No indictment for Officer Schilling in death of Darrius Stewart

Attorney answers questions about grand juries

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich announced Tuesday afternoon a Shelby County grand jury chose not to indict Officer Connor Schilling for the shooting death of Darrius Stewart.

Weirich said she asked the grand jury to indict Officer Schilling on charges of voluntary manslaughter after she reviewed the 800 page report completed by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.

"My recommendation was the Grand Jury indict Officer Schilling for voluntary manslaughter and for employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony," Weirich announced. "In accordance with its statutory authority, however, the grand jury has chosen not to indict Officer Schilling on either charge. Thus, there can be no criminal prosecution in the case."

Stewart was killed during a July 2015 traffic stop on Winchester Road.

Weirich said when Officer Schilling discovered Stewart had two outstanding warrants for his arrest in other states, he attempted to place him under arrest. That is when Stewart attacked Officer Schilling, resisted arrest, and hit the officer with his own handcuffs.

"Officer Schilling said during the struggle, he fired his service weapon at Stewart, killing him," Weirich said. "The medical examiner's report shows Stewart died of two gunshots wounds."

A few minutes after Weirich's announcement, NAACP leaders held their own news conference.

NAACP leaders said they were not happy about the decision and would continue to seek justice.

"I ask the people to remain calm and peaceful. I ask people not to take matters in their own hands," NAACP branch president Pastor Keith Norman said.

Norman joined other NAACP members who said they wanted people to remain peaceful. They emphasized that being peaceful did not mean giving up on the search for justice. They said they were on their way to meet with Weirich to discuss their reactions and disappointment with the announcement.

They said there were still civil actions which could be taken, but encouraged others to remember where the incident began.

"By the time we get to the end, we've forgotten how it started. This was a traffic stop and a young man is dead," Norman said.

Memphis Police Director Toney Armstrong said a coalition would be formed to address criminal justice reform and educate the public on the legal processes surrounding investigations.

"We have all agreed we need to do a better job at educating the public," Armstrong said. "We have agreed that going forward, there will be a coalition that clearly identifies, clearly defines, what that [criminal justice reform] looks like, and we will address the legislators in Nashville as it relates to that."

Additionally, Armstrong said the process was not completely over for Officer Schilling.

"The grand jury has spoken as it relates to what happened. The next steps, as it relates to Officer Schilling: he remains off duty, non-enforcement. We will have an administrative hearing next week. At the conclusion of that hearing, I will come back and let you know what the outcome of that hearing is," Armstrong said.

Legal counsel representatives for the family spoke to media and said the family was still grieving, but they would not give up on seeking justice. However, they said they were encouraged that District Attorney Weirich recommended an indictment.

"The members of the Stewart family and the Williams family are devastated. In our wildest imagination, we never expected that the grand jury would return a no true bill or no indictment," family attorney Carlos Moore said. "We were encouraged by the fact that the district attorney did present evidence of the TBI report to the grand jury, and we believe she got it right in seeking a manslaughter charge. We don't know how any reasonable grand jurors could have come back with a no indictment."

Moore said the legal team is making a demand for the Department of Justice to look into the case and investigation. Moore said the legal team was disappointed Schilling was not immediately arrested once prosecutors determined there was enough evidence to recommend an indictment.

"There are two sets of rules in this country and that's unacceptable," Moore said. "If it was Darrius Stewart who was charged with manslaughter, he would have been immediately arrested."

Moore said he did not understand why Officer Schilling was not immediately arrested.

Moore requested for the City of Memphis to terminate Schilling's employment with the police department. However, he said if that did not happen Schilling should resign.

"We're also asking the police department of the City of Memphis to do the right thing. Surely if the D.A. thought that there was enough evidence for an indictment for manslaughter, this man should not still be a paid employee of the City of Memphis. We ask the city, the mayor, the police director to immediately terminate the employment of Connor Schilling," Moore said. "If they will not terminate him, we ask Connor Schilling to do something right for a change and resign. This city has had enough, the Stewart family, Williams family, has had enough of Connor Schilling and we need justice."

Meanwhile, Congressman Steve Cohen called for an immediate federal civil rights investigation into the case:

"I respectfully urge the Department of Justice to open an investigation immediately. We need to know whether any federal civil rights laws have been violated, and only the federal government has the resources, expertise and independence to give this matter the full, fair and public review it deserves."

Stewart's family said they just wanted justice.

"Just want to see justice for my son because I don't think he deserves to be killed," Henry Williams, Stewart's father, said. "You take your time trying to indict somebody, but then my son is in the ground. He's been buried long enough so we should have had justice way before then."

Williams said he has been waiting for justice since his son was killed but now he has a message for the justice department.

"Do better. Make justice a little stronger than what you all are doing," Williams said.

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