SEATTLE - Police say two officers had no choice when they opened fire on a University of Washington student who pointed a rifle and bayonet at them in the Thursday morning darkness.
On Friday, Seattle Police Chief Gil Kerlikowske defended that position - even while disclosing that a witness told the officers that the student, dressed in a German military uniform, had no live ammo in his rifle.
The witness talked to the officers before they opened fire, telling them that the student - later identified as UW German studies major Miles Murphy - only had blanks in his vintage rifle.
"Unfortunately, officers don't get the option - especially with a 4 1/2-foot rifle with a fixed bayonet - to believe everything they're told particularly by a witness," Kerlikowske said.
He said officers repeatedly asked Murphy to drop his gun, but he wouldn't do it. So they opened fire, critically wounding the 22-year-old student. He died hours later at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.
Murphy's grief-stricken mother spoke with KOMO News on Friday and said she has questions about why her son was shot.
Meanwhile, friends and co-workers of Miles Murphy remember him as a free spirit who wasn't afraid to be himself. He was a history buff with an affinity for vintage clothing - especially World War II military gear.
"He was just fascinated with the past - it wasn't evil," says one co-worker.
Friends said Murphy liked to dress up in period costumes. Co-workers described a time when he came to work wearing lederhosen only to leave wearing a full-on Civil War uniform.
Police said Murphy was wearing a German Army uniform when they confronted him just after 2 a.m. on New Year's Day after a neighbor reported seeing him firing shots in the alley.
When officers arrived, they say Murphy met them holding the vintage infantry rifle and refused to drop it.
That's when the witness told the officers that Murphy's gun was loaded with blanks - not live ammunition.
And that's one thing that's confusing to Murphy's friends.
"It didn't make any sense ... to shoot someone seven times to try to disarm them for shooting blanks," says one distraught co-worker. "It makes no sense."
But Chief Kerlikowske says, "Your ability to shoot to wound or shoot a gun out of a hand is a myth. ... There's isn't another option available."
Murphy's MySpace account offered some chilling clues to his mindset before the shooting.
Asked what he was afraid of, he answered: "The police."
Asked what he liked to do for fun, he answered, "Shoot blanks." Asked if he has a lucky charm, he answered, "Mr. Bayonet" - a possible reference to his rifle.
Investigators found German World War II memorabilia and "lots of alcohol" inside Murphy's apartment after the shooting.
They think the combination of drinking and firearms may explain what happened.
Police also said Friday that this isn't first time they've been called to Murphy's home.
In 2006, officers responded to a call and took Murphy's rifle for "safekeeping," then returned it to his father about 2½ months later.
Officers involved in the shooting have been placed on paid administrative leave during the investigation as is standard such cases."