Dozens of people took to streets in Little Rock on Monday to protest the fatal police shooting of a black man who allegedly fled from officers — an outpouring of anger that comes amid outrage felt by many about George Zimmerman's acquittal.
The department declined to identify the officer who shot and killed 26-year-old Deon Williams, but hours after the confrontation, it said the officer is also black.
According to police, officers saw an SUV that appeared to match the description of a stolen vehicle, and it pulled to a stop before officers could pull it over. Williams got out and fled on foot, and a handgun slipped from his waistband during the chase. The officer had his Taser out at the time, but he dropped it when he saw the gun, police said.
"He drew his service weapon and saw the subject pick up the handgun, look towards him, and start to get to his feet," police said in a statement. "At that point the officer feared for his life and fired his service weapon approximately three times."
Williams was taken to a nearby hospital, where he was pronounced dead shortly after noon. The officer who shot him and another officer involved in the pursuit have been placed on paid administrative leave, as is department policy in police shootings.
Authorities said Williams' weapon and some drugs had been recovered nearby. They did not say if the SUV he was in had been stolen.
"People have a right to express their opinions and ideas and we're going to protect that right," Police Chief Stuart Thomas said. "By the same token, we have an obligation to follow through with what we have to do at the scene."
An impromptu protest formed near the investigation scene, and many participants called the shooting unjust and cited their frustration about Zimmerman's acquittal Saturday in Florida in the shooting death of an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin.
"It was an outrage what they just did in Florida with Trayvon Martin," said Dominique Neal, 25. "I'm still mad about that. Then ... this right here in our city, it's an outrage."
One protester carried a sign that called for justice for a teen killed by Little Rock police last year.
At a vigil hours later on the state Capitol steps that was organized in response to the Zimmerman verdict, several hundred attendees chanted "No justice, no peace," and called for an end to police profiling of black males and an end to black-on-black violence.
Will McClinton, of Little Rock, said he also took part in the street protest following Williams' shooting and that it felt empowering.
"We gave (police) a very good message," he said. "We organized a peaceful little protest. We stood strong and didn't' move."
Brody Johnson held a sign that read, "LRPD, We demand answers," but he said he doubted the department would respond.
"They never do," Johnson said.
State Rep. Fred Love, D-Little Rock, president of the Legislative Black Caucus, said he wanted the vigil to be a starting point for a conversation about ending profiling of black males.
"How do we turn this tragedy into something that will honor Trayvon's life?" Love asked, and then provided his own answer. "We must stop the senseless killing of one another in our community."
But Love said more is needed than addressing crime in the black community.
"In no way is black-on-black crime an excuse or a justification for what happened to Trayvon Martin," Love said. "We must draw a line in the sand tonight."
Associated Press writer Chuck Bartels contributed to this report.
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