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December 21, 2011

Family reacts to shooting

Sheriff Mercer confirmed as officer who fired on suspect

MINERAL WELLS — Christin Coyne | ccoyne@weatherforddemocrat.com

WEATHERFORD – Keith Thompson’s family, initially told Sunday he died in a car wreck in Palo Pinto County following a pursuit, found out Tuesday morning from local newspaper accounts that Thompson’s death was a result of a shot fired by a law enforcement officer.

The Weatherford Democrat carried the Mineral Wells Index's story published Tuesday about Sunday's pursuit and shooting. That was how the family learned how Thompson actually died – the day after his 21st birthday.

Thompson, a Weatherford resident, reportedly took a truck Sunday morning from a convenience store on Interstate 20 near Santo before leading authorities on a pursuit from Palo Pinto County, through Parker County and into Tarrant County then back through Parker and into Palo Pinto counties.

Thompson was fatally shot in the head on Farm-to-Market Road 4 south of Lone Camp.

Palo Pinto County District Attorney Mike Burns confirmed Tuesday that Palo Pinto County Sheriff Ira Mercer fired at Thompson just before he crashed the vehicle. Burns declined to provide more details about the shooting, citing the ongoing investigation.

The family said they’ve been told little by officials and didn’t know Thompson had been shot or the Texas Rangers were investigating until reading an online article the day after the results of the preliminary autopsy report were released to the media.

While struggling to find answers about Thompson’s actions and what happened to the young man around the time of his death, Thompson’s immediate family was allowed to view his body Tuesday and began planning services.

“Everybody is at a loss for words,” Niki Grimes, Thompson’s cousin by marriage, said.

Thompson, a 2009 Weatherford High School graduate, was raised in a good family, lived in an apartment behind his parent’s house and had celebrated his 21st birthday with friends Saturday night, according to Grimes.

“If you ever met Keith, he’s a gentle giant,” Grimes said of the six-and-a-half foot man who carpooled with her husband every day.

“He’s probably one of the funniest people I know,” Grimes said.

Thompson was a “simple, social guy” with many friends, according to Grimes.

It seemed unlike Thompson to take a truck with a woman inside, the family said. Thompson later returned the woman to the convenience store before reportedly leading law enforcement on a multi-county chase.

His family readily admits Thompson had an anger issue – which they said landed him in trouble during an assault on a neighbor, leading to a conviction on a charge of burglary of a habitation while intending another felony and costing him about six months in the Parker County Jail.

On 10 years probation after being released from jail in February, Thompson made his regular probation meetings and did drug testing, according to the family.

“Everybody was so optimistic and so hopeful,” Grimes said.

Thompson, an electrician, worked for Cummings Electric and had recently been transferred to work at the Alliance Hospital site.

Members of South Side Baptist Church in Weatherford, where Thompson’s father often volunteers and Thompson was a member, have stepped up to provide support for the family, according to Grimes.

The Texas Ranger investigation of the incident is expected to take about three to four weeks and the matter will be presented to a grand jury shortly after the results are presented to the district attorney’s office, according to Burns.

Visitation is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Thursday at Galbreaith Pickard Funeral Chapel in Weatherford. Funeral service is 2 p.m. Friday at the funeral home.

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