Civil Service Commission hearing testimony in firing appeal of LRPD’s Charles Starks

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Update:

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Civil Service Commission’s hearing for tomorrow has been postponed due to Stark’s attorney’s injuries sustained during a fall.

Original:

LITTLE ROCK, Ark.- The Civil Service Commission started hearing testimony Thursday as former Little Rock Police Officer Charles Starks asks for his job back.

The hearing is approaching its eighth hour.

Starks was fired after fatally shooting Bradley Blackshire in February.

The concern is whether Charles Starks violated police policy that states an officer shouldn’t place themselves in front of a car where deadly force is likely.

Earlier in the proceedings, the Commission had banned recording and transmission of the hearing. Several bloggers and members of the audience have been removed for using a video recorder. Cameras are now allowed in the room.

The members of the Commission are volunteers and applied to be a commissioner.

The City argues Starks did not follow department rules while conducting a felony traffic stop.

Starks says while on the stand that he doesn’t believe it was a traffic stop. He said the car was parked when he approached Blackshire.

When the video of the shooting was played in the room, Blackshire’s mother left the room and Starks appeared shaken and grabbed his eyes several times.

Starks said his backup was at Cantrell and University. Starks was at Kanis near 12th Street.

The former officer says he approached Blackshire and planned to hold him at gunpoint until his backup arrived.

“He was already parked,” Starks says. “It was stopped.”

Starks told the Commission that he could not see Blackshire’s hands after multiple demands to see them.

“The hands are what will hurt you, kill you,” said Starks.

The former officer says he positioned himself on the side of the car so his bulletproof vest had ultimate protection.

The city argues Starks did not maximize his opportunity for cover like LRPD policy states.

He told the Commission he tried getting to his patrol vehicle for cover after Blackshire started moving.

He says the urgency comes after Blackshire’s hand went from the gearshift to the side of Blackshire’s leg.

Starks said he didn’t want to get shot.

During the hearing, Starks says that Blackshire’s eyes had a ‘thousand-yard stare’. The former officer says he then thought Blackshire was on drugs.

Starks says Blackshire locked the doors.

“He was not going to comply with anything I told him to do,” says Starks.

The former officer says he didn’t start shooting until he was in front of the car or on the hood of the car.

Starks said for a fraction of a second the suspect vehicle paused, and that’s when he says he tried to go back to his patrol car for cover.

Starks also said he first thought he shot the passenger in the car.

Starks’ training officer then took the stand.

The training officer said officers are trained to wait for backup if at all possible.

The officer said the training LRPD gets is to not get in front of a moving car where deadly force is the likely outcome.

Starks’ attorney asked the training officer, “LRPD didn’t train on this scenario did he [they]?”

“No sir, not on this,” the training officer replies. “On this one, of course, this is different. Nothing is perfect.”

Starks said he didn’t wait for backup because he wanted the element of surprise.

The training officer testified he personally would’ve waited for backup.

Assistant Chief Alice Fulk, who was over Internal Affairs at the time, took the stand.

Fulk says the Internal Affairs file needed to be done immediately and there was a deadline.

Fulk said she feels Starks did not walk in front of the car until after the first shots were fired.

She said, “… the policy wouldn’t apply to the first three to four rounds fired.”

Assistant Chief Fulk said Mayor Frank Scott, Jr. asked if Starks could be fired immediately after the shooting.

Chief Keith Humphrey has taken the stand.

Humphrey said he believes Starks voluntarily placed himself in front of the vehicle.

The chief of police also said he had not had any prior conversations with anyone regarding the decision to fire Starks.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Assistant Chief Hayward Finks testified that many aspects of the investigation were “rushed or not completed” due to pressure from the Little Rock Mayor’s office to finish the inquiry and “fire Officer Starks.”

The hearing ended after Charles Starks’ attorney fell down the stairs. He is being checked by LRFD and MEMS.

The hearing will continue at 8 a.m. Friday.

For the latest on the hearing, follow Mitch McCoy on Twitter.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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