Arkansas officer acquitted in death of man holding BB gun

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A jury has acquitted a Little Rock police officer who was accused of using excessive force in the 2016 fatal shooting of a man holding a BB gun.

Jurors deliberated for about three hours Monday before returning with a not guilty verdict for officer Dennis Hutchins, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported.

Hutchins and another Little Rock police officer responded to a physical altercation call on Oct. 25, 2016, where they were told one of the men, Roy Richards Jr., was armed.

As the officers approached the men, Hutchins saw Richards exit a vehicle holding a rifle. Hutchins fired five shots at Richards, hitting him twice and killing him. It was later learned that the rifle Richards was holding was a BB or pellet gun.

According to the Democrat-Gazette, jurors ruled on several questions addressing disputed facts, such as that it was not feasible for Hutchins to warn Richards before firing his gun.

Tom Carpenter, Little Rock’s city attorney, said Hutchins reacted to what he saw as a “life-ending” situation.

“I think the verdict was appropriate. I think this was a situation where an officer faced, what he felt and what he could tell at that point, was a life-ending possibility and acted to keep that from happening,” Carpenter said.

After the verdict, Mike Laux, lead attorney for Richards, filed a motion and asking Chief U.S. District Judge D. Price Marshall Jr. to declare a mistral. He argued answers the jury gave on disputed questions last week were in “conflict” and that the jurors engaged in jury nullification by disregarding expert testimony.

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