Little Rock, AR – Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. instructed the police department to fast-track the investigation of an officer-involved shooting and told the prosecutor he wanted to fire the officer without giving him due process, according to the prosecutor.
Little Rock Officer Charles Starks was fired by Police Chief Humphrey in May, despite the fact that he’d been cleared by prosecutors of any criminal wrongdoing in the shooting of 30-year-old Bradley Blackshire in April.
The fired police officer is currently appealing his termination to the civil service commission.
The fatal encounter occurred after then-Officer Starks spotted Blackshire driving a stolen vehicle in the area of Rodney Parham Road and West 12th Street on Feb. 22, KATV reported.
Blackshire backed into a parking place in a nearby lot, at which point Officer Starks drove up in his marked patrol vehicle with his lights activated, according to the Associated Press.
The officer drew his weapon, approached Blackshire’s driver’s side window, and ordered him to show his hands.
He then ordered Blackshire to get out of the vehicle multiple times, bodycam footage showed.
“What did I do?” Blackshire asked, refusing to get out of the car. “What are you going to shoot me for?”
“Get out of the car!” Officer Starks said repeatedly.
“No,” the suspect responded, just before he started driving the stolen vehicle towards the officer.
Officer Starks moved backwards and continued to issue commands, but Blackshire proceeded to drive into him.
The officer fired several rounds, at which point the car continued to move forwards, knocking Officer Starks onto the hood.
The officer fired multiple rounds at the driver through the windshield as the car carried him across the parking lot.
A second patrol car then pulled up, and collided with the passenger side of the stolen vehicle.
Officer Starks tumbled from the hood, and both officers converged on the driver.
“Put your f--king hands up!” the second officer ordered repeatedly.
But Blackshire accelerated again, sending the vehicle into a grassy area at the far end of the lot, where it crashed into something off-camera and came to rest near a tree.
“Hey, can I jump out?” a female passenger in the suspect vehicle asked the officers.
The woman climbed out of the passenger side window, then said something to one of the officers.
“She said he’s got a gun!” Officer Starks yelled out.
The officers repeatedly ordered Blackshire to show his hands and radioed for an ambulance.
Blackshire died at the scene, Little Rock Interim Police Chief Wayne Bewley said, according to the Associated Press.
Officer Starks suffered an injury to his right leg, and the female passenger in the stolen car was uninjured.
According to KATV, Officer Starks was placed on administrative leave, and was required to hand over his gun and badge.
Then on May 6, the newly-appointed police chief went against the recommendations of four police supervisors who reviewed the case, and fired Officer Starks.
In the letter of termination, Chief Humphrey alleged that Officer Starks violated the department’s use-of-force policy by not moving out of the path of the suspect’s vehicle as it was moving towards him.
"When confronted by an oncoming vehicle, officers will move out of its path, if possible, rather than fire at the vehicle," the policy read, according to KATV.
Little Rock Assistant Chief Hayward Finks was one of the senior officers who reviewed the incident and did not think Officer Starks violated policy.
"I do not believe that Officer Starks intentionally nor voluntarily stepped in front of the vehicle driven by [the suspect],” Assistant Chief Finks wrote in a letter documenting his findings.
During Stark’s Civil Service Commission appeal hearing, both Chief Finks and Assistant Chief Alice Fulk testified that they were told by the mayor that he wanted to fire Officer Starks without giving the officer any due process, KATV reported.
Now, Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley has also come forward and said the mayor told him the same thing.
"I was directly told that he [mayor] wanted to fire officer Starks without any due process,” Jegley said on Thursday.
The prosecutor said that the file on the Blackshire shooting had made it to his desk with record speed, KATV reported.
Chief Finks testified at the appeal hearing that the file was given to the prosecutor just 13 days after the incident occurred.
He called the investigation “rushed” and “incomplete,” KATV reported.
"There are a lot of things that were either rushed or not completed because there was pressure from Mayor Scott from the very beginning to do this investigation quickly and, in his opinion, to fire officer Starks as quickly as possible," Chief Finks said
Jegley said it usually takes six to eight weeks for a case file to get to him, according to KATV.
The prosecutor’s office decided not to prosecute Officer Starks 43 days after they got the file – 56 days after Blackshire was fatally shot.
Jegley said he notified the mayor’s office of his intention to give the Blackshire family his findings ahead of the public announcement, and Scott asked him to hold off on telling the family.
“Hell no, I’m not going to do that,” was his response, he told KATV.
Scott denied having asked the prosecutor to delay notification, but Jegley pushed back on the mayor’s claim.
"I know what the truth is and I don't have any motivation to lie about it,” the prosecutor said. “I know what I was told when this process was going on when we had an interim chief prior to Chief Humphrey's arrival. I know the people who said what they said when they said it to me, I have no reason to doubt that what they said is true."
The mayor’s office said they had been advised they couldn’t comment on the allegations as they were related to an ongoing personnel matter, KATV reported.
The next hearing for Starks appeal was delayed because his attorney suffered an injury. It has not yet been rescheduled.