A two-day hearing begins Thursday at 8 a.m. for former Little Rock police officer Charles Starks who is appealing his termination for the shooting death of a suspect in a stolen car. On the eve of the hearing, relatives of Bradley Blackshire delivered an envelope to City Hall which they said contained petitions signed by over 2,000 people who are opposed to Starks being reinstated.
"The streets of Little Rock will not be safe if Charles Starks is on them with a badge and a gun. No city would be safe," Blackshire’s uncle Rizelle Aaron said. Aaron is a former president of the Arkansas NAACP.
The city’s Civil Service Commission will consider the appeal with attorneys for Starks and the Blackshire family taking part. Aaron said he hoped the petitions and a good turnout at the hearing "would let the commissioners know that the public is in support of the family, as well as in support of Chief [Keith] Humphrey’s decision to terminate Charles Starks."
Graphic dashboard video captured the Feb. 22 traffic stop, with Starks repeatedly heard ordering Blackshire to get out of the vehicle. The car, which had been reported stolen, moves forward, appearing to brush Starks on the hip, with the officer opening fire. Starks ended up on the hood of the car while repeatedly firing his weapon.
Pulaski County Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley announced in April that no charges would be filed against the officer and that the shooting was justified. But Chief Humphrey fired Starks the following month saying he had violated department policy by stepping in front of a moving vehicle.
On the steps of City Hall Wednesday, Blackshire’s mother Kimberly Blackshire-Lee told reporters she was surprised to learn the officer could appeal his termination.
"I think it retraumatized me," she said. "I had no idea that it was possible for him to actually… that he would actually want to be reinstated as an officer in Little Rock."
The three family members and several supporters then went into City Hall while streaming live video from their cell phones, walked to the human resources office and asked for department Director Stacey Witherell. When she came out, the group asked that the envelope of signed petitions be given to members of the Civil Service Commission. Witherell accepted the envelope, but said she would have to present it to attorneys for Starks and the Blackshire family to decide how to proceed.
Last month, Blackshire-Lee filed a federal wrongful death lawsuit against Starks and another officer seeking compensatory and punitive damages.
If the commission rejects Starks’ bid to get his job back, he can then appeal to the Pulaski County Circuit Court. If Starks is reinstated, he would be due back wages. Before being terminated by Chief Humphrey, three of Starks’ commanding officers had recommended he be exonerated for the shooting.