The Faulkner County Prosecuting Attorney has concluded that Conway officers involved in the March 3 shooting at Plaza Pointe Apartments were justified in their actions, and no charges should be filed, according to a letter sent to Conway Chief of Police A.J. Gary from Chief Deputy prosecuting attorney Troy Braswell.
“After reviewing the information, this office concludes that Officers (Steven) Culliford, (Andrew) Burningham and (James) Burroughs are justified in the use of deadly force and it is our opinion that no further review of this matter is necessary,” Braswell wrote. “Arkansas Code Annotated 5-2-610 (b)(2) provides for the use of deadly physical force if the officer reasonably believes that the use of such force is necessary ‘to defend himself or a third person from what he reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of deadly physical force.”
The review resulted from an officer-involved shooting at the apartment complex on Market Plaza Drive, which occurred after police say John Raines IV, 21, charged officer Rachel Hanson with a knife.
Police responded to the complex around 1:50 p.m. after receiving a 911 call from Raines’ roommate, 28-year-old Nathan Dodson, who stated he was barricaded in a closet after Raines attacked him, and cut him with a knife.
When police arrived, officers observed Raines leaving the ground-floor apartment with a knife in his hand.
Police say Raines was commanded multiple times to put down the knife, and was tased after refusing.
Raines then charged officer Hanson, at which point officers shot Raines, according to police.
Police say Raines was taken to a Little Rock hospital via helicopter.
Raines’ family attorney, Charles Schlumberger, said days after the shooting that Raines was in critical care with seven bullet wounds.
Schlumberger said Raines was struck with five bullets, one hitting the spine, with two bullets causing entry and exit wounds.
Schlumberger did not return a phone call placed to his office Friday afternoon.
Conway Police Department officials stated March 4 that officers responded appropriately to the situation, according to the department’s use of force policy.
“Our investigation shows that statements from witnesses and from our officers involved in the incident at Plaza Pointe Apartments corroborate each other,” Chief Gary said in a March statement. “At this time, we are certain that our officers acted according to procedure in the matter.”
Level 3 of the policy calls for to deploy non-lethal and less harmful controls such as sprays and tasters.
Conway police spokesperson La Tresha Woodruff said in March that when the suspect was undeterred by the taser, officers moved to “deadly force” at Level 5.
The officers involved were interviewed during the internal investigation, required to undergo psychological debriefing and counseling, and placed on administrative leave.
Woodruff said a telephone interview Friday that officers were allowed back on-duty in the week following the shooting.
“We always felt like our officers followed procedure, and (the prosecuting attorney’s findings) just validates that,” Woodruff said.
Following the internal investigation, the findings were turned over the prosecuting attorney.
Prosecuting Attorney Cody Hiland said Friday that the officers’ actions were consistent with law requirements to use deadly force.
“We have been blessed with professional law enforcement officers in our district that care about their community,” Hiland said. “It’s easy to sit back and Monday morning quarterback, and we were certainly required to do just that at the prosecutor’s office, but it takes a special individual to serve in such a shamefully underpaid, demanding profession that requires informed, split-second life-and-death decision-making with no room for error.”
(Staff writer Lee Hogan can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 505-1246. To comment on this and other stories in the Log Cabin, log on to www.thecabin.net. Send us your news at www.thecabin.net/submit)