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Pain from the loss of a family member, fear for children's lives and calls for change were expressed to the Little Rock Board of Directors by more than 20 people during an emotional public comment period Tuesday at City Hall.

The topic was the shooting of Bradley Blackshire by Little Rock police officer Charles Starks last month. Residents addressed the city board for over an hour at the end of the board's regular meeting -- more than twice the usual amount of time allotted for the "citizen communication" portion of the meeting.

Residents filled seats in the boardroom and lined the walls, and some stood out in the hallway. Several, including children, wore black T-shirts with Blackshire's photo and the phrase "Fly High Bradley" in red letters.

Blackshire was killed on Feb. 22 when Starks approached the car Blackshire was driving, which had been reported stolen, in a parking lot near West 12th Street and Kanis Road. According to dashboard-camera video of the incident released on March 7, Blackshire did not comply with Starks' commands to exit the vehicle.

Instead, the car rolled forward and grazed Starks' hip, the footage shows. Starks fired at least three times, then stepped in front of the moving car and shot about 12 more times from atop the car's hood, according to the video.

Blackshire died at the scene. Starks was relieved of duty three days after the shooting. The criminal investigative file was sent to Prosecuting Attorney Larry Jegley's office the same day the video was released, and the administrative investigation is ongoing.

Some speakers Tuesday night called for Starks' arrest or said the video released of the shooting showed a "coldblooded murder," while others called out ward representatives for not reaching out to their communities after the shooting.

"Maybe you may not understand how critical it is when young men lose their fathers, especially in this manner," Rizelle Aaron told the mayor and board. "If [Starks] is not charged, we are going to do everything legally possible to hold this city accountable."

Aaron said he planned to meet with organizations, including the Black Panther Party to continue activism in demanding justice. He said community members would "shut down" the Pulaski County Circuit Court and City Hall, and show up at city directors' homes if necessary.

People who spoke ranged from Blackshire's mother and stepfather, Kimberly Blackshire-Lee and DeAngelo Lee, to his friends and cousins to people who said they had never met Blackshire but feared that they or their children would be killed by police.

Dawn Jeffrey, director of community relations for local civil-rights community organization Seeds of Liberation, said she knew that city directors were not responsible for pressing charges but elected officials should be vocal and the community was losing faith in law enforcement. She called out her representative, Ward 6 City Director Doris Wright, by name.

"If y'all can't speak up for the injustices that are happening in our community, then you need to step down," Jeffrey said.

Nearly everyone who spoke was met with applause and calls of affirmation from others. Many praised Blackshire-Lee's involvement in the community.

"I didn't come up here to point fingers at the Little Rock Police Department or at the city board or anybody at this particular time," Blackshire-Lee said, tearing up as she spoke. "We need something to change in our city or this is not going to get better, it's going to get worse."

The only city board member to respond from the dais during the meeting was Ward 1 City Director Erma Hendrix, who said she agreed with the speakers after asking how much time was left in the public comment period. She highlighted her longtime involvement with the NAACP and was met with retorts from attendees, saying they hadn't seen action. Wright was seen later speaking privately with Blackshire-Lee.

After all residents who chose to speak had finished, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. took a moment to compose his thoughts and spoke slowly. He said he had prayed with Blackshire's family and urged the prosecuting attorney's office to expedite the investigation.

"It's more than prayer. Faith without works is dead, and as a son of this city, knowing Kim ... I know your fabric and I know your cloth and your work. As a city, we have to make certain that we embody trust," he said.

Scott told City Attorney Tom Carpenter that he wanted on his desk Friday an ordinance to establish a citizen review board to oversee the Police Department.

The mayor then moved that a scheduled executive session to make appointments to city boards and commissions be moved to next week's agenda meeting. The motion passed, and the meeting adjourned.

When asked if she believed her concerns were heard Tuesday evening, Blackshire-Lee said she felt that the directors and the mayor were listening.

"Everything that I wanted the city to hear, I think they heard tonight," she said.

Though the people who filed into the boardroom well outnumbered the seats available, Blackshire-Lee said there were many more supporting their cause who did not attend the session.

"We knew not everybody could fit in that room," she said. "That was just a part of them."

David Coleman, however, said he was concerned that fewer of the directors visibly reacted to the testimonies of the Blackshire family and the community.

"This was a voicing of pain," Coleman, one of the 21 people who spoke, said in an interview. "I don't think it was heard. I think they just wanted it to be over."

Coleman, who said this moment is pivotal to the city, recounted in his speech before the board injustices from city's past.

"Little Rock has the opportunity that it missed in 1927 and in 1957 to do what's right," he said, referring to the lynching of John Carter, who was hanged and burned at the intersection Ninth street and Broadway and to the Little Rock Nine. "Each of you pledged allegiance to that flag. That flag means to me what it means to you."

