A Memphis police officer pulled over a car for a broken headlight and issued a ticket, but he put the passenger in the backseat of the police car in an alleged case of mistaken identity.
The police officer wanted to verify warrants against the 19-year-old Darrius Stewart, but police say Stewart kicked the door open and tried to attack the officer when he came to handcuff him, even grabbing the officer’s handcuffs to swing at him.
The confrontation ended when the officer shot at Stewart, and Stewart later died at the hospital.
“Anytime an officer discharges their weapon in the line of duty the outcome can be devastating on the community and the officer involved,” said MPD Director Toney Armstrong.
“We are going to be transparent and get to the bottom of what happened and why it happened,” Armstrong said.
Stewart’s family and friends are asking for answers and asking why such force would have been considered justified.
“He’s nothing but 19 and weigh 120,” said childhood friend Derrick Patterson. “Anything, why couldn’t they pepper spray him, why’d they have to just shoot him?”
“It could have went either way,” said Mike Williams from the Memphis Police Association. “Would it have been better if we had a police officer laying out there dead right now? No, it would not have been. It is not okay that we have a young man who is dead. I’m not going to sit here and let you beat me in the face with handcuffs. That’s not going to happen, because you can kill me. I’m not going to let you pull a knife on me.”
In the meantime, the officer is on paid leave while the MPD investigates the incident.