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Police kill transgender man who gained viral fame last year with service dog

Arizona police shot and killed a transgender man who gained viral fame last year after uploading a video showing his service dog calming him during a meltdown.

The 24-year-old, who had Asperger’s syndrome, was legally known as Danielle Jacobs, but identified as Kayden Clarke and hoped to transition from female to male, friends told the Arizona Republic. Police were at his home Thursday morning after being alerted to a suicidal email he had sent out, according to the Associated Press.

A pair of officers tried to talk to Clarke through an open doorway as a third officer retrieved a “less-than-lethal option,” a Mesa police spokesman said Friday, according to video uploaded by the Republic. Clarke came to the door with a large kitchen knife in hand, said the spokesman, who referred to Clarke as a woman.

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“She lunged, extending the knife towards the officers from a very close distance,” Detective Esteban Flores said. “The officers felt threatened at that point,” and so they shot him. Clarke was taken to a hospital but did not survive, the Republic reported.

Both officers — who reportedly also had stun guns, according to the Associated Press — are on administrative leave. At least one officer was trained in crisis intervention, which includes learning how to deal with individuals with cognitive disabilities and mental illness, Flores said.

“At this time, we express our sympathies to Danielle’s family and friends,” he added, referring to Clarke by his legal name. The investigation into the incident is ongoing.

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Last June, Clarke uploaded his now-viral video to a YouTube account under Danielle Jacobs, the name by which he appeared to identify at the time. In the video, Clarke seems to have a meltdown, crying and hitting himself. His dog then jumps on and nuzzles him, at one point even appearing to paw at his hands as he slaps his head.

“She was trying to share the struggles some people with Asperger’s go through and to try to take the stigma away,” said Heather Allen, founder of HALO Animal Rescue where Clarke had volunteered since age 13, according to the Associated Press.

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Allen said she called police after Clarke sent a suicidal email Thursday morning, asking someone to take care of his dog. The dog is now under the care of Clarke’s mother, according to the New York Daily News.