Michael Laux, attorney for the family of Eugene Ellison, slain by a Little Rock police officer in his apartment in 2010, has written Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley asking him to reopen a criminal investigation of that death.
The family, which includes one current and one former Little Rock office, has received a $900,000 settlement from the city in the death, but state and federal officials had previously said there wasn’t sufficient evidence to mount a criminal case. Ellison was killed by a shot from outside his apartment by one of two police officers working off-duty as private security. They said he had threatened them with a cane when they entered the apartment to inquire about his well-being.
Laux’s request arises from information he’s developed in a separate lawsuit against the police over the killing of a car burglary suspect, Bobby Moore, by Officer Josh Hastings. Two trials of Hastings ended in hung juries.
Laux’s letter details an autopsy finding on the downward trajectory of the bullet that killed Ellison that seems to contradict the account of Officer Donna Lesher. She said Ellison was standing upright and swinging his cane when he was shot. The letter also questions the sufficiency of the homicide investigation by a police division that was headed by Lesher’s husband. It notes depositions from several officers, including Assistant Chief Wayne Bewley and former Chief Stuart Thomas in which they can’t explain a failure to ask some of the questions raised by the autopsy. Bewley thinks the matter should be investigated further, Laux’s letter says. Under oath in the Moore case, Thomas is quoted as saying Ellison could not have been standing when Lesher shot him.
When asked if the LRPD dropped the ball during the investigation, Chief Thomas responded, “I don’t know.”
The letter notes other officers with testimony damaging to the original conclusions about the case. Capt. Heath Helton of the LRPD training division said it was a violation of rules for an officer to fire from outside a building to the inside, as Lesher had done, unless the officer or someone else was drawing fire. He also acknowledged the contradiction in the autopsy testimony.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette wrote about these documents in an article today. In that article, Prosecutor Jegley declined to comment. But Police Chief Kenton Buckner said the department would not investigate further.