NAACP and TBI address concerns over MPD killing of Darrius Stewa - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

NAACP and TBI address concerns over MPD killing of Darrius Stewart

Darrius Stewart (Source: Family) Darrius Stewart (Source: Family)
Officer Connor Schilling (Source: MPD) Officer Connor Schilling (Source: MPD)

The NAACP and TBI held news conferences to address concerns about the death of 19-year-old Darrius Stewart.

“We’re often saddened and disappointed at the slow process towards finding justice in police involved killings like the one that sadly brings us here today in the case of Darrius Stewart,” President of the NAACP Memphis branch Keith Norman said. 

Stewart was shot and killed by a Memphis police officer after a traffic stop July 17. 

Tuesday, MPD identified the officer who shot Stewart. MPD said officer Connor Schilling shot Stewart during a fight Stewart initiated.

Schilling, 26, started with MPD in 2012. He was suspended in 2014 for a DUI arrest, but all criminal charges were eventually dismissed. 

During the traffic stop, officer Schilling learned of outstanding warrants for Darrius Stewart in Iowa and Illinois. Investigators in those states confirm that warrants do exist for a Darrius Stewart, but it's unclear at this time if those warrants are for the same Darrius Stewart.

Stewart's family says the warrants are for another man with the same name.

“Although we are keenly aware of the lack of transparency that often surrounds these kinds of investigations that should lead us to the truth, we are not encouraging people to rush to judgment that would ultimately divide our community,” Norman said.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is looking into the case. 

At a separate press conference Wednesday, TBI director Mark Gwyn told reporters they are doing all they can to be transparent.

“We remain confident in our ability to investigate this incident with integrity, openness and professionalism,” Gwyn said.

Gwyn remained confidential in releasing more about the case, as per state policy.

In light of what some are calling a nationwide cry for justice, the TBI has been in touch with the Shelby County DA’s office.

“I have met with General Weirich and she has pledged that at the appropriate time she will release pertinent information out of that file,” Gwyn said.

That will not happen until after the investigation, however.

Congressman Steve Cohen released a statement Wednesday regarding the matter.

“The shooting of Darrius Stewart by a Memphis police officer raises serious questions that must be answered. I appreciate that the local prosecutor has referred this case for an independent investigation, something I have proposed should happen in all cases where use of police force results in death, but any prosecution stemming from Mr. Stewart’s death should be carried out by an independent prosecutor as well. As a matter of national policy, decisions to investigate and, if need be, prosecute police use of deadly force should not be placed in the hands of local prosecutors who rely on a strong working relationship with those same officers. I have also reached out to Attorney General Loretta Lynch to ask for the help of the Department of Justice to determine whether any civil rights have been violated.”

Meanwhile, local lawmakers are looking for even more to be done.

"We don't want this to become an emotional eruption," said Memphis City Council Member Harold Collins.

TBI records are sealed, but the group said District Attorney Weirich would be able to release information at an appropriate time.

"The two things we need are independence and transparency," said Memphis City Council Member Jim Strickland.

"For our leaders to say, this is what we are doing to make sure you all get the information you deserve to get in a timely manner," says Collins.

Cohen said prosecution should not be handled locally. Others disagree.

"The local prosecutor is elected by the public to make these prosecutions, and the local DA's office has prosecuted many police officers before,” said Strickland.

The TBI says their findings will be released to the District Attorney after the conclusion of the investigation, but there is no word on how long that will take.

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