Pulaski County Prosecutor Larry Jegley will not bring charges against Little Rock Police Officer Charles Starks, according to the LRPD and the prosecuting attorney’s office. Starks, 31, fatally shot Bradley Blackshire, 30, in a parking lot on the corner of West 12th Street and Rodney Parham Road on Feb 22.
Police said Blackshire was driving a vehicle that had been reported stolen. According to initial police accounts, Starks fired on Blackshire after Blackshire accelerated and hit Starks. But on Feb. 27, the LRPD took the unusual step of relieving Starks of duty. He remained on payroll, but had to turn over his badge and gun.
On March 7, the LRPD released a 25-minute critical incident video. It shows Stark’s police vehicle speed to a stop in front of the vehicle Blackshire was driving. Then Starks asks Blackshire repeatedly and aggressively to get out of the car. Asked by Blackshire what he’s done, Starks says, “Get out! I’ll explain to you in a second.” Seconds later, Blackshire says, “What you gonna shoot me for, I ain’t got — ” Starks continues to demand that Blackshire get of the car. Blackshire says, “No.” The car Blackshire was driving begins to move slowly forward in what appears to be an attempt to get around Starks’ police vehicle. Soon after Starks begins shooting. He fired into the car at least 15 times.
Jegley, in a letter to LRPD Chief Keith Humphrey, said the shooting was justified because “Starks was confronted with the imminent threat of deadly force in two forms: 1) the vehicle that was driving toward him and from which he had no duty to retreat, and 2) his reasonable belief that Mr. Blackshire was going to shoot him.”
Jegley says Starks believed Blackshire said, “You’re gonna have to shoot me,” instead of “What you gonna shot me for.” Jegley also says that when Blackshire puts the car into gear, his hand goes out of sight. Starks said he couldn’t tell if Blackshire was reaching for something. Jegley writes that Desaray Clarke, who was a passenger in the car, said Blackshire was “digging around in his pocket where she says he normally keeps his gun.”
Jegley says that Starks said that he moved in front of car in an effort to take cover behind his vehicle’s engine block as officers are trained to avoid getting shot. Starks also said that he was squaring up to Blackshire so that his vest would provide maximum protection if he was shot.
Jegley, in his letter, anticipates that critics will point to how slow Blackshire’s car appears to be moving.
“There is less than one second that passes between Starks getting bumped by the vehicle, the vehicle continuing towards Starks, and Starks firing his first shot. So even though the video gives the impression of everything happening slowly, these are truly split-second judgements that Starks is making.”
An LRPD spokesman also said today that an internal investigation into the incident had concluded, but said it would take approximately two weeks for Chief Humphrey to make a final decision on Starks’ status.
Protestors blocked the intersection of Markham and Broadway on Tuesday during a City Board meeting, demanding justice for Blackshire.
Omavi Shukur, an attorney representing Blackshire’s family, provided the following statement from the family:
Charles Starks’s actions were criminal. The family disagrees with the prosecutor’s decision and will be undeterred in our pursuit of justice. We ask that the community not give the authorities any excuse to further neglect their responsibility to make amends for this devastating tragedy. Let us be constructive in the wake of Starks’s destructive actions. We seek justice, not retribution. 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.
Mayor Frank Scott issued the following statement:
I received notice this afternoon from Little Rock Police Chief Keith Humphrey that Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley’s office will not file criminal charges against Charles Starks, the LRPD Officer who shot and killed Bradley Blackshire on February 22nd.
In the spirit of transparency, I earnestly await the Department of Justice’s civil rights review and its results. Chief Humphrey has assured me that the Internal Affairs investigation to determine policy violations or disciplinary action will be decided within two weeks.
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 have 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.
I understand the range of emotions that today’s decision has stirred, for I too share in your pain and frustration. However, I personally ask that the citizens of Little Rock remain peaceful.