‘ We don’t want to hurt you’
Details of shooting reveal tragedy as police try to reach out to troubled teen
Video footage from four body cameras worn by Marion police officers involved in the shooting death of a 16 year-old teen on July 25 show that officers begged him to put down his gun and talk to them for over ten minutes before the fatal shots were fired.
Police were called to East Arkansas Youth Services, a emergency shelter for juveniles, around 7:11 p.m. and confronted Aries Clark, who shelter employees say was trying to get inside the facility.
Clark had been assigned to the facility by an earlier court order, but had left without permission on July 23. EAYS is not a lockdown facility and juveniles are not prevented from leaving.
According to investigators, Clark came back to the shelter around 6:35 PM. but was not allowed inside and left. He returned again around 7:06 p.m. and EAYS staff called Marion Police. Residents are not allowed back inside the premises until they have been searched for drugs or weapons.
Clark, who was shirtless and wearing blue sagging jeans, red boxers, and white tennis shoes, can be seen in the video with a gun in his hand at his side.
Officers at the scene can be heard repeatedly begging, cajoling, and encouraging Clark to put his gun down.
“We don’t want to do this.
This is not what you want to do.”
“We don’t want to hurt you. We just want to help you. We just want to go home like you want to go home.”
“It ain’t that serious, man.” Clark stood there and was unresponsive while officers continued to talk to him for about ten minutes during the standoff.
“Talk to us, please. Just put the gun down and we’ll talk about whatever you want to.”
“Whatever you’ve got going, it’s not that serious.
Just put the gun down.
We’ll figure it out.”
“What do I need to do to resolve this? Whatever you need, I’ll do. Just talk to us. You’ve got to let us know what’s going on.”
Officer Wesley Smith could heard saying, “You were just talking to me the other week. Just let me help you.”
Shots rang out when Clark turned to face one of the officers, raised his arm, pointed his gun and advanced toward them. Two stills from the video clearly show Clark with a gun in his hand.
Sensing a threat to the officers, Smith immediately fired at Clark, who was hit multiple times and collapsed to the ground.
“God damn!” Officer Brandon Hinkle could be heard saying after Clark was shot.
“He’s still got it in his hand. He’s still got his finger on the trigger.”
Officers approached Clark and removed the gun from his hand and immediately called for an ambulance.
Clark was transported to Regional One hospital where he died from his injuries.
Investigators recovered a black 1911 BB pistol where Clark fell after he was shot. The investigation of the shooting was conducted by Arkansas State Police. Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington reviewed the footage and investigation report and concluded that police were justified in using lethal force.
“Clark’s actions that day brought about the circumstances that threatened the lives of at least four law enforcement officers had the gun he brandished been a firearm as was perceived by the responding officers, and I cannot find that the officers acted criminally,” Ellington said in a letter to Colonel Bill Bryant of Arkansas State Police.
“Therefore, I find the officers were justified under these circumstances and no criminal charges will be filed in this matter.”
Marion Police Lieutenant Detective Freddy Williams said the department has reviewed the video footage and concurs with the findings of the investigation.
“Arkansas State Police handled the investigation,” Williams said. “We were pretty much out of the loop until the final investigation. Basically, we agree with (Ellington’s) findings.”
Williams said both officers have been reinstated and are cleared to return to the job. Smith and Hinkle were on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the investigation.
According to Williams, Smith and Hinkle were shaken by the incident and both sought counseling, but are coping well with the shooting.
“They seem to be doing well,” Williams said. “We have means set up to help officers cope with this type of situation. I had my shooting back in 2003, so I went through the same type of situation, not only with me being shot, but taking another life. So I tried to talk to these guys as best I can.”
Williams said the shooting was tragic, but that the officers involved acted professionally and did all they could to defuse the situation.
“It is tough all around because not only that boy and his family were victims that day, but the community and law enforcement,” Williams said. “Even our guys have a tough time with it. Any time you have to inflict harm or worse, death on someone else, it is difficult. I reviewed the footage and one of the best things we have is the body cams because it shows what happened step-by step. It was obvious by the video that they did their best to talk him down. I feel like Officer Smith did everything he could do and say to de-escalate the situation. Unfortunately the boy chose to go the route that he did.”
By Mark Randall