A white man shot his black neighbor in Missouri, citing self-defense. The neighbors tell a different story. – .

A white man shot his black neighbor in Missouri, citing self-defense. The neighbors tell a different story. – .

The fatal shooting of a black man in a trailer park shakes a rural Missouri community as neighbors who say they witnessed the murder dispute police accounts of the events.

Justin King, a 28-year-old black Filipino man, was gunned down on November 3 at 11:45 a.m. in the small town of Bourbon, located about 73 miles southwest of Saint-Louis.

Police said he was shot dead by the owner of a house he was trying to break into, but witnesses and family members said he was shot “cold-bloodedly.” by a man he called his friend.

King succumbed to his injuries at the scene. The 42-year-old white neighbor who shot him was taken into custody and then released.

Justin King and his daughter.Courtesy of John King

The Crawford County Sheriff’s Department said King was shot “after forcing entry into a nearby residence where an altercation took place.” The owner “feared for his life” and shot King, the department said in a press release.

The department said the evidence, CCTV and statements “preliminary corroborate the owner’s account of the events.”

But King’s family members and five people who live in the trailer park told NBC News they doubt the account.

Three neighbors told NBC News the shooter was a man who had expressed a desire to kill someone, had a history of violence and was known to use racial epithets. Several neighbors said King and the shooter were friends.

Nimrod Chapel Jr., the president of the Missouri NAACP, which represents the King family, said Justin King was shot outside the neighbor’s house and did not enter