LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Prosecutors on Friday declined to file charges against a Little Rock police officer who fatally shot a man by firing at least 15 times into the windshield as the car was in motion.
Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley said that Officer Charles Starks won’t face charges in the Feb. 22 shooting of Bradley Blackshire, who was black. Police said Starks, who is white, was responding to a call after a detective confirmed the car Blackshire was driving was stolen.
In a 25-minute video of the incident released last month, various angles showed Starks on the vehicle’s hood shooting at Blackshire, 30, through the windshield as the car continued to move.
“Starks was confronted with the imminent threat of deadly force in two forms: 1) the vehicle that was driving toward him and from which he had no duty to retreat, and 2) his reasonable belief that Mr. Blackshire was going to shoot him,” Jegley wrote in a letter to the city’s police chief. “Starks’ use of force, under Arkansas law and prior decisions by the United States Supreme court, was justified.”
Little Rock police said it has completed its internal investigation of the shooting and said a final decision will take approximately two weeks. Police said Starks is still being paid but not performing any departmental duties pending the outcome of that investigation. Starks was ordered to surrender his badge and gun after the shooting.
Omavi Shukur, a lawyer for Blackshire’s family, released a statement Friday night on their behalf.
“Charles Starks’ actions were criminal,” the statement said. “The family disagrees with the prosecutor’s decision and will be undeterred in our pursuit of justice.”
The video showed that almost immediately after Blackshire’s car backs into a space in a parking lot, a police SUV arrives with lights on and stops nearby. Starks then walks to the driver’s side window with his gun drawn and instructs Blackshire to get out of the car multiple times. Blackshire refuses and asks, “What did I do?” and “What are you going to shoot me for?” Blackshire then begins to slowly drive away.
Starks is knocked by the car and fires into the windshield four times. Blackshire momentarily stops, and Starks maneuvers in front of the vehicle, leaning on the hood.
When Blackshire continues to drive, Starks — now on top of the hood — shoots at least 11 more times into the windshield. He stops shooting and gets off the car after a second officer, Michael Simpson, arrives and crashes into Blackshire’s vehicle. Blackshire died at the scene.
Ammunition cartridges were found in Blackshire’s pockets and a loaded .45-caliber handgun was found in the car after the shooting, Jegley wrote. A female passenger in the vehicle also said she believed Blackshire was going to shoot Starks, he wrote.
The prosecutor wrote that Starks ordered Blackshire to get out of the vehicle at least 12 times and couldn’t tell if Blackshire was reaching for something when he moved his hand down to put the car in gear.
An attorney for Starks said the officer was pleased with the decision.
“It relieves burden on him and his family. He wishes Mr. Blackshire would’ve gotten out of the car and this would have never happened,” Attorney Robert Newcomb said in a statement to Little Rock television station KARK.
The shooting has prompted some protests in Little Rock, where the police department already faced questions about its use of no-knock warrants. A small group of protesters briefly shut down a downtown intersection in front of City Hall on Tuesday night before Police Chief Keith Humphrey met with the group and later said he supported their right to peacefully protest.
Mayor Frank Scott, who in December became the first African-American popularly elected to lead the city, has called for an independent citizen review board to address use of excessive force by police. Scott has also called for equipping police officers with body cameras.
In a statement Friday night, Scott said he’s spoken to Blackshire’s mother and “prayed with her.” He also said he is awaiting the results of a Department of Justice civil rights review of the case.
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