Chicago attorney Mike Laux and the family of a 46-year-old man killed by officers with the Little Rock Police Department last October held a press conference this morning at the Arkansas State Capitol to announce the filing of a civil rights lawsuit against the officer involved, LRPD Chief Kenton Buckner and the City of Little Rock. They say the initial police report filed by LRPD is false.
Roy Lee Richards, 46, who lived in apartments on Green Mountain Drive, was killed on October 25, 2016, after officers responded to a disturbance call at 514 E. 8th St. When officers arrived, the report filed at the time said, they saw Richards chasing his uncle, Derrell Underwood, 53, with a "long gun." LRPD officer Dennis Hutchins shot Richards. According to the report, Underwood told police that he and Richards had engaged in an argument that became a physical fight, with bystanders calling the police. The rifle turned out to be a pellet gun.
From the report:
Once officers arrived on scene, they observed two black males fighting in the front yard of 514 E. 8th Street. As officers approached, the two males stopped fighting and Richards walked to the dark colored SUV out of the view of the officers, and the other black male stood near the front steps. Once Richards came back into officers’ view, they observed Richards begin to chase the other black male while pointing a long gun at his back. At that point, Officer Dennis Hutchins stated that he fired multiple rounds at Richards from his authorized service weapon, striking Richards, because he believed that Richards was going to shoot the other black male in the back. Officers recovered a weapon at the scene that Richards was holding at the time of the shooting and pointing at the victim.
Activists almost immediately called for an independent review of Richards' death. In a video seen above, recorded by the Little Rock chapter of Black Lives Matter and posted to Youtube.com the week after the shooting, Derrell Underwood disputed the police account. He said he'd been holding a drunken Richards on the ground and let him up once he was told the police arrived. Underwood said that Richards did retrieve the pellet gun, but Underwood told Richards "What are you going to do with that beside make me mad?"
Underwood said he went into his house, locked the door, and had gone to the back room of the house to wake up a sleeping relative when he heard the gunshots that killed his nephew. If true, Underwood's account would undermine the official police line that Hutchins fired because he saw no other choice to save Underwood's life.
"When Roy got shot, I was in the house," Underwood says in the video. "I didn't hear the police say anything." In the video, Underwood and Richards' nephew Antonio Jackson say police arrived without lights and sirens, parked down the street, and said nothing to Richards before he was shot.
In a press release, the family of Roy Richards says the police report filed at the time is "absolutely false," saying that eyewitnesses and physical evidence refute the account. "Officer Hutchins' shooting of Mr. Richards was deemed justified by Officer Hutchins' friends and colleagues. The LRPD, it seems, is quite willing to repeat past mistakes made during such investigations rather than learn from them."
Mike Laux and attorneys with the Little Rock firm of Dodds, Kidd, Ryan & Rowan will be representing Richards' family in the case. Laux has become something of a thorn in the side of the LRPD in recent years, filing civil rights lawsuits over high profile police shootings of black citizens, including the Dec. 2010 shooting case of Eugene Ellison, a 67-year-old Navy veteran shot by LRPD Officer Donna Lesher in his apartment near the intersection of Col. Glenn and University Ave. after an altercation with police., and Bobby Moore, a 15 year old shot in August 2012 by LRPD Officer Josh Hastings after Hastings responded to reports of someone breaking into cars at Shadow Lakes Apartment complex in West Little Rock. In preparing for each of those lawsuits, Laux has taken a deep dive into the culture of the Little Rock Police Department and how the department handles police shootings.