Pros­e­cu­tor says po­lice jus­ti­fied in fa­tally shoot­ing 16-year-old boy

The Washington Times Daily - - NATION - BY AN­DREW DEMILLO

LIT­TLE ROCK, ARK. | A black teenager pointed a BB gun that looked like a hand­gun at po­lice be­fore he was fa­tally shot by of­fi­cers out­side an emer­gency youth cen­ter in eastern Arkansas, a pros­e­cu­tor said in an­nounc­ing no charges would be filed against the of­fi­cers.

Pros­e­cut­ing At­tor­ney Scott Ellington on Wed­nes­day re­leased body cam­era footage that shows 16-year-old Aries Clark was hold­ing and rais­ing what ap­peared to be a pis­tol on July 25 out­side East Arkansas Youth Ser­vices in Mar­ion.

The of­fi­cers “or­dered, ca­joled, en­cour­aged and begged” Clark to get rid of the gun, Mr. Ellington wrote in a let­ter to the head of Arkansas State Po­lice, which in­ves­ti­gated the shoot­ing. In one video, an of­fi­cer can be heard promis­ing to put his gun down if Clark drops his, telling the teen: “You’re some­body’s kid, man. We don’t want to do this.”

Mr. Ellington said the two of­fi­cers who fired their weapons — Bran­non Hin­kle and Wes­ley Smith — were jus­ti­fied in us­ing lethal force. Both of­fi­cers are white.

“Clark’s ac­tions that day brought about the cir­cum­stances that threat­ened the lives of at least four law en­force­ment of­fi­cers had the gun he bran­dished been a firearm, as was per­ceived by the re­spond­ing of­fi­cers, and I can­not find that the of­fi­cers acted crim­i­nally,” Mr. Ellington wrote.

“There­fore, I find the of­fi­cers were jus­ti­fied un­der th­ese cir­cum­stances and no crim­i­nal charges will be filed in the mat­ter.”

The teenager’s grand­mother, Vickie Burks, dis­agreed and said her grand­son wasn’t vi­o­lent.

“I think it’s un­fair and un­rea­son­able,” Ms. Burks said. “If you’re a trained po­lice of­fi­cer, you can in­jure some­one and not kill them.”

An at­tor­ney said the Clark fam­ily had not been con­tacted by au­thor­i­ties about the de­ci­sion. At­tor­ney Kim Cole said the fam­ily had not viewed the footage re­leased, but said her of­fice had be­gun to re­view it.

“We will pro­ceed with our in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion and con­tinue our re­view of the footage. We will make a de­ter­mi­na­tion of next steps once our in­ves­ti­ga­tion has con­cluded,” Ms. Cole said in a state­ment.

The teenager’s mother told a Ten­nessee tele­vi­sion sta­tion last month that the fam­ily had been try­ing to get help for her son be­cause he was be­ing dis­rup­tive.

Only Of­fi­cer Smith’s shots hit the teen, ac­cord­ing to Mr. Ellington’s let­ter. Of­fi­cer Hin­kle was on the south­west side of the build­ing in Mar­ion, a city just north­west of Mem­phis, Ten­nessee, while Of­fi­cer Smith was be­hind a tree on the build­ing’s north­west side.

Of­fi­cer Smith fired four shots when Clark raised his gun at Of­fi­cer Hin­kle and the other of­fi­cers, strik­ing Clark three times in the back of his head, his back and his but­tocks, Mr. Ellington wrote. Po­lice re­cov­ered a 1911 BB pis­tol from the lo­ca­tion where Clark fell af­ter he was shot. Of­fi­cer Hin­kle fired two shots at Clark, but nei­ther hit the teen.

The youth shel­ter con­tracts with the state to pro­vide ser­vices to chil­dren in fos­ter care or to chil­dren and teens who have been in­volved in the ju­ve­nile jus­tice sys­tem.

Mr. Ellington said Clark had been placed at the fa­cil­ity by court or­der, but had left two days be­fore the shoot­ing with­out per­mis­sion or court ap­proval. Mr. Ellington did not say why the teen had been placed at the fa­cil­ity.

Clark ini­tially was de­nied re-en­try, and po­lice were called when he re­turned a sec­ond time, which Mr. Ellington said was a com­mon prac­tice to en­sure res­i­dents who walked away don’t have drugs or weapons be­fore they’re al­lowed back in.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Aries Clark, 16, holds a black BB gun that looked like a hand­gun be­fore he was fa­tally shot in Mar­ion, Arkansas, on July 25. Two eastern Arkansas po­lice of­fi­cers won’t face charges, a pros­e­cu­tor said Wed­nes­day.

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