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Death of Black man shot by white neighbor ruled ‘justifiable homicide,’ shooter not charged

A jury unanimously agreed in an inquest Tuesday that the death of a Black man who was fatally shot November 3 in rural Missouri, was justified. The six county residents who were presented with evidence and heard from witnesses about the case, also determined that the unidentified white neighbor who shot the 28-year-old to death should not face criminal charges.

“I fully concur with the finding of the Coroner’s Inquest panel, and I am declining to issue charges related to the death of Mr. Justin King,” County Prosecuting Attorney David Smith said in a statement Wednesday, according to reports.

Denouncing the prosecutor’s decision, Nimrod Chapel Jr.—the president of the Missouri NAACP, who is representing the King family—said: “The failure of County’s prosecutor to bring charges in the murder of Justin King is inexcusable. The coroner’s inquest was directed in a manner to give the jury evidence of justifiable homicide without presenting all the evidence or even pictures of the body.” Smith’s statement on the panel’s decision alleges King and the shooter were friends and that on the morning of the fatal shooting, the pair had helped a neighbor search for her missing dogs.

The statement suggests King was “agitated” because the owner of the dogs accused him of having let them off their chains. He denied the allegations and “remained agitated” even after the dogs were found, the statement said. Security camera footage from inside King’s trailer that morning reportedly shows him talking cordially with the shooter, according to reports.

“By all appearances, the relationship between Mr. King and the shooter at this point remained cordial,” Smith said in the statement. However, fifty minutes later, King was captured on video yelling incoherently and rushing outside to the front door of the shooter’s residence. The footage allegedly shows him “beating on the shooter’s door without making entry.”

About 20 seconds later, the statement claims, King began to walk back to his own home but stopped midway and ran back to the neighbor’s door. He allegedly pounded on it “for approximately 15 seconds before” entering the shooter’s home. Both King and the shooter are said to have emerged outside 45 seconds later.

“There appeared to be a continued physical struggle until the shooter exited the covered porch walking rapidly with a gun visible in his hand,” the statement said. The footage shows King emerging from the covered porch walking slowly and unsteadily, “having already been injured by gunshot,” before collapsing on the ground near the porch of the shooter’s home. The autopsy found that King was shot three times.

King’s death was deemed justifiable under Missouri’s Castle Doctrine, which allows citizens “to use deadly force against intruders without the duty to retreat, based on the notion that their home is ‘their castle.'” Kings family has disputed Smith’s decision. “Of course, [the sheriff’s] going to select six people that are going to corroborate what he thought happened,” John King, Justin’s father, reportedly said.

“Justin went inside the house, obviously, he was irritated about something. If he ripped the television off the wall and threw them, show me the fingerprints. The prosecutors say the fingerprints are smudged. This is not over. It’s far from over.”