A fatal police shooting in Little Rock, Ark. sparked local protests Monday, in the midst of national controversy over the verdict in the George Zimmerman trial.
FOX16 reported that Little Rock police officer Terry McDaniel killed 26-year-old Deon Williams by firing at least two shots from his service weapon at around 11:30 a.m. Monday. The department said in a statement that Williams was fleeing on foot from McDaniel when a handgun dropped out of his waistband. The statement said that Williams looked toward the police officer, picked up the handgun, and started to get to his feet. At that point, McDaniel fired his weapon. Williams was pronounced dead at a local hospital.
The pursuit had begun when Williams fled the Chevrolet Suburban he was driving as McDaniel and another officer approached the car. According to the statement from police, the officers thought the vehicle matched a description of a stolen car that had been reported, and also had an expired license plate.
Shemedia Shelton, a friend of Williams, told FOX16 that the vehicle belonged to her and had not been stolen.
Little Rock police said that McDaniel, who is black, and his partner had been placed on administrative leave while the shooting is investigated to determine whether a crime was committed and whether departmental policies were followed.
An impromptu protest formed near the investigation scene, and many participants called the shooting unjust and cited their frustration about Zimmerman's acquittal Saturday in Florida in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin.
"It was an outrage what they just did in Florida with Trayvon Martin," said Dominique Neal, 25. "I'm still mad about that. Then ... this right here in our city, it's an outrage."
One protester carried a sign that called for justice for a teen killed by Little Rock police last year.
At a vigil hours later on the state Capitol steps that was organized in response to the Zimmerman verdict, several hundred attendees chanted "No justice, no peace," and called for an end to police profiling of black males and an end to black-on-black violence.
Will McClinton, of Little Rock, said he also took part in the street protest following Williams' shooting and that it felt empowering.
"We gave [police] a very good message," he said. "We organized a peaceful little protest. We stood strong and didn't move."
Brody Johnson held a sign that read, "LRPD, We demand answers," but he said he doubted the department would respond.
"They never do," Johnson said.
"People have a right to express their opinions and ideas and we're going to protect that right," Police Chief Stuart Thomas said. "By the same token, we have an obligation to follow through with what we have to do at the scene."
State Rep. Fred Love, D-Little Rock, president of the Legislative Black Caucus, said he wanted the vigil to be a starting point for a conversation about ending profiling of black males.
"How do we turn this tragedy into something that will honor Trayvon's life?" Love asked, and then provided his own answer. "We must stop the senseless killing of one another in our community."
But Love said more is needed than addressing crime in the black community.
"In no way is black-on-black crime an excuse or a justification for what happened to Trayvon Martin," Love said. "We must draw a line in the sand tonight."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.