryan’s father Walter McMillan as she covers her face and cries during the news conference held by their attorneys on Feb. 23. Hannah Ridings | Senior Staff Photographer

“There is physical force, there is intermediate force, and there is deadly force,” criminologist Dexter Simpson said. “In this particular case, officer Stephen Bean of the UNT police jumped to the extreme end of the use of force continuum very quickly. If this officer had not rushed in, and had waited for backup, Ryan may still be alive.”

Higginbotham-Brooks said the case might go to the grand jury by the end of the month. She also said she has testimony from four eyewitnesses the Texas Rangers have not spoken to, or asked to speak to. She could not detail why the Rangers are not interested in speaking to these individuals, but contends those witnesses prove officer Bean reacted quickly in killing McMillan.

She said the family acknowledges the fact McMillan may have been drunk that night, but they said the officer still acted fast. The family questioned the officer’s actions after witnesses told them he approached the scene with his gun drawn. Simpson asked why the officer got so close to an axe-wielding student as quickly as he did.

Higginbotham-Brooks said the university refused to answer their questions despite filing for numerous open records requests. She added the toxicology is being withheld by the Texas Rangers pending the investigation. At this point, not even the family knows if McMillan was under the influence of something other than alcohol.

“I want to call on the University of North Texas police department to share the information about Stephen Bean, “ Higginbotham-Brooks said. “UNT owes the public, their students, these parents — all parents, information about what kind of police force they have on this campus.”

Simpson, who has more than 35 years of use-of-force experience, called on UNT president Neal Smatresk to take responsibility for the university police department’s actions and its use-of-force policies.

“We believe that it is high time that the university president get control of his police department,” Simpson said Tuesday.

The apartment

McMillan’s U-Center roommate, Cory Doolittle, said he was on vacation when Ryan was shot and killed. He returned home the week of Christmas to find his apartment still splattered with blood, gashes in the walls, and the items in the common areas of the apartment smashed.

“Something I will continue to say, even though it doesn’t help Ryan’s case in regards to the lawyers talking to me about it, I know he was cognizant of what he was doing,” Doolittle said. “He smashed every vehicle, including his, except for mine — and they’re all surrounding mine. Every vehicle surrounding mine was smashed.”

Doolittle thinks this was because of their friendship.

“It was definitely out of respect to not smash my stuff,” Doolittle said.

He said McMillan’s friends took him home after he became belligerent during his Fry Street bar crawl. Doolittle believes leaving McMillan alone caused a change in his behavior.

Doolittle said he and his roommates all disliked the people that lived directly above them. At some point during the night, he believes McMillan went upstairs to speak to them.

“He went up to their place and at least knocked on their door, because he left bloody handprints on their door,” Doolittle said. “I don’t know if it was to confront them, or harm them, but I’m glad they weren’t home or just didn’t answer the door.”

Doolittle also said he had to ask the apartment complex multiple times to come and clean the blood off of the door handle and walls before McMillan’s parents came.

The property manager at U-Centre declined to comment.

“It was completely out of character for him,” Doolittle said. “As cliché as it sounds, I would never have imagined Ryan doing anything like this. He was such a laid back guy, it is highly surprising that anything like this would come from him.”

News editor Dalton LaFerney contributed to this story.

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