The Arkansas police officers who shot a 16-year-old boy last month outside a social services center for at-risk youth won't face criminal charges, the local prosecutor said Wednesday.
Aries Clark, 16, died at a Memphis hospital after being shot by Marion police officers outside the East Arkansas Youth Services facility on July 25. The teen had previously lived at the facility, following a court order that he receive treatment, Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington wrote in a letter to Arkansas State Police.
Clark left the residential program without permission, then returned the evening of July 25. Staff turned him away, Ellington said, and he left. When the teen came back a second time, around 7:06 p.m., shelter employees called the police.
"This is a common practice at the facility," Ellington wrote. "When residents walk away from the facility they are not permitted back into the facility until they are cleared of possession of drugs or weapons by the [Marion Police Department]."
The first officer arrived at 7:11 p.m. and notified dispatchers and other officers that the teen had a handgun. However, the weapon was later determined to be a 1911 BB pistol, Ellington said.
Other officers and sheriff's deputies arrived at the scene and repeatedly told Clark to put the BB gun down, Ellington said. Four of them were wearing body cameras, which recorded audio. One of the cameras, belonging to the officer who ultimately shot Clark, offered clear video footage of the shooting and Clark's movements.
"However, the audio captured on all four body cameras indicates officers ordered, cajoled, encouraged, and begged Clark to rid himself of the weapon," Ellington said.
After 10 minutes, Clark began to move toward several of the officers with the BB gun pointed at them, Ellington said. Believing that those officers were in imminent danger, Officer Wesley Smith — who was to the right of and behind the teen — fired at Clark, striking him three times in the back of the head, the back, and the buttocks, Ellington said.
"The footage from Officer Smith's body camera shows Clark acting agitated, and then it shows him raising his gun toward the officers he was facing," Ellington said.
Warning: graphic video.
In the 10 minutes before the shooting, Smith tells the teen to put the gun down and asks him what's wrong.
"Come on, A," Smith says. "Let us help you, man. You was talking me the other week, man, just let me help you."
Another officer, Brannon Hinckle, also fired his gun, but he did not strike Clark, Ellington said.
Clark fell to the ground, and officers removed the gun from his hand, Ellington said. It was only then that they discovered it was a BB gun, he said.
"Clark's actions that day brought about the circumstances that threatened the lives of at least four law enforcement officers had the gun he brandished been a firearm as was perceived by the responding officers, and I cannot find that the officers acted criminally," Ellington said.
With the BB gun out of Clark's hand, officers began first aid and called an ambulance. He died overnight of his injuries at a hospital.
His death left family members shocked, local media reported.
"I never expected not to see my son again," his mother Vicky Clark told WMC. "I had saw him that Thursday, and we were trying to figure out how we were going to do therapy to get help for him."
Claudia Koerner is a national reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.
Contact Claudia Koerner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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