Little Rock, family of slain Black driver reach settlement

Oct 8, 2021, 3:33 PM | Updated: 3:39 pm

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The city of Little Rock and the family of a Black driver fatally shot by a white police officer during a traffic stop have tentatively reached a settlement, court records show.

U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall on Thursday canceled the trial in the lawsuit the family of Bradley Blackshire had filed, saying the city had informally advised him of a settlement. Marshall’s order did not disclose details of the settlement.

An attorney for Blackshire’s family said in a letter to the court Friday that the settlement still must be approved by the probate court. The city confirmed the tentative agreement but said it would not comment further until it was signed by all parties and approved by the court.

“This settlement is an important step forward; it includes small steps to begin the process of reform within the Little Rock Police Department,” David B. Owens, an attorney for the family said in a statement. “Those steps are just the beginning, however, as we work to eradicate a culture of violence in policing.”

Officer Charles Starks fired his gun at least 15 times through the windshield of a car Blackshire was driving in February 2019.

Police commanders later fired Starks, saying he violated a department policy that requires officers to move out of an oncoming vehicle’s path if possible rather than fire on it. The Arkansas Court of Appeals last month reversed a judge’s order that the city should reinstate Starks.

Starks resigned last year from the police force after his reinstatement.

Starks pulled over Blackshire because the car he was driving had been reported stolen, though Blackshire’s family has said he borrowed it from a friend. Surveillance and police dashcam footage showed that Starks instructed Blackshire to exit the parked car. Instead, Blackshire began to slowly drive away and bumped Starks, who fired into the windshield four times. The car briefly stopped and Starks got onto its hood and fired at least 11 more times into the car as it continued to move.

A prosecutor declined to file charges against Starks, saying the moving car was an imminent threat that justified the use of deadly force.

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Little Rock, family of slain Black driver reach settlement