The North Little Rock Police this afternoon released an incident report on what they say occurred on Sunday night when an officer shot Charles Smith Jr., a 17-year-old high school senior.
The report details a driver stopped around 1:04 a.m. at the 5200 block of Camp Robinson for “speeding and an equipment violation.” At 1:14 a.m., the report says, “one of the occupants of the vehicle displayed a firearm while trying to flee.” This would have been Smith. According to police, after officers tried to detain Smith, “the person fired a weapon towards the Officers and the Officers returned fire striking the person.”
This account does not — as a previous press release had — mention a pat-down that officers conducted to reveal a gun. Nor does it mention a “struggle” that ensued after that gun was revealed from the pat down.
KATV spoke with Smith’s older brother, Juwaun Jordan, 21, who described the stop and also mentioned a pat down.
Early Sunday morning, Jordan, Smith and a third friend were driving when a police car stopped them. The officers said it was a broken taillight. But instead of looking at the light, Jordan told the news station, officers searched the three young men in the car. When they got to Smith “all three of them grabbed him,” said Jordan.
“They say he resisted, but he wasn’t moving. He was talking. He wasn’t doing [anything],” he continued. “They were tussling him to the ground…When they were on the ground, one of them jumped up off of him, one shot went off, and [the officer] was like ‘he got a gun.'”
Then, officers shot Smith.
“[The officer] just shot him five times,” Jordan told KATV. “He couldn’t move, he couldn’t do nothing. He had three officers on top of him, so how was he moving?”
Patting down a driver during a routine traffic stop is a common police tactic under certain circumstances. As we wrote in our Jan. 4 cover story about the LRPD, police are using broken tail lights or other petty traffic violations to stop drivers they deem suspicious and then search their vehicles. Police use these stops, often called pretextual or investigative stops, to uncover evidence of a crime, such as drugs or guns. But critics say the stops often cause distrust and the potential for violent police-citizen interactions.
Here’s a quote from Jordan to KATV on that frustration.
“When y’all stopped us, y’all never looked at no lights,” said Jordan. “If it was the light, don’t y’all walk around and be like, ‘this the light’? They didn’t do none of that. They just pulled up, told us to get out, tussled with him, and they shot him and killed him.”