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Massachusetts Prosecutor To Review 2011 Probe Into Shooting Of Black Man By Police

Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said her office will be reviewing a 2011 police shooting of a Black man that was ruled an accident.
Alanna Durkin Richer
Middlesex District Attorney Marian Ryan said her office will be reviewing a 2011 police shooting of a Black man that was ruled an accident.

A prosecutor in Massachusetts says her office will review an investigation into a nearly decade-old case in which a Black man was killed by police during a drug raid that was targeting his stepson.

Eurie Stamps, 68, was fatally shot in January 2011 when a Framingham, Mass., SWAT team burst into his home.

The District Attorney of Middlesex County determined at the time the officer who fired the fatal round did so accidentally and he was never criminally charged. The officer is reportedly still with the Framingham Police Department.

The city of Framingham, located roughly 20 miles west of Boston, later reached a settlement with the Stamps family for nearly $4 million.

DA promises release of 2011 investigation

"The death of Eurie Stamps has had a profound impact on his family, friends and the entire community," the current district attorney, Marian Ryan, said in a statement.

"We recognize how important it is that the public has confidence in these types of investigations which is why we are in the process of gathering and reviewing the documents relative to the investigation that was conducted by the previous administration into the death of Mr. Stamps," Ryan said.

Her office said it will publicly release documents related to the original investigation, but gave no timeline for when it would do so.

Request for comment from the Framingham Police Department was not immediately returned to NPR.

News that the district attorney would reexamine the findings was first reported by the MetroWest Daily News, which adds the review comes on the heels of two rallies this month calling for justice in the case.

Selvin Chambers, a spokesperson for a local organization called #JusticeForEurie, told the paper the review is "a good first step," but ultimately said he wants the officer to be held accountable.

"The civil case is one thing, but the monetary settlement can never replace Mr. Stamps," Chambers said.

Findings in Stamps case

On Jan. 5, 2011, police went to Stamps' home with a search warrant and broke down his door, the MetroWest Daily Newsreports. It said officers were looking for Joseph Bushfan, Stamps' stepson and another man. The two were allegedly selling crack cocaine inside the home, the paper said.

When the SWAT team members encountered Stamps they told him to get on the floor and he complied, according to WBZ, a CBS-affiliate in Boston.

The officer who fired the shot told investigators he lost his balance.

"I started to fall over. I'm – I'm going backwards," he said, according to WBZ.

Stamps was killed when a bullet from the officer's M-4 semiautomatic rifle struck his head, neck and chest, the station notes.

Stamps family attorney Anthony Tarricone told he television station he does not buy the officer's explanation.

"For his story to be correct, one would have to throw out the laws of physics and conclude that bullets can turn corners," Tarricone said.

Calls for justice in other recent cases

The push to have Stamps' killing reviewed comes amid national protests calling for an end to systemic racism and police brutality.

Those demonstrations were sparked by the recent deaths of Black Americans including George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks, and Breonna Taylor – all of whom have become rallying cries for protesters demanding officers be held responsible for their deaths.

In the case of Floyd, all four Minneapolis police officers involved in the incident have been fired and charged in connection to his Memorial Day death. Floyd died when Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for several minutes.

Chauvin is charged with second-degree murder, while three other officers face charges of aiding and abetting.

Brooks was shot and killed after an encounter with Atlanta police officers in June. Garrett Rolfe, one of the officers involved in the incident has since been fired and faces 11 charges, including felony murder. Another officer remains with the Atlanta Police Department and is charged with aggravated assault.

In the Taylor case, none of the three officers has been charged in her shooting death in March. She was killed after officers executing a search warrant entered her home in the early morning hours while she and her boyfriend were sleeping. Her boyfriend survived.

Prosecutors often have difficulty getting convictions of officers charged crimes related to using deadly force in the line of duty.

Last month in Missouri, a St. Louis County prosecutor announced after reviewing the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown, an 18-year-old Black man, which sparked weeks of protests in the city of Ferguson, that he would not reopen the case against the former officer.

"We looked at the evidence with a fresh set of eyes," St. Louis Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell told NPR's All Things Considered last month.

"And, you know, unfortunately, we just - we don't have the evidence to ethically bring a charge against Darren Wilson."

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Brakkton Booker is a National Desk reporter based in Washington, DC.