US attorney's office reviewing black teen's fatal shooting

AP News
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Posted: Dec 14, 2015 5:33 PM

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A U.S. attorney in Tennessee announced Monday that federal prosecutors were reviewing a white Memphis police officer's fatal shooting of a black teenager.

The family of 19-year-old Darrius Stewart had asked federal prosecutors to step in after a local grand jury declined to indict Officer Connor Schilling on charges of voluntary manslaughter and use of a weapon during the commission of a dangerous felony.

Stewart was a passenger in a car stopped by the officer for a headlight violation on July 17. According to police, the officer ran Stewart's identification and found the teen had outstanding warrants from Illinois and Iowa. Schilling put Stewart in the back of his squad car as he checked on the warrants. After dispatchers said Stewart should be arrested, Schilling went to handcuff Stewart.

According to police, Stewart kicked open the door, grabbed the handcuffs and starting beating Schilling with them. As they fought on the ground, Schilling fired his service weapon, wounding Stewart. The teen died at a hospital of two gunshot wounds, a medical examiner found.

Although the case has not received as much national attention as some other police shootings around the country, it has prompted peaceful rallies and vigils, with activists demanding Schilling resign or be fired. And Hillary Clinton met with Stewart's family last month during a trip to Memphis, U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen has said.

At a news conference Monday, U.S. Attorney Edward Stanton III said the Department of Justice has been conducting an "independent, comprehensive and careful review" of the evidence in the case. The review is being done by the U.S. attorney's office, the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division and the FBI. Stanton declined to answer any questions about the review.

Schilling's attorney, Art Quinn, has previously said he does not fear a federal investigation because his client did nothing wrong. He did not immediately return a call on Monday.

Schilling has been relieved of duty with pay. He faces an administrative hearing to determine his future with the department.

Attorney Carlos Moore, who represents Stewart's father, Henry Williams, said he was pleased with Stanton's announcement.

Moore said he recently received a letter from the Justice Department asking for the names of witnesses. Asked about Stanton's use of the word "review," rather than "investigation, Moore said, "No matter what word you use, they are interviewing witnesses and following up on leads."

The announcement comes one day before the expected court-ordered release of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation's files in the shooting. Those files normally are closed but District Attorney General Amy Weirich asked for their release after the grand jury declined to indict Schilling.

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This story has corrected spelling of Darrius, not Darius.