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story.lead_photo.caption A crime scene technician collects evidence on the car involved in an Oct. 7, 2017, crash and shooting in a University Avenue parking lot in Little Rock. - Photo by Mitchell PE Masilun

The Pulaski County prosecuting attorney's office has cleared a Little Rock officer of criminal wrongdoing in the fatal shooting of a man last fall, an official said Monday.

Little Rock officer Brittany Gunn shot James Hartsfield in October as he sped toward a brick wall outside the Prospect Building at 1501 N. University Ave., according to the Police Department. Agency spokesman Lt. Michael Ford reported earlier this year that Hartsfield died from Gunn's bullets and not the vehicle crash that followed the gunfire.

John Johnson, chief deputy prosecutor, said the Pulaski County prosecuting attorney's office examined the facts and circumstances of the shooting and ruled the gunfire was a justified use of force.

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Photos by Mitchell Pe Masilun

Gunn was faced with a hard choice, Johnson said, but was put in a situation that she felt required her to use deadly force to defend herself.

The lead-up to the shooting began around 4:15 a.m., when a person leaving a bar and grill in the Prospect Building saw a 2004 Mercedes-Benz pull onto the lot, police said in a news release.

The person had requested a "transportation service" to the location and got in the vehicle after the driver indicated he was with the service, police said.

Gunn saw that the driver, later identified as Hartsfield, appeared to be drinking from a bottle of liquor, the release said. During the encounter, she ordered Hartsfield out of the vehicle, but police said he refused and a "physical altercation" ensued.

Gunn called for assistance on her police radio. Another officer arrived to find Gunn in the passenger side of the car, struggling with the driver, the release says.

The statement said both officers tried to remove Hartsfield, who continued to resist.

Hartsfield put the car in drive and sped forward, causing the other officer to fall to the ground, police reported.

But Gunn remained inside the car on the passenger side as the vehicle continued to accelerate toward a brick retaining wall, the release said.

Before the vehicle crashed through the wall and landed on North University Avenue, Gunn shot Hartsfield multiple times, according to the department.

Hartsfield died at the scene. The department said Gunn was treated for multiple "contusions and abrasions" at a hospital.

The incident was the sixth shooting involving Little Rock police last year. In total, officers involved in five of those shootings have not faced criminal charges.

Little Rock officer Ralph Breshears, who has since retired from the department, was arrested earlier this year on one count of third-degree battery that stemmed from his role in a July shooting that wounded a man.

Breshears shot Rudy Avila outside a west Little Rock Chick-fil-A after Avila fled from officers on foot, forced a woman from her vehicle and tried to drive away.

Court records show Breshears shot and hit Avila, "placing the female victim in harm's way." According to the affidavit, Breshears also gave a taped statement that appeared to be "inconsistent with what can be seen on surveillance video."

Metro on 03/21/2018

Print Headline: Prosecutor clears LR officer in fatal shooting of man in car

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