Little Rock has been conducting a search for its next police chief since the mid-November departure of former Chief Kenton Buckner, who left to lead the Syracuse, N.Y., department.

In an interview after the board meeting, Scott said he would announce the new chief of police this week.

Scott and his advisory team selected four finalist candidates from the initial 51 applicants, including two internal candidates. The four finalists are Little Rock Assistant Chiefs Hayward Finks and Alice Fulk; Todd Chamberlain, former Los Angeles police commander; and Chief Keith Humphrey of Norman, Okla.

Metro on 03/20/2019

FULL VIDEO:

Print Headline: VIDEO: Little Rock chiefs get earful on police shootings

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Comments

  • RBear
    March 20, 2019 at 6:26 a.m.

    Reading through the article, it's apparent there are some activists in the community who are just as guilty of distorting facts on this incident as some from the right in these boards. Rizzelle Aaron demands Starks be arrested, but doesn't provide what grounds he should be arrested on. LRPD is reviewing the details of the incident to determine if Starks violated policy which is appropriate. Through that review, they should also determine if charges should be filed. But, at this point there is no need to file charges against Starks on his use of force.
    ...
    What is interesting is the response of some LR directors, especially Hendrix who has served on the board far too long. Her claims of working with the community were met with rebuke from several members who noted the lack of involvement by her. I'm guessing Hendrix was trying to play the advocate role, but far too late in this process. Hendrix has served on the board for over two decades which is twice what I would expect from a public servant. She has become tone deaf to the issues and now just looks to make a show from the dais instead of digging into the community's needs.
    ...
    I agree with Mayor Scott's desire to create a citizen review board. It's shocking Little Rock does not have one as every major city I know does and regularly looks into incidents like this to determine from a rational POV if the police department addressed the issue fairly. That goes for both the public and for the officers involved. I've seen a CRB take the sides of officers when the department unfairly punished them for actions taken.

  • reality1963
    March 20, 2019 at 6:43 a.m.

    So they have elected to involve the domestic terrorist group, the New Black Panther Party. Enough said.
    This will get interesting. Is LR the next Ferguson??? Baltimore???

  • Slug
    March 20, 2019 at 7:37 a.m.

    Were there any discussion about the airman that was killed while trying to prevent a robbery?

  • RBear
    March 20, 2019 at 7:45 a.m.

    Slug wrong city. Try to keep up.

  • reality1963
    March 20, 2019 at 7:51 a.m.

    Slug, you consider that part of NLR as LR, as well. I understood your comment and I agree.

  • titleist10
    March 20, 2019 at 8:06 a.m.

    The blacks get upset when a white persona shoots a black thug(6) felony convictions but not a word when 2 blacks kill a white person-could this be a reason for racial problems?

  • Julie6886
    March 20, 2019 at 8:18 a.m.

    I agree that something needs to be done, but why do people wait til something happens to a member of their family to try and make it a better city. Why didn't they try and make it a better city before this tragedy by starting with their own family - he wasn't an upstanding citizen. And before anyone comments - I'm not saying the police officer was right in how he handled it, but Blackshire should have gotten out of the car. Afraid your child might be next, teach them to follow the law and be upstanding citizens. Doesn't seem like he was showing his children the best way to live.
    And if you don't get what you want, you're going to "shut down" the court, city hall and show up at their homes????

  • drs01
    March 20, 2019 at 8:35 a.m.

    This was not a meeting of diverse opinions. Those who wanted to make the following comments were intimidated by the large number of people who refuse to accept any responsibility for what happened. Facts as I see it: The officer did use excessive force, just count the shell casings. The victim did not follow repeated instructions by the officer. There is fault on both sides. Ask yourself, if you were a police officer, would you be puckered up if a suspected car thief REFUSED to follow your repeated commands?
    It's real easy to point fingers as this large group did last night, but it takes real courage to face the fact that this incident would not have ended in a death had Blackshire complied with the officer's demands.
    Those who live within the law have nothing to fear. Those who choose to break the law suffer the consequences. Blackshire was a criminal. Would blacks be just as upset if the police officer was African American? That's a question that someone with courage needs to ask.

  • GOHOGS19
    March 20, 2019 at 8:35 a.m.

    Where was mom and dad when the son stole the car?

  • Jfish
    March 20, 2019 at 8:48 a.m.

    I agree with Rbear. I will also say that if the Mayor sits there respectfully and listens to you, you should also sit there respectfully and listen to him rather than walking out and chanting some slogan. Most people already have their minds made up before all the facts are in. These things take time and cannot be rushed to appease one side or the other.

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