No federal charges will be filed against former Memphis Police Department officer Connor Schilling in the 2015 shooting death of African American teenager Darrius Stewart.
The news was announced Tuesday afternoon by Edward Stanton III, United States Attorney for the Western District of Tennessee. Stanton said the decision not to charge Schilling came after a “comprehensive, independent” review of the circumstances related to event by his office, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the U.S. Department of Justice’s Civil Rights Division.
“In conducting the review, federal authorities were tasked with determining whether Schilling violated federal law by willfully using unreasonable force against Stewart,” Stanton said.
Schilling did not, according to Stanton and the three federal review agencies. Why not?
According to Stanton, witnesses saw a physical confrontation between Schilling and Stewart. In the “violent struggle” Stewart was able to get on top of Schilling.
“Based on these eyewitness accounts, the statement of the officer involved, the video, and the physical evidence, there is insufficient evidence to disprove Schilling’s assertion that he needed to use deadly force against Stewart,” Stanton said.
Schilling fired twice at Stewart. Witnesses said Stewart was trying to run away from Schilling and the second shot hit Stewart in the back. This made many wonder if the use of force was justified.
Federal authorities said there was insufficient evidence to determine that the second shot was “unreasonable.”
“Much of the evidence tends to show that the second shot followed only a few seconds after the the first,” Stanton said. “Since eyewitness accounts and physical evidence both indicate that the second shot came very soon after Stewart stood up in close proximity to Schilling, the evidence cannot establish that the threat initially posed by Stewart had abated at the time of the second shot.”
U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen issued the following statement on the government's move to not file charges on Schilling:
“I am disappointed that the Department of Justice will not be bringing civil rights charges against Officer Schilling, but I am pleased that the Department of Justice and U.S. Attorney Stanton conducted a complete and thorough investigation into the shooting of Darrius Stewart, which I requested,” Cohen said in a statement. “Despite DOJ’s decision, however, there was still a miscarriage of justice.
"The standard for an indictment for a federal civil rights charge is extremely high, so I understand and respect U.S. Attorney Stanton’s decision, but there can still be a miscarriage of justice even when civil rights violation standards are not met.
[Shelby County District Attorney General Amy Weirich] must agree since she requested a manslaughter indictment, but for whatever reason, the grand jury failed to follow her recommendation. I suspect the Stewart family will now pursue a civil suit, and I hope justice will be meted out.”