The Little Rock police this afternoon gave an account of the death of a man early Saturday after two officers tried to stop him from driving after one observed him drinking. He resisted. Multiple shots from one officer, in the car as the man drove off, struck James Hartsfield, 28, who was described as a driver for a ride service responding to a call to take home a customer from an after-hours club in the Prospect Building at 1501 North University.
Here’s the full police report:
On Saturday, October 7, 2017, Officer Brittany Gunn was working in an off-duty capacity at the Local Union, located at 1501 N. University Avenue. Officer Gunn was wearing a Little Rock police department uniform at the time and her duties were security for the parking lot.
At approximately 0415 hours, an individual, who was leaving the Local Union and had requested a transportation service to the location, saw a 2004 Mercedes Benz pull onto the lot. The individual asked the driver of the Mercedes if he was with the service and the driver indicated that he was. That individual then got into the Mercedes. Before the driver pulled away Officer Gunn saw that he appeared to be drinking from a bottle of liquor while driving.
Officer Gunn made contact with the driver in reference to what she observed and during the course of her investigation she ordered the driver out of the vehicle. The driver refused to comply with Officer Gunn’s commands and a physical altercation ensued. Officer Gunn was able to ask for assistance on her police radio and on-duty officers responded to her location.
Officer Nicholas Smith arrived on the scene and attempted to assist Officer Gunn with removing the driver from the vehicle. When Officer Smith arrived Officer Gunn was in the passenger side of the Mercedes and was struggling with the driver. Officer Smith went to the driver’s side and the two officers attempted to remove the driver who continued to resist. The driver was able to put the vehicle into drive and take off rapidly. This action caused Officer Smith to fall onto the pavement and away from the vehicle as it sped forward.
Officer Gunn was still inside the passenger side of the vehicle and as it continued to accelerate toward a brick retaining wall. Officer Gunn was able to fire multiple times at the driver from her service weapon. The vehicle then went through the retaining wall and landed on University Avenue. As the vehicle was striking the street Officer Gunn was ejected and also landed in the street.
The vehicle then came to rest in the northbound lanes of University Avenue. At that point other on-duty officers arrived on the scene. They immediately began to render aid to Officer Gunn who was unresponsive. Officers also checked on the driver of the vehicle who was also unresponsive. Officers then called for ambulances for Officer Gunn and the driver of the Mercedes. Officer Gunn was transported to a local hospital for treatment.
When medical personnel arrived and checked the driver of the Mercedes it was determined that he was deceased. He had been struck multiple times by the gunfire. He was identified as James Hartsfield, B/M, 05/13/1989, of Little Rock. The next of kin has been notified.
Officer Gunn was treated at the hospital for multiple contusions and abrasions. She was released from the hospital later in the day. Officer Smith was treated at the hospital for a minor injury to the leg. He was released from the hospital after treatment.
This incident took place on the parking lot and at this time there does not appear that the there was any involvement with the business itself.
Officer Gunn was hired as a Little Rock Police officer on June 25, 2012. Officer Smith was hired as a Little Rock Police on August 12, 2013. Officer Gunn and Officer Smith have been placed on administrative leave per department policy. The investigation is ongoing.
Police did not identify the person who’d called for the ride service. A police spokesman said the man got out of the car after the officer tried to stop the driver and was not in the vehicle when it drove off. The spokesman said police were uncertain which ride service Hartsfield worked for. Photographs indicate it carried no markings of a taxi company.
A dash camera was operating in Smith’s patrol car, but its recording is not being released yet.
Note: A court search shows a man by the same name and the same age in traffic court recently on charges including speeding, driving with a suspended license and lack of liability insurance. A warrant for failure to appear was issued after he was a no-show in court on those charges. The record shows a number of other prior traffic citations.