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Keith Atkinson, 31
New Orleans, Louisiana
February 16, 2014

Agencies: New Orleans Police Department Louisiana

Last updated: 2 months ago

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A New Orleans Police Department officer fatally shot a 31-year-old man on Sunday morning (Feb. 16) in the Hollygrove neighborhood, NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas said during a news conference on Sunday afternoon. The incident occurred about 9:20 a.m. in the 8600 block of Belfast Street, Serpas said.

"This is a tragic incident," Serpas said. "A man's life is lost...We will investigate this thoroughly and completely."

Serpas said a loaded .45-caliber gun was found next to the dead man.

Two 2nd District officers arrived on the scene after they received a call about shoplifting at a convenience store, Serpas said.

"Only one officer fired," Serpas said, declining to specify how many shots were fired.

Police arrived at the store around 9:20 a.m., responding to a call of a man in a blue shirt stealing a case of juice, according to witnesses who were in the store at the time. Atkinson, who was wearing a blue shirt, was standing near the store as the officers pulled up, witnesses said.

But Atkinson wasn't the shoplifter, several people said in interviews with NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, making his shooting death all the more grievous. It was another man who showed up at the store, took a case of Little Hug fruit juice and yelled at the cashier who had scolded a child for spilling the juice drink in the store, said Royleisha Wesley, 21, who was at the store with her boyfriend Zaairvert Williams, 20.

Officer Jonathan Hirdes shot Atkinson for reasons that are still unclear, police spokeswoman Remi Braden said in a news release Monday. Investigators are probing whether the shooting was justified.

After an autopsy, the coroner's office reported that Atkinson was shot four times from a distance while he was in an "upright" position, Braden said. Next to Atkinson's body, officers found a .45 caliber gun, which was reported stolen in Baton Rouge in May, Braden said.