By Chuck Bartles
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — A police officer who fatally shot a 15-year-old Arkansas boy was charged with felony manslaughter Friday after investigators determined his account of the incident didn't match up with evidence at the scene, Little Rock police said.
Officer Josh Hastings, who has a history of disciplinary issues with his department, shot Bobby Moore Jr. while responding to a suspicious persons call at an apartment complex on Aug. 12. Hastings claimed the car Moore was driving was heading toward him, prompting him to fire through its windshield, but the police chief said evidence shows the car was either moving in reverse or stopped several feet away from Hastings when he fired.
Moore died at the scene. Two other teenagers in the car fled on foot and weren't injured.
"I have reviewed this matter and have concluded that the incident did not occur in the manner represented by the officer and that the use of deadly force did not conform to departmental orders," Little Rock Police Chief Stuart Thomas said, adding that prosecutors agreed "the use of deadly force was not justified."
The 26-year-old officer, who had been suspended six times in five years prior to the August shooting, was booked into jail Friday but later released on $15,000 bond. The charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Hastings' attorney, Bill James of Little Rock, said the officer was justified.
"I'm confident that when the facts all come out he'll be found innocent. I think he used reasonable force," James said.
Several phone numbers listed for Moore's relatives in the area were disconnected when called Friday.
The police chief said evidence showed that the vehicle had stopped several feet from Hastings "and that the driver was in the process of reversing direction when the shots were fired." Thomas also said evidence didn't support Hasting's claim that Moore's vehicle "continued past him," noting that the teen's car came to rest after colliding with a parked vehicle behind it, showing that it had been moving in reverse.
Prosecutor Larry Jegley said he didn't see a need for his office to recuse itself from the case, saying the same standards and level of scrutiny is applied in all cases.
Thomas said Hastings has been relieved of duty pending administrative proceedings.
According to police records, Hastings was suspended for 15 days earlier this year after he was found sleeping in his patrol car in March.
In August 2011, Hastings was dealt a one-day suspension for not running audio and video equipment while he drove with a suspect in his cruiser. Between May 2011 and November 2011, Hastings was suspended for six days for not attending court hearings, which resulted in six drunken driving prosecutions being scuttled or delayed.
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The agency suspended him for 10 days in 2010 for responding to a call outside of his district. A year before, he was sent home for a day for crashing a patrol car. He had another one-day suspension in 2008 for wrongly identifying a suspect and not properly logging documents in the case.
Copyright 2012 Associated Press