A white Memphis police officer, who fatally shot an African-American man, will not face federal civil rights criminal charges, a prosecutor says.
On July 17, 2015, Officer Connor Schilling shot and killed 19-year-old Darrius Stewart after he engaged in a confrontation with the officer.
Schilling stopped a car for a broken headlight, issued a ticket and let the driver go, but the officer had arrest warrants for Stewart, who was sitting in the car.
Stewart was then placed in the police car and, according to prosecutors, when Schilling wanted to open the door to his car to handcuff Stewart, he kicked the door and snatched the officer’s handcuffs. The officer grabbed his own gun and shot the black man two times.
On Tuesday, US Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee Edward Stanton told reporters that a federal review found no sufficient evidence to prove the officer was guilty.
“We found insufficient evidence to support federal, criminal civil rights charges against Connor Schilling,” Stanton said, adding, “To establish willfulness, federal authorities must show that the officer acted with a deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids.”
He also said that there was no evidence to prove the second shot was unreasonable too.
“Since eyewitness accounts and physical evidence both indicate that the second shot came very soon after Stewart stood up in close proximity to Schilling, the evidence cannot establish that the initial threat posed by Stewart had abated at the time of the second shot,” Stanton said.
Stewart’s family expressed disappointment at the announcement.
“It seemed the Department of Justice tried to gloss over the fact that there is a lot of conflicting information out there,” Carlos Moore, the Stewart family attorney, said.
Arthur Horne III, another attorney for the family, said, “Darrius’ case represents a problem that has prevailed across the country. It’s bigger than Darrius Stewart. His father knows it. His mother knows that. That’s why we have to push forward and hopefully get justice for this family.”
This came as many US cities have been the scene of anti-police brutality protests over police killing of a number of African Americans in recent weeks.