Killing of Black Man by White Neighbor Ruled 'Justifiable Homicide' — Under Mo. Law, Shooter Isn't Charged
Six people in Missouri have determined that the controversial Nov. 3, 2021, killing of a 28-year-old Black and Filipino man was justified, and that the unidentified white neighbor who shot him to death should not face criminal charges.
According to reports on Tuesday's decision, including those from KMOV, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and NBC News, Crawford County Prosecuting Attorney David S. Smith agrees with the inquest panel's unanimous decision that Justin King's killing was not a crime.
"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. King," Smith said in a statement, noting the panel determined the shooter was defending himself.
The shooting unfolded in a trailer park in the rural town of Bourbon. King was shot three times, including once in the chest.
Smith's statement on the panel's decision alleges King and the shooter were friends, and that on the morning of the shooting, both had helped a neighbor locate her dogs.
The statement suggests King was "agitated" after the dogs' owner accused him of taking their chains off.
King denied unlatching the animals, and "remained agitated" even after the dogs were found.
Security camera footage from that morning appears to confirm there was a "cordial" relationship between King and his neighbor, according to the statement.
However, not even an hour later, King was captured on video rushing outside, yelling.
The footage allegedly shows him running to the shooter's front door, where it appears he started "beating on the shooter's door without making entry," according to the reports, which quote the statement.
Less than a minute later, King starts heading back towards his home, but pauses midway before running back to the neighbor's door. The statement alleges he pounded on it "for approximately 15 seconds before" entering the shooter's home.
Both King and the shooter emerged 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, injured from the shooting, stumbling off the porch, and tumbling to the ground.
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Smith alleges King threatened his neighbor's life and damaged some of his property, including some TVs.
The killing was deemed justifiable under Missouri's Castle Doctrine.
Expanded on Jan. 1, 2017, the state's Castle Doctrine allows citizens the right to stand their ground. When an intruder enters someone's home — or their "castle" — and the owner believes their life is in danger, they can use lethal force against an attacker.
Several states have similar laws, but Missouri's mandate permits the use of deadly force not only to protect one's safety, but to defend others and ensure the security of their personal property.
"This is a pattern of conduct that we see in rural Missouri," Nimrod Chapel Jr., president of the Missouri NAACP, told NBC News. "There's a reluctance to hold assailants accountable when the victims are Black. It's a terrible reality that we have here in Missouri."
KMOV spoke to John King, Justin's father, following Tuesday's determination.
"Of course, [the sheriff's] going to select six people that are going to corroborate what he thought happened," Justin 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," he vowed. "It's far from over."