The estate of Bradley Blackshire, 30, has sued two police officers and the city of Little Rock over his fatal shooting Feb. 22 by then-Officer Charles Starks in a parking lot at 12th Street and Rodney Parham.
The suit is by Kimberly Blackshire-Lee, as administratrix of Blackshire’s estate. It names Starks and Officer Michael Simpson, who drove into the car Starks was attempting to stop because it was reported stolen. Starks was cleared of criminal wrongdoing by Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley and a chain of police supervisors said Starks was justified in shooting Blackshire after he tried to slowly drive away and bumped Starks in the process. Starks jumped in front of the car and fired multiple times, killing Blackshire. Police Chief Keith Humphrey overrode other officers and fired Starks. Simpson’s actions that day were upheld in an administrative review. Starks is appealing his firing to the Civil Service Commission.
The lawsuit, filed by Omavi Shukur, and other attorneys was assigned to federal Judge Billy Roy Wilson.
It contends Blackshire was “surreptitiously targeted” by Starks and the Police Department. The suit says Blackshire “borrowed” the Nissan Altima from someone else and it began to be monitored on 12th Street, though he’d broken no traffic laws. Police have said a license plate reading device had flagged the car as having been stolen.
Starks, without waiting for backup, blocked the car after Blackshire pulled into a parking lot and drew his gun. Blackshire reportedly asked, “What did I do?” According to the lawsuit, the officer gave no reason for the stop and the car began slowly rolling forward.
By the lawsuit’s account, Starks didn’t feel threatened by the car. Rather, he thought the driver was just trying to leave. The suit said Blackshire never displayed a weapon or reached for his pockets.
No reasonable person would have perceived Mr. Blackshire as threatening
Defendant Starks or anyone else.
Nonetheless, Defendant Starks aimed his gun at Mr. Blackshire, leaned against
the Altima and began shooting Mr. Blackshire with the intent to kill him.
When the car stopped, Starks moved in front and kept shooting. Simpson drove into the lot and hit Blackshire’s car, which knocked Starks to the ground, the suit said. It continues:
Once the Altima came to rest, Defendant Simpson noticed that Mr. Blackshire
was losing consciousness.
Nonetheless, Defendant Simpson drew his gun on the dying Mr. Blackshire and
repeatedly yelled at him, shouting, “Put your fuckin’ hands up!”
Mr. Blackshire continued to bleed profusely through several gunshot wounds.
Neither of the Defendant Officers provided medical care to Mr. Blackshire.
Moreover, the Defendant Officers did not request emergency medical services to
come to the parking lot until more than five minutes after Defendant Starks fired his last shot.
There was no just reason for the Defendant Officers’ delay in requesting
emergency medical services for Mr. Blackshire.
The lawsuit contends Starks initially didn’t give an honest account of events, as a video produced later indicated. It also notes a past recommendation that Starks be fired because he was difficult to manage and “gravitated toward conflict.”
The suit accuses the city of rarely punishing officers for use of excessive force. It says the department has an automated software system that alerts supervisors about problematic use of force.
The EIS flagged problem LRPD officers more than 700 times between July 2010
and the end of 2015, but only mandated interventions in two instances-both for the abuse of sick-leave policy.
This repeated, intentional refusal to intervene in problematic uses of force is
pursuant to the City’s deficient, unconstitutional policies, practices and customs of allowing police officers to use excessive force without consequence.
Department policy prohibits officers from firing into moving vehicles, the suit said. But it cited multiple times when officers had fired into vehicles with corrective action rarely resulting.
The city also should have known from past experience that “barricading” vehicles of drivers unaware they were suspects, such as Starks did, “almost guaranteed an officer-involved shooting” and poses risks to bystanders.
The suit quotes an unnamed police lieutenant questioning Starks’ tactic that day and a general lack of department training on how to avoid escalating trouble in traffic stops. In seeking damages, the lawsuit specifically alleges, among others, unlawful excessive force, a failure to provide medical care, assault and battery and municipal liability for failure to provide adequate training and not adequately handling misconduct.