LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Police in Little Rock, Arkansas, on Monday fired a white officer who killed a black motorist, saying he violated departmental policy when he shot at least 15 times through the moving car's windshield.
In a letter to Officer Charles Starks, Chief Keith Humphrey said that voluntarily moving in front of a vehicle and firing at it instead of avoiding its path was a violation of policy. Starks has 10 business days to appeal his termination, police spokesman Michael Ford said. Starks' lawyer, Robert Newcomb, called the decision to fire Starks "political" and said the officer has started the appeal process.
Prosecutors on April 19 declined to file charges against Starks in the death of 30-year-old Bradley Blackshire. Police said Starks was responding to a call Feb. 22 after a detective confirmed that the car Blackshire was driving was stolen. Starks fired multiple rounds into the moving car, killing Blackshire at the scene.
A 25-minute video that city and police officials released in March consisting of surveillance and police dashcam footage shows Starks instructing Blackshire to exit the parked vehicle. Instead, Blackshire begins to slowly drive away, bumping Starks, who fires into the windshield four times. The car briefly stops and Starks maneuvers onto the hood of the vehicle, shooting at least 11 more times as the car continues to move.
Starks stops shooting when a second officer arrives and crashes into Blackshire's vehicle.
Starks was placed on administrative leave while the department investigated the shooting. He was being paid but was performing no departmental duties and had surrendered his gun and badge.
In a letter to the police chief explaining why he would not file charges, Pulaski County prosecutor Larry Jegley said the moving vehicle was a deadly threat that justified Starks' use of force.
An investigative report released by police indicates methamphetamines, PCP, marijuana and cocaine were found in Blackshire's body. An interview in the file also reveals Starks said he "blacked out" and could not recall some specifics of the shooting.
A lawyer for Blackshire's family did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Starks' firing. After prosecutors declined to file charges last month, family members said they believed the officer's actions were "criminal."
The department had disciplined Starks 10 times since his 2013 hiring. According to disciplinary records, in 2016 he was suspended for 25 days as a result of two internal investigations, though specifics have been redacted.
Newcomb, the attorney for Starks, said he thinks the decision to fire Starks was influenced by Mayor Frank Scott. The lawyer cited a series of letters by Starks' superiors that indicated the officer's actions were appropriate for the circumstances and recommended no disciplinary action.
Ford said the police chief makes the final decision on any termination.
A spokesman for the mayor said Scott "respects Chief Humphrey's decision" but otherwise has no comment.
Scott, the city's first elected black mayor, has previously called for an independent citizen review board to examine excessive police force and has begun the process of acquiring body cameras for officers.
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