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Friends Say Man Killed By Police Had Long History Of Mental Illness, Sought Help From City

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) - Friends say the man who was shot dead by officers Friday night had a long history of mental illness, and he had reportedly turned to the city for help.

The police-involved shooting sent an officer to the hospital where he remained in a medically-induced coma, reports Christina Fan.

Kwesi Ashun was known in his Flatbush neighborhood for selling his own t-shirt designs and also for his long-time struggle with bipolar disorder.

Friends say the 33-year-old had been arrested before for attacking a police officer, but this time, the encounter was deadly.

"It probably triggered the last time he was apprehended by the police because he's sick," said Sharif Walker.

Police say two cops were trying to arrest 26-year-old Dewayne Hawkes inside a nail salon in Brownsville on Friday when Ashun intervened, using a metal chair to hit a veteran officer over the head, critically injuring him. His partner used his Taser, but police say that did not work. The NYPD says the officer being assaulted was forced to open fire, killing Ashun.

"I knew he was taking some medication I believe to help himself," said friend Kabar Walker.

Mayor Bill de Blasio says the city will investigate a claim that Ashun's family had requested the city for help earlier this month regarding his mental health.

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CBS2 asked the mayor about reports that the family was told by city officials that Ashun appeared non-violent and was not considered a threat.

"We need to know more about that for sure," said de Blasio. "We need to know more about that."

Friends who created a memorial say there is no justifying Ashun's actions, but they wonder if the city can do more to help those who are mentally ill.

"Maybe they can show some kind of wristband or color band on they ankle so when the cops see these things on these guys they can think twice," said Walker.

The nail salon remained closed Saturday as police continued their investigation.

This was the fifth officer-involved shooting for NYPD in the last two weeks.

The wounded police officer, who still has not been identified by the NYPD, remains hospitalized.

Hawkes was arraigned on several charges Saturday. The 26-year-old was freed on supervised released and is due back in court next month.

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