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Police shoot and kill Arizona man who they say threw rocks at their cars

The family of Ali Osman, 34, said he had mental health issues and questioned why Phoenix police did not use a nonlethal method.

Police fatally shot an Arizona man who they said threw rocks at their cars, but family members questioned why they did not use a nonlethal method, saying the man had a history of mental health issues.

Ali Osman was killed around 6:45 p.m. Saturday in Phoenix. Two patrol units were driving through the intersection of 19th Avenue and Tuckey Lane "when their cars were struck by unknown items causing damage," police said in a news release.

Ali Osman.
Ali Osman.Osman family via KPNX

An officer in one of the patrol units went to investigate and saw a man "throwing rocks towards his patrol car," the release says.

Police said the man was told to stop, but he refused.

"That’s when the officer involved shooting occurred striking the man," police said.

Osman, 34, who was Somali, died at a hospital.

Attorney Quacy Smith said at a news conference Tuesday that he believes police were in the area responding to an unrelated incident when Osman started throwing the rocks. He said Osman had dealt with mental health challenges; he did not elaborate.

"Rocks. Rocks. Not boulders. Not bricks. Rocks," Smith said. "These are rocks no bigger than my 4-year-old son throws over the backyard to the neighbor's house."

Smith said he is a former police officer and could not "fathom a set of circumstances described to us that would warrant this young Black man being shot down by police in the streets of our city for throwing rocks."

Smith said video taken by a bystander showed a person who claimed to have a background in crisis intervention offered to speak with Osman to help de-escalate the situation.

An officer shot Osman as he bent down to pick up another rock, Smith told reporters.

Phoenix police have not identified any of the officers, and a spokesperson said the events that led up to the shooting are still being investigated.

"The City of Phoenix Police Department is committed to our transparency policy," the spokesperson said in an emailed statement Wednesday. "The department will release a Critical Incident Briefing Video within 14 days of the incident to the public that will provide facts of the case. In addition, all body worn cameras will be released."

Mayor Kate Gallego said she advised the police chief that the shooting should be a priority investigation.

“My heart goes out to Mr. Osman’s family. Our goal is always that people in our community, and our employees, return home to their families safely,” she said in a statement.

Osman's family got emotional during the news conference as they described him as a good person who was always willing to help.

"I can’t believe Ali’s gone," his older sister said, crying. "Ali’s not coming back. I need justice for Ali. ... My life is done. Ali is like my son."

Osman's father said his son "was a good man" who "took care of everyone."

Smith and the family said they are demanding transparency from police about what happened.