Civil-rights activist Jarrett Maupin vowed to continue a series of protests in Tempe after a white officer was cleared of criminal charges in the July shooting of an unarmed, black teen robber.
"This is West Mississippi," Maupin said on Wednesday, soon after Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery announced at a news conference that the officer, Lt. Edward Ouimette, would not be charged. "We shouldn't expect a different kind of justice than blacks have experienced in other equally racist parts of the country."
He plans to lead a protest over the decision this morning that will "force the city to arrest seniors and children."
Ouimette encountered 19-year-old Dalvin Hollins on July 29, 2016, just minutes after Hollins robbed a Walgreens pharmacy.
"There is no evidence to permit a conclusion that charges could be filed for a crime under Arizona law." — Bill Montgomery
The lieutenant claimed during the investigation that as he was running after Hollins through the breezeway of the Westchester Senior Living Center near Rural and Guadalupe roads, he called out, "Police. Stop or I'm gonna shoot you," according to a police report released on Tuesday.
Hollins turned in response. Ouimette later told a detective he thought he saw a gun in Hollins' hand. He fired his service pistol once, falling as he simultaneously tried to take cover. Hollins, who was shot in the back, died soon after.
The shooting prompted the Tempe Police Department to review its body-camera policies, because Ouimette hadn't activated his camera until after the shooting.
The incident also spurred outrage among police critics and Black Lives Matter activists, who had confronted police in Phoenix a few weeks earlier at the "Rally for Justice" protest of another police shooting. Maupin, a controversial figure who nonetheless has maintained a leadership role in the black community, helped organize several rallies in response to the Hollins shooting.
At the Wednesday's press conference, Montgomery read solemnly from a list of facts in the case, noting that Ouimette knew Hollins had claimed he had a gun during the drugstore robbery and had threatened to kill employees. The officer felt that Hollins might take hostages at the senior center, Montgomery said.
Ouimette was well within his rights to defend himself, stop a dangerous suspect from fleeing, and prevent the suspect from possibly harming others, Montgomery explained.
"The decision to shoot, therefore, under Arizona law, is a permissible use of deadly force, and there is no evidence to permit a conclusion that charges could be filed for a crime under Arizona law," he said.
Ouimette remains on leave because of the injuries he received during his fall.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Tempe Police Department said Montgomery's decision "does not alleviate the suffering of the Hollins family," nor the "fear and range of emotions" of everyone else involved in the incident, including Ouimette.
The department acknowledged that had Ouimette turned on his body camera, "additional evidence" would have been recovered. Now, the agency said, officers are required to activate their cameras while responding to an emergency call, instead of when they arrive at the call.
"In light of pending litigation, we must limit our comments," said the statement released by Sergeant Josie Montenegro. "However, we remain steadfast in our resolve to be transparent and our thoughts are with everyone who was impacted by this event."
Hollins' family is suing the city of Tempe over the death.
[image-3]As Maupin pointed out, the prosecutor's decision is a mixed blessing for their lawsuit effort. A criminal charge would have strengthened the civil case, but if Ouimette had been charged with a felony, the family would not have been able to collect a court award under Arizona law.
Sarah Coleman, the victim's mother, will continue her legal efforts against the city, Maupin said. An important question now for Tempe police officials, he said, "is whether or not they want to keep a homicidal officer on their police force."
Maupin has a delicate relationship with the county prosecutor, who's interested in Maupin's connection to the local black community. They've met in the past to talk about terms of suspects that Maupin tries to help.
Maupin said on Wednesday that he's not claiming that Montgomery is a racist, even as he accuses the official of making a racist decision.
"Bill Montgomery has to weigh the value of black lives against the value of blue lives, and deal with the political fallout," Maupin said. "You tell me, what is he going to do? He's being a good old boy. ... He has to get re-elected."
Voters re-elected Montgomery in November to a second four-year term.
Maupin said his support of Hollins' family and criticism of authorities in the case doesn't excuse the fact that Hollins committed a robbery that frightened victims. The police report, for example, states that Hollins pretended to have a gun in a bag during the robbery, and repeatedly threatened to kill employees.
"Did it merit him getting shot? No," Maupin said. "It's just a sad situation all the way around."
Maupin said he's preparing a formal statement about Montgomery's decision and will talk about it during a news conference at 9:30 a.m. today outside of the Tempe City Hall. Hollins' mother, father, and brother are expected to attend, he said.
Asked if he's organizing another protest, Maupin responded, "of course there'll be a protest, because this is bullshit!"
He and organizers will lead the demonstration and force police to arrest people, "taking a page right out of the Selma playbook," he said, referring to the Selma, Alabama, marches in 1965 led by the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.