Photo: Charles Starks
LITTLE ROCK (AP) – A white Little Rock police officer who fatally shot a Black motorist during a traffic stop last year resigned on Friday, accusing the police chief of making his working conditions “intolerable” since a judge ordered him reinstated.
Officer Charles Starks was fired last year over the fatal shooting of Bradley Blackshire during a traffic stop, but a judge in January ordered the city to reinstate him. Starks fired at least 15 shots through the windshield of a car Blackshire was driving in February 2019.
In his letter to Chief Keith Humphrey, Starks complained about having to sue to get the city to pay into his retirement account. He wrote that a counselor recommended he resign because of a “toxic environment.”
“You have done everything to make my working conditions intolerable and you have succeeded,” he wrote, noting that his resignation would take effect Sept. 26.
A police spokesman said neither the department nor the chief would comment on Starks’ resignation. Through a spokeswoman, Mayor Frank Scott also declined to comment.
Starks fired on the vehicle as it moved slowly toward him during a traffic stop. Police commanders fired Starks, saying he violated department policy.
However, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox reversed the city’s Civil Commission’s decision upholding Starks’ firing. Fox agreed with the commission’s ruling that Starks violated policy prohibiting officers from voluntarily placing themselves in front of an oncoming vehicle “where deadly force is the probable outcome.” That policy requires officers to move out of an oncoming vehicle’s path if possible rather than fire.
But the judge said a 30-day suspension and reduction in salary to that of an entry level officer were more appropriate sanctions.
A prosecutor declined to file charges against Starks over the shooting, saying the car was moving and an imminent threat that justified the use of deadly force.
Surveillance and dashcam footage of the traffic stop shows Starks instructing Blackshire to exit the parked car. Instead, Blackshire begins to slowly drive away and bumps 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.
Blackshire’s family filed a lawsuit last year claiming that Starks and a second officer used excessive force and failed to provide medical care. The case is scheduled to go to trial in October 2021.
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