Michael and Lisa Kelley say their son Danny — who was shot and killed by a police officer in Charlotte on Wednesday — struggled with drug addiction, which they believe led him to commit two robberies in the hours before he died.
Danny, 32, was a father of two who loved his children, nieces and family, Lisa Kelley said. She remembers Danny as charming, with a loving spirit and a contagious sense of humor that drew others in — especially his father, his own kids and the younger members of his family.
For years, though, he battled addiction.
“It strips away all of your filters,” Lisa Kelley told the Observer Thursday in a phone interview. “(Addiction) robs you of making the right choices.”
Danny Kelley had prior arrests, and public records show he served jail time in 2015 after pleading guilty to robbery in Mecklenburg County. Lisa Kelley said her family tried to help Danny recover from his addiction, but he struggled to stay clean for extended lengths of time.
“It just takes one day to make one bad choice and now you’re on that slippery slope,” she said.
The Kelleys also prepared a public statement that says they bear no ill feelings toward the police officer who fatally shot their son. Both Danny Kelley’s father, Michael, and his grandfather are retired police officers, Lisa Kelley said.
“It is our belief at this time that the actions of Danny ... left the officer with no other reasonable course of action than to use deadly force to protect himself and the community at large,” Michael and Lisa Kelley wrote.
The shooting happened in a shopping center parking lot as officers investigated two robberies in west Charlotte on Wednesday, police officials said.
The first 911 call was about an armed robbery inside a church around 1:40 p.m. Police say they were told that a man — who they later suspected to be Michael Daniel Kelley — entered a church on Freeland Lane, near Clanton Road, and demanded money. Authorities allege the man then used a box cutter to cut another man inside the church and stole the keys to his car.
The stolen car was then used just minutes later during a robbery at a Family Dollar store on West Tyvola Road, according to CMPD. Employees there said they were robbed and suspected the robber was armed, police said. The robberies led CMPD to deploy a K-9 unit, and the department issued a city-wide watch for the stolen car, along with a description of a suspect.
Nearly three hours later, police found the empty car parked in a shopping center parking lot near another Family Dollar about a mile away.
Officer Timothy Kiefer — a K-9 unit police officer who was searching the area — saw Danny Kelley in the parking lot. CMPD says that Kelley fit the description of the robbery suspect.
The department on Thursday issued a statement saying Kiefer gave loud verbal commands to Kelley, who ignored them and “began to walk quickly toward Officer Kiefer.”
Kiefer was outside his police car during the shooting, according to CMPD. The department said he instructed his K-9 unit dog to “engage” Kelley as he approached but that Kelley “began to sprint” toward Kiefer. After giving more commands to Kelley that were ignored, Kiefer fired his gun and shot Kelley, the department said.
Police haven’t said how many times Kiefer fired, how many times Kelley was struck or where bullets struck him. Kelley was taken to the hospital, where he was pronounced dead. CMPD said its crime scene investigators found a knife near where the shooting occurred.
Kelley’s death is under internal CMPD investigation. Kiefer is on paid administrative leave while the police department investigates, CMPD Chief Kerr Putney has said. Placing officers on leave during an investigation into a shooting is standard procedure for the department.
‘We bear no ill feelings’
Statement from Michael and Lisa Kelley, parents of Michael Daniel “Danny” Kelley:
“On January 16th, 2019 our son, Michael Daniel Kelley (better known to most as Danny), perpetrated a series of acts that ultimately led to an encounter with police that ended in an officer involved shooting.
“By the time that Officer Kiefer of the Charlotte Mecklenburg Police Department made contact with our son, Danny had already committed several crimes, including the injury of one innocent person. It is our belief at this time that the actions of Danny, before and during his encounter with Officer Kiefer, left the officer with no other reasonable course of action than to use deadly force to protect himself and the community at large.
“Danny was troubled with addiction and we believe it was this addiction that, directly or indirectly, led Danny to commit the crimes associated with the events of January 16th.
“While we are deeply saddened and devastated by the death of our son, we would also like to express our heartfelt sorrow for the victims of his crimes and ultimately to Officer Kiefer. We bear no ill feelings towards Officer Kiefer and understand that this is a trying and troubling time for him too. “