Attorney for Stewart's father reveals officer Connor Schilling
was charged with 'leaving the scene' prior to MPD hiring
Witness #2 video of Connor Schilling killing Darrius Stewart
The Department of Justice will independently investigate the killing of 19-year-old Darrius Stewart July 17, 2015, by Memphis police officer Connor Schilling.
This news came before attorneys for Darrius Stewart's family held a press conference today to announce they had read a just-released, 918-page Tennessee Bureau of Investigation report and found that witnesses said Schilling's deadly second shot came as Darrius was trying to get away from him.
Memphis city officials, from the mayor to the police, have insisted this year -- mainly as they were talking against citizen oversight of police -- that "We're not Ferguson." Darrius Stewart's case differs from the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and from other infamous police killings in one key way:
Darrius Stewart was not the target of police attention; he was a bystander, a passenger in the back set of a car at a traffic stop.
In the context of systemic problems which have led to police killings of men who appeared to pose no threat to officers, Memphis, Tennessee, is Ferguson, Baltimore, Cincinnati, North Charleston -- everywhere and Anywhere, USA. Granted, the public outcry in Memphis after the killing of Darrius Stewart was muted compared to protesters in Ferguson, and in Memphis there was no police rollout of tear gas and tank-like vehicles.
It's a cruel twist that Stewart was a passenger in a car at a traffic stop and was not being accosted by police for anything he was doing. The other infamous deaths at the hands of police that have made news the past two years involved men who were drivers, in the case of traffic stops, or who were being stopped by police for something they were doing or were believed to be doing. Not saying here that selling cigarettes on the street in New York (Eric Garner) or running when you see cops in Baltimore (Freddie Gray) are grounds for being choked, shot or beaten to death.
Carlos Moore, attorney representing Stewart's father, Henry Williams, noted that Schilling had been charged with leaving the scene of an accident in DeSoto County, Mississippi, in 2009, before he was hired to be a Memphis police officer, as well as having a DUI charge for which he was disciplined by MPD in 2014.
"Schilling never should have been hired by the Memphis police department," Moore told us last month after learning of the Citizens Media Resource report about the leaving the scene charge.
No other media has reported this story, so far as we know, although Schilling and the case have gotten intense scrutiny, generally. Can anyone explain why? Anyone? However, the information is a matter of public record and was at one time accessible on the DeSoto County Justice Court website.
Since we confirmed the information about Schilling's Jan. 3, 2009, arrest with a DeSoto County Justice Court deputy clerk, the status of Schilling's case has been changed from "open/pending" to "not guilty."
We spoke with two DeSoto County court clerks on Nov. 12 and Nov. 13, and they confirmed that the six-year-old case status was "open/pending," with "no disposition" and with no indication of whether the case had been heard in court or whether Schilling had appeared. However, one clerk, who said she had looked up the hard file on the case, said that a fine of $190.50 had been turned over to a collection agency in an attempt to recover the amount from Schilling. The clerk knew Schilling was a police officer.
Somehow, between Nov. 13 and Dec. 3, the status of the case was changed online to "not guilty." The URL which had gone to the case record showing "open/pending" suddenly went to another person's case. The "not guilty" version of Case 9201454 appeared on the website -- and the URL was the same as that which contained the former record, except the last number was changed from "5" to "6."
While a Shelby County grand jury failed to indict Schilling for voluntary manslaughter, there will be a civil lawsuit filed on behalf of surviving family members. That Schilling had a "leaving the scene" charge on his record before the city of Memphis hired him to be a police officer will bolster's the plaintiff's case, attorneys believe.
Dropbox file showing DeSoto County Justice Court record Connor Schilling Case 9201454 as it existed Nov. 11, 2015 (the date is in upper right corner of the page):
Link to DeSoto County Justice Court record Connor Schilling Case 9201454 as it existed Dec. 3, 2015:http://records.desotocountyms.gov/WEBPGMS/JCRINQDEF1.pgm?TASK=disp&rrn=000067286
When we tried to use the link to look at the record online just now, we got an error message: "Safari Can't Open the Page." We got it to open once -- but it went to a different person's record.
We have not asked the DeSoto County court for an explanation.
Here is a link to Schilling Case 9201454 as we revisited this matter on May 18, 2017, showing the disposition changed to "not guilty:" http://desotoms.info/WEBPGMS/JCRINQDEF1.pgm?TASK=disp&rrn=000067314
Moore said that Schilling's hassling of Stewart represented racial profiling as he would not have asked a white passenger for his ID after a broken headlight traffic stop.
Anecdotes abound among African-Americans about police stopping cars with several black passengers and having everyone get out and show IDs, on the premise that somebody would owe back child support or would have an outstanding warrant on his record.