On Monday, a Missouri grand jury declined to indict the county prosecutor in the shooting death of a drug suspect, but found the shooter—Missouri state trooper Ronald E. Johnson—not guilty of a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter.
Johnson fired on Cameron Lamb, a 24-year-old black drug suspect, during a March 15 traffic stop near Springfield. Johnson reported to investigators that Lamb had refused to answer questions, created a disturbance, and charged him with assault. Johnson claimed that Lamb was high on methamphetamine and threatened him, pointing a gun at his head, as Johnson prepared to put Lamb in handcuffs.
Surveillance video from the traffic stop allegedly shows the officer firing eight shots before calling for backup and attempting to subdue Lamb with two Tasers. However, Lamb, who police said was armed with a handgun, survived.
On Monday, the prosecutor announced that his office had chosen not to pursue a first-degree manslaughter charge. The single voluntary manslaughter charge—a lower charge than manslaughter—was initially filed against Johnson following a review by Missouri Bureau of Investigation investigators. However, the grand jury voted not to indict the officer on that charge.
After prosecutors declined to pursue a murder charge, Jordan Lamb called for charges of assault against Johnson.
Critics of the Black Lives Matter movement and the Black Lives Matter movement have criticized the activists’ refusal to address the substantive issues their activism raises.
A week before Cameron Lamb’s killing, Chicago police shot and killed Bettie Jones, a black woman, in another confrontation with a drug suspect. Yet media reports gave the much lesser charge of involuntary manslaughter to the officers involved, who were identified only as “two plainclothes officers.” The officers were described as allegedly trying to talk with the suspect in an attempt to come up with a potential cooperation agreement.
After reviewing the video from the Springfield officer’s dashboard camera, the grand jury had the option of choosing between two lesser charges, but instead opted to reduce the charge from manslaughter to voluntary manslaughter.
John Whitehead, who has advocated criminal charges in law enforcement shootings, criticized the grand jury for not punishing the officer with any charges. “If the grand jury was honestly presented with the evidence and a complete narrative of what occurred, I doubt they could ignore a voluntary manslaughter charge,” Whitehead said in a phone interview on Monday.
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While the officer was expected to be acquitted, other motorists who witnessed the shooting did not have the benefit of a grand jury investigation to shape what facts they could tell. The video showed Johnson firing without probable cause, and over the objection of other motorists. Yet the video, now widely viewed in social media, made no mention of the traffic stop in the official transcripts of the event.
Lamb’s mother, Beverly Perry, told the press after her son’s death that she is still “shocked” by the video of her son being shot in the back. Perry also accused Johnson of having a brief physical altercation with Lamb before Johnson shot him.
“Even though my son is dead, the truth of the matter is the coroner has allowed it to be claimed that he was trying to do something with a weapon,” Perry said.
Gregory L. Thomas, an award-winning investigative journalist, had been following the case of Cameron Lamb for many months as a member of a national association of black journalists. In addition to writing extensively about the controversy over the death of Lamb, Thomas was the media coordinator for a coalition of activists from around the country who marched at the White House to press President Obama to face the responsibility of enforcing hate crimes laws.
“I’m not surprised. The whole thing smacks of nothing more than politics and blame-shifting,” Thomas told WorldNetDaily after the news broke. “The real problem here is that the prosecution really should have looked into why a loaded gun was found at the scene. The shooting raises serious constitutional issues with the prosecutor claiming self-defense. What if a cop had a loaded gun on him that same day and he was attacked by some black thug who was threatening him? The officer is going to claim self-defense unless there is evidence to the contrary,” Thomas said.