FORT SMITH -- Police officers who shot and wounded a man trying to run over other officers earlier this month were justified in firing their weapons, a prosecutor announced Friday.
"Considering the totality of the circumstances, Officers [Thomas] Brashier and [Jeff] Lum and [an undercover detective whose name was blacked out] had a reasonable belief that Matthew Lee Pittman was committing the offense of aggravated assault and was possibly armed and dangerous and, further, had a reasonable belief that Pittman was attempting to use unlawful deadly force on themselves, other officers and possibly civilians in the area," Sebastian County prosecutor Dan Shue wrote in a letter to Police Chief Nathaniel Clark on Friday.
Shue was reviewing the Jan. 3 shooting at Point Convenience Store, 1116 Grand Ave. Police were attempting to arrest Pittman on a warrant charging him with a terroristic act. Pittman, 19, pleaded innocent to the charge last week. He was being held in the Sebastian County jail Friday in lieu of $50,000 bond, and his trial was set for the week of June 11, according to court records.
Pittman was wounded in the shooting and taken into custody. Eight officers, including the three involved in the shooting, were placed on administrative leave pending completion of Shue's investigation.
Shue also announced Friday he charged Pittman with three counts of aggravated assault on two officers and a civilian. He is scheduled to be arraigned on the charges Wednesday in circuit court, according to Shue.
In his letter to Clark, Shue detailed the events surrounding Pittman's shooting and arrest.
Police were working with parole officer Adam Nading in trying to arrest Pittman on the terroristic act warrant.
The officers worked under the belief Pittman was armed. The terroristic act arrest warrant said Pittman had fired into a house on Dec. 17 that was occupied by two people.
The plan was for a civilian, whom Shue identified as Michael Sellers, to contact Pittman and have him drive them to Point Convenience Store where officers would be waiting.
Officers in vehicles were parked at neighboring businesses around the store waiting to move in and block Pittman from driving away once he arrived. Other officers were parked nearby but out of sight.
When Pittman pulled into the store parking lot, Lum and Brashier pulled in front of Pittman's Dodge in a patrol vehicle with flashing lights. Sellers jumped out of the passenger side of the Dodge, according to Shue's letter.
Pittman shifted into reverse and began to back away as detective Chris George and the undercover detective pulled in behind in a pickup and blocked the Dodge, as did Officer Steve Creek in a marked unit with lights and siren on, the letter said.
Pittman stopped before hitting the vehicles behind him and instead shifted into drive and accelerated forward toward Lum and Brashier, both of whom had gotten out of their vehicle.
Both officers and Sellers were standing in front of Pittman's Dodge as it began to accelerate toward them, according to the letter.
Lum had to dive out of the way to avoid being struck. As he did, he began to shoot at Pittman. The undercover detective, who had stopped behind the Dodge, had gotten out and was moving toward Pittman's Dodge. As Pittman was accelerating toward Lum, Brashier and Seller, the detective began to fire at Pittman, according to the letter.
Brashier was attempting to help Sellers, who had fallen to the ground, and fired on the car as it approached, the letter said.
After stopping Pittman, officers pulled him from the car and he told them he had a gun in his waistband and didn't want to be shot again, the letter said. They pulled out a loaded Clerke .22-caliber revolver.
NW News on 01/20/2018
Print Headline: Man's shooting during Fort Smith arrest justified, prosecutor says