A coroner’s inquiry into a November incident in which a white man shot his black neighbor concluded that the man acted in self-defense, prompting a Crawford County, Missouri, prosecutor to not pursue charges.
Although the investigative jury’s decision had no legal significance, county prosecuting attorney David S. Smith decided not to charge in connection with the November 3 incident after viewing surveillance footage from the day in question.
Smith also cited Missouri’s “castle doctrine” law, which allows people to use deadly force to defend themselves against intruders and requires the shooter to attempt to retreat before force can be used. Doesn’t happen.
The surveillance video was taken inside a 28-year-old Justin King’s Bourbon, Missouri, trailer. According to Smith, King was seen in the footage as he left his home, screaming, making his way to his neighbor’s trailer. In the video, King is seen going into the house after banging on the door.
While there was no camera footage inside the neighbor’s house, the cameras did capture some fighting, which partly took place outside. The neighbor told officers that King threatened to kill her and threw one of her TVs in the room. She said that though she tried to run away, Raja caught her, causing her to fatally shoot Raja.
A six-member jury agreed with the sheriff’s department to justify the shooting. Missouri NAACP President Nimrod Chappell Jr., who participated in the inquiry, described the decision as disappointing.
Smith said King was initially angry on November 3 when a neighbor accused him of freeing his dogs from their chains. Smith said that the man who eventually shot King went to King’s house to pacify him. King’s internal surveillance video and audio showed a “friendly conversation,” which ended with King telling the man, “Love you, brother,” Smith said.
But about 50 minutes later, King’s behavior changed drastically to the point that even his girlfriend and daughter, who were there, didn’t understand, Smith said. Smith said King’s security video showed King running out of his house, screaming inconsolably.
Smith said that after their brawl, the video showed the shooter holding a gun and King falling to the ground. He was shot three times, including a fatal bullet in the heart.
A deputy coroner told St. Louis Post-Dispatch that King had THC from marijuana, nicotine, caffeine, methamphetamine, and amphetamines in his system at the time of his death. He said the meth levels were below what scientists believed to be the cause of the violent explosions.
The investigation on Tuesday marked the second coroner’s investigation into the suspicious death of a young black man in six months.
Deronte Martin was 19 when he died in April during a party in Madison County, Missouri, home of a man who has a history of making racist comments and social media postings. Investigators determined that Martin killed himself, but a later coroner’s investigative jury found that he died of “violence”, not suicide.
A witness investigating Martin’s death in July said the landlord told her he killed Martin, adding, “He didn’t like black people.” But another witness said he saw Martin shoot himself.
No charges have been filed in Martin’s case, and a Madison County prosecutor has not responded to requests for interviews.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.