LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Criminal charges have been brought against a Little Rock Police Department officer following use of deadly force in a weekend shooting.
LRPD Officer Johvoni McClendon was charged with a first-degree battery felony and a first-degree assault misdemeanor after an officer-involved shooting Saturday.
On Wednesday, Prosecuting Attorney Will Jones and LRPD Chief Heath Helton held a joint press conference about the incident.
“There’s no doubt that the actions of Officer McClendon were outside of the department’s policy related to the use of deadly force,” Helton stated.
Investigators said McClendon was part of a pursuit, but officers had lost sight of the vehicle they were chasing, later finding it abandoned.
While searching, officers said a truck began circling the area. The officers stated they stopped the truck, drew their guns, and commanded the driver and a passenger to get out.
Police said the driver obeyed, but, the passenger, later identified as 20-year-old Brendan Johnson, slid from the back of the truck into the driver’s seat and tried to drive away. That’s when, according to Helton, McClendon fired his weapon at the vehicle.
Johnson was injured, treated for his injuries, and taken to the hospital for further treatment. Helton said he was still recovering in the hospital Wednesday.
Helton said McClendon was relieved of his duties within hours of the shooting and not long after Helton viewed multiple angles of body and dash cam video. Together with the prosecuting attorney, a felony warrant against McClendon was approved Tuesday.
“Due to the severity of the violations observed, I believed that it was imperative that immediate action be taken to protect the public, our internal policies and the law,” Helton said.
McClendon was arraigned in Little Rock District Court around 8:30 a.m. Wednesday and taken to Pulaski County Detention Center around 10 a.m. He then bonded out, paying 10% of a $25,000 bond, according to the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office.
“While McClendon may be a police officer, keep in mind he is afforded the same rights as any other individual and should be considered innocent until proven guilty,” Jones said.
Both Jones and Helton spoke on some of the specifics of why they quickly decided arresting a police officer was the right thing to do.
Multiple times Helton was asked specifically what policy the officer may have broken. Helton did not answer, even when asked if it regarded a policy against firing at a fleeing vehicle.
“Officer McClendon has an internal investigation as well as a criminal investigation, and I think it is important to respect those due processes, and I’m just not going to be able to answer that question at this time,” Helton said.
McClendon has worked at LRPD for three years. Between a criminal and administrative hearing, he could be terminated.
When asked Wednesday about McClendon’s next court date, the prosecuting attorney’s office stated it has not been scheduled and will likely not be set until the felony information has been filed with the circuit court.
Public Information Officer Mark Edwards said this is the LRPD’s third officer-involving shooting of the year. Helton said it has been a few years since any officer-involved shootings resulted in an officer’s arrest.