Prosecutors said a white police officer in Memphis has been cleared by a grand jury in the shooting death of a black man, the Associated Press reported Tuesday. The grand jury decided against indicting police Officer Connor Schilling in the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Darrius Stewart, after determining there was no probable cause. The Shelby County District Attorney had recommended Schilling be indicted for voluntary manslaughter and employing a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony.
Police said Stewart had been a passenger in a car that the 26-year-old Schilling had stopped for a headlight violation on July 17. Schilling reportedly left Stewart unhandcuffed in the back of a police cruiser while he checked for active warrants, then returned to handcuff and arrest him after finding one. Police said Stewart then kicked the door and began beating Schilling with the handcuffs.
Schilling shot Stewart with his duty weapon, according to police. A medical examiner confirmed that Stewart later died at a hospital of two gunshot wounds.
District Attorney Amy Weirich did not tell reporters why she made the recommendation for the indictment, but said she had already been in touch with Stewart’s relatives regarding the grand jury’s decision.
"I understand how upsetting and alarming this news is and will continue to be during the next weeks and months," she said. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation had previously probed the shooting and delivered an 800-page report on the incident to Weirich on Aug. 20. On Tuesday, Weirich filed a motion asking the court to allow the report to be posted on the district attorney's website.
Stewart’s death prompted vigils, rallies and involvement from community leaders across the city during the summer. Several pastors spoke outside the courthouse Tuesday, including Pastor Keith Norman, president of the local NAACP chapter. Many have questioned how the grand jury could reach a decision so quickly after such a large investigation.
"A young man is dead because of a traffic stop. Let's not forget that," Norman said.