The Little Rock police officer who was fired after shooting and killing Bradley Blackshire during a traffic stop last year has been given his job back.
On Thursday, Pulaski County Circuit Judge Tim Fox ordered the police department to reinstate officer Charles Starks and retroactively suspend his 30 days without pay. The judge also ordered that Starks’ salary be reduced to that of an entry-level officer.
Starks shot and killed Blackshire during a traffic stop on February 22, 2019. The incident occurred after Starks pulled Blackshire over because the vehicle he was driving had been reported stolen. Police say Blackshire attempted to accelerate the vehicle in an attempt to flee the scene and in doing so he hit Starks with the car. Starks opened fire into the vehicle’s front windshield, killing Blackshire.
Starks was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing, however, he was fired in May after an internal investigation of the shooting was completed. According to the letter of termination from Chief Keith Humphrey, Starks was fired because he violated the department’s use-of-force policy. The policy prohibits officers from moving in front of an oncoming vehicle when deadly force is the probable outcome.
Judge Fox wrote in his ruling that after reviewing the video of Starks’ actions from the time he exited his patrol car to the killing of Blackshire his conclusion was that the officer did not violate Arkansas law or the Little Rock Police Department’s use-of-force policy in that time.
The order says that Starks’ actions, under Arkansas law, “were those of a reasonable certified law enforcement officer … in an emergency situation.”
However, the judge went on to say that a number of Starks’ decisions before he exited his vehicle were “illogical” and set the stage for the deadly confrontation. Fox wrote that Starks “intentionally and voluntarily parked his patrol car where it only partially blocked the stolen vehicle,” which allowed Blackshire to drive forward. Starks also parked his patrol car “in a configuration where he then had to walk across the front” of the parked vehicle Blackshire was in.
The local community has been rallying behind the Blackshire family throughout this process. Saying they wanted justice but are now unhappy with the news that Starks will be reinstated.
“This is a bad day for Little Rock. It’s a black eye for Little Rock. Judge Fox, for whatever reason he made the decision, I think it was more political than not,” said Rizelle Aaron, former Arkansas NAACP President and Blackshire family friend.
Although Charles Starks plans to continue his career with the Little Rock Police Department, Aaron thinks he should look for another job for fear of his and other’s safety. He said, “Every time he pulls one of us over, I believe he’s going to be prepared to hurt one of us. And again, we have to decide whether he goes home or whether we go home.”
Little Rock attorney Khayyam Eddings, who has represented the city in the case, said in a statement Thursday that “we respectfully believe the court erred.” He said the city will appeal the decision and ask the court to stay its order reinstating Starks.