An Arkansas police department has released edited dash cam video of an incident in which a teenager was shot and killed by officers during a traffic stop. The footage indicated that the teenager was armed and fired his weapon twice before being fatally subdued by the officers (video below).
On Jan. 8, 17-year-old C.J. Smith died after an altercation with North Little Rock police after he, his brother Juwaun Jordan, and a friend were pulled over in Little Rock, Arkansas. The officers on the scene reportedly shot Smith five times after he discharged a weapon.
“They just pulled up, told us to get out, tussled with him, and they shot him and killed him,” Jordan told KATV on the day of the incident.
“Y’all got tasers,” an emotional Jordan added. “Use them tasers. Why did y’all have to kill him?”
Jordan’s recollection of his brother’s death sparked outrage across some sectors of social media. The initial lack of details about the shooting was met with speculation that officers on the scene did not follow protocol.
On Jan. 10, North Little Rock Police Chief Mike Davis held a press conference to address the incident and released an edited clip of the officers’ dash cam footage from the scene.
“I fear that misinformation gets out that says the subject wasn’t armed, that the subject didn’t shoot,” Davis said, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. “That is not the case.”
The captain said that the officers had pulled over the car for speeding and a faulty headlight.
“Officers observed a vehicle traveling northbound on Camp Robinson Road at an excessive speed and with a headlight not functioning properly,” Davis said, according to KTHV. “The vehicle was occupied by three subjects: the driver, the front passenger and the right rear passenger, Charles Smith Jr.”
Footage from the dash cam, which was not altered by the media outlets but contained some added effects to highlight what the police department believed to be important information, showed the officers deciding they had probable cause to search the three men after determining that the driver was suspiciously nervous.
Smith was the last of the three to be searched. During his interaction with the officer, the teenager signaled that he was afraid of being patted down.
The officer noticed that Smith was wearing a new pair of Air Force One shoes and asked him if he was enjoying them before growing alarmed by Smith’s body language.
“Hey, what are you doing?” the officer could be heard asking Smith, who replied that he was carrying a small amount of marijuana.
“Ok,” the officer said. “I’ve got you. Ain’t nothing but a little bit of weed.”
The scene escalated as Smith appeared to be reaching for an unidentified object in his pants. The officers repeatedly ordered Smith to stop moving his hand before wrestling him to the ground and holding a stun gun to his body.
Smith pulled out what appeared to be a handgun, cocked it and fired, nearly striking his brother and their acquaintance as they sat on the sidewalk. The teenager then cocked his weapon again and fired close to one of the officers’ faces.
It was then that the officers opened fire on Smith. He was pronounced dead on the scene. Officers subsequently found a stolen firearm in the vehicle. Smith’s firearm was not stolen, but it remains unclear who was the original owner.
“No officer wants to be put in this position, but these officers were left with no other choice but to protect their lives and return fire,” Davis asserted.
The North Little Rock Police Department said it was conducting an internal investigation into whether the officers were justified in using deadly force and if they correctly followed protocol. The results of those probes will be submitted to the Pulaski County prosecutor for review.
Davis added that the names of the officers would not be disclosed for the time being because the department had received several threats.
Attorney Lee Merritt of Philadelphia, who is representing Smith’s family, said that he is seeking an unedited video of the officers’ dash cam and wants to review the files of the officers involved to determine if the use of deadly force was justified.
“Releasing portions of the video is a step in the right direction, but this was clearly an edited video for the purposes of highlighting exculpatory evidence for the officers involved,” Merritt said. “More or less, explaining to the public why the shooting was justified.”
Warning: This video contains graphic content.