County Prosecutor Takes Over Investigation Into State Police
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 21, 2006
SPRINGDALE, ARKANSAS--A Benton County prosecutor has started a new investigation into the shooting death of an innocent man with disabilities by a state trooper.
Prosecutor Robin Green said during a Thursday press conference that her office would start its own investigation into the March 7 shooting of Joseph Erin Hamley, 21, by Arkansas State Police Trooper Larry Norman. She said that she had received a file from the State Police's own investigation, which includes a video of the incident taken from a camera in Norman's patrol car, but added that her investigation would be totally independent.
"We'll start from scratch, re-interviewing witnesses and conducting our own, independent, complete investigation," she said.
Officers were on the trail of 18-year-old Michigan prison escapee Adam Lee Leadford when they spotted Hamley walking near a highway about 12 miles from his home in Springdale at about 7:00 a.m. on March 7. Hamley, who had cerebral palsy, an intellectual disability, and mental illness, had shaved his head to look like his brother, a National Guard soldier. Leadford was also described as having a shaved head.
A total of six officers from the Benton County Sheriff's department and State Police drew their guns as they approached Hamley, told him to get down on the ground, and to put his hands up where the officers could see them. Hamley reportedly got on the ground and rolled onto his back, but kept one hand in his pocket.
About four minutes from the time officers first came onto the scene, Trooper Norman, the last officer to arrive, shot Hamley in the stomach once with a shotgun from more than 75 feet away and across two lanes of traffic.
Several people close to the family later told reporters that Hamley often put his hands in his pockets when he was nervous or afraid.
Green said that she would determine whether Trooper Norman was justified in using deadly force when he shot Hamley. If deadly force was not justified, Green said criminal charges would be filed against Norman, who is on administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
State Police officials have apologized to Hamley's family, but emphasized that nothing in his behavior that morning gave the officers reason to believe he had disabilities.
Hamley's mother, Mary, has hired attorney W.H. Taylor to represent the family. Taylor said Thursday that they would be watching Green's investigation closely, and might follow up with a civil rights lawsuit or a claim with the Arkansas Claims Commission.
"Prosecutor opens probe in shooting by trooper" (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)
"Family Looks At Options" (The Morning News)
"Grand Jury Needed" (The Morning News)