MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The family of a 19-year-old Black man who was fatally shot by a white Memphis police officer during a confrontation nearly eight years ago has asked the city’s top prosecutor to reopen the case, a lawyer said Wednesday.
Darrius Stewart’s father, Henry Williams, wants the death of his son to be reviewed by Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy, who could convene a grand jury to consider murder or manslaughter charges, Williams’ attorney, Carlos E. Moore, said in a statement.
Then-Officer Connor Schilling shot Stewart in July 2015 during a struggle following a traffic stop that escalated after an attempted arrest for outstanding warrants.
A grand jury declined to charge Schilling despite a recommendation by then-District Attorney Amy Weirich, who reviewed an 800-page Tennessee Bureau of Investigation report on the shooting, that he be indicted for voluntary manslaughter and employment of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony.
In September 2016, a federal prosecutor announced that there was insufficient evidence to file civil rights charges against Schilling.
Schilling has said he shot Stewart because he feared for his life. He retired due to a disability, police said, in a move that allowed him to receive disability pay.
“Darrius was unarmed and Schilling has never been tried or convicted,” Moore said in the statement. “I am asking that you re-open the case and convene a new grand jury to see if a murder or manslaughter indictment is returned.”
Mulroy’s office said the DA was scheduled to meet with Stewart’s family Thursday and may comment publicly afterwards.
Art Quinn, Schilling’s lawyer in the Stewart shooting, said he hasn’t heard of new evidence being presented in the case. Quinn noted that the TBI already investigated and a grand jury did not indict Schilling.
“I don’t know of any basis why the case would be reopened,” Quinn told The Associated Press.
The request comes weeks after the January arrest, beating and death of Tyre Nichols, a Black man, in Memphis. Five officers, who also are Black, have been fired and face charges including second-degree murder in connection with Nichols’ death. The district attorney’s office has said it will be reviewing past cases involving those officers.
The Stewart shooting happened at a time when police shootings across the nation sparked sharp debate on use of force and racial profiling. It led to peaceful protests and vigils in Memphis, and calls for Schilling to be fired.
Activists and U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, a Tennessee Democrat, called on the U.S. Justice Department to conduct a “pattern or practice” investigation of civil rights violations in the department. Such inquiries often result in sweeping reforms, including staffing and training overhauls.
Moore warned the Justice Department at the time of a deadly trend that preceded Stewart’s shooting. “There have been over 24 suspicious killings of civilians by officers of the Memphis Police Department since 2009,” he wrote in a 2015 letter obtained by AP, “and not one officer has been indicted for killing unarmed, largely Black young men.”
The Justice Department decided not to open such an inquiry for reasons it didn’t explain at the time, and it declined to comment for a Feb. 7 story by the AP.
Moore made the request to reopen the Stewart case under a Justice Review Unit started by Mulroy, who was elected last year. The independent unit works separately from active prosecutions in the district’s attorney’s office and reports directly to Mulroy.