Wednesday, July 22, 2015

NAACP Expresses Support for TBI Investigating Police Shooting

Posted By on Wed, Jul 22, 2015 at 10:20 AM

click to enlarge Darrius Stewart
  • Darrius Stewart
In a press conference at First Baptist-Broad on Wednesday morning, Keith Norman, president of the Memphis chapter of the NAACP, said the organization supports the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) looking into the police shooting death of Darrius Stewart.

Norman said the organization helped state Representative G.A. Hardaway in crafting a bill to mandate that all police-involved shootings in the state be investigated by the TBI rather than by police departments in their own jurisdictions.

"No local body should should do an investigation of a police shooting. An independent body should investigate," Norman said. 

On Monday, the Memphis Police Department and Shelby County District Attorney Amy Weirch announced that Stewart's Friday night shooting death by Memphis Police officer Connor Schilling would be investigated by the TBI rather than by the MPD. The decision has been criticized by some because TBI files are sealed from the public. Many are calling for more transparency in the investigation.

Norman said he supported that transparency, and he urged citizens to push for a change in the law that would require TBI documents to be made public.

"I would encourage all citizens to get involved in petitioning for a change in the law so that findings could be made public," Norman said.

Norman said the NAACP will also be looking into protocol for dealing with passengers in cars during traffic stops. Stewart was riding in a car that was pulled over for having a headlight out. 

Norman said that people should remain calm while the investigation is underway. Stewart was placed in the back of a squad car during the traffic stop while Schilling checked for warrants. The police account of what happened says that, when Schilling opened the squad car to handcuff Stewart, the man kicked the door and tried to attack the officer. Shortly after the warrant check, police reported that Stewart had been shot and an ambulance was called for. Stewart later died at The Med. Some have questioned whether or not the police should have even been checking on warrants for a passenger.

"We have questions about what are the rights of a passenger under the rule of law during a mere traffic violation," Norman said. "Should officers have the right to question everyone in the car? This can lead to inappropriate contact with citizens who have not committed a crime."

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