A Little Rock officer who fatally shot an African-American man during a traffic stop earlier this year won’t be charged in the killing, Pulaski County prosecutors announced Friday.
Patrol Officer Charles Starks shot and killed Bradley Blackshire, 30, on Feb. 22 after pulling him over for driving a vehicle that’d been reported stolen. After ignoring several demands to get out of the car, Blackshire accelerated and struck the officer.
That’s when Starks fired multiple rounds into the vehicle, fatally injuring the man inside.
The harrowing incident was caught on video, showing the officer clinging to the hood of the car while firing shots at the driver. A 20-year-old woman, Desaray Clarke, was a passenger in the car at the time but didn’t suffer any injuries, according to a police report.
After reviewing the case, prosecutors on Friday said they determined that Starks was justified in using lethal force, local station KATV reported. In a four-page letter detailing the decision, Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley wrote that Starks was faced “with the imminent threat of deadly force” at two points during the February incident.
First, the officer had a moving car headed straight for him, Jegley argued. He also said the officer had a “reasonable belief” that Blackshire, who was believed to be armed, was going to fire at him.
Jegley’s letter argues that Starks was well within his rights to block the car, due to the fact that it had been reported stolen, and had sufficient cause to believe that Blackshire had committed a felony. The memo also explains that the reason Starks had passed in front of the car because he was trying to take cover, fearing that Blackshire would shoot him.
A loaded .45 caliber handgun was found in Blackshire’s car following the shooting, the letter states.
Starks, 31, was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation into the incident, and was stripped of his weapon and credentials. He remains employed by the department.
An attorney for the Blackshire family said relatives were less-than-pleased with Friday’s decision and called Starks’ actions “criminal.”
“The family disagrees with the Prosecutor’s decision and we will be undeterred in our pursuit of justice,” attorney Omavi Shakur, told KATV in a statement. “We ask that the community not give the authorities any excuse to further neglect their responsibility to make amends for this devastating tragedy.”
“Retribution without justice does nothing to help us reach our ultimate goal of ensuring that no family has to experience what we are going through right now,” Shakur added.
According to the Arkansas Times, Starks joined Little Rock PD in 2013. He was issued a five-day suspension in 2016, however, after getting in a fight with another customer at a local movie theater. The year before, a driver filed a citizen’s complaint against the officer after Starks wasn’t ticketed for a crash he caused while speeding to a robbery call.
On Friday, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. called for peace in the wake of the decision, writing, “Whether or not you agree with Prosecuting Attorney Jegley’s decision, the fact remains that there is a Little Rock mother grieving the loss of her son.”
“I’ve spoken with Mr. Blackshire’s mother, prayed with her this afternoon and will continue to pray for her peace, strength and comfort during this time of sorrow,” Scott said in a statement.
The findings of the department’s investigation, which has since concluded, are expected to be released in the coming weeks. Protests have also been planned in response to Friday’s decision.
Watch more in the video below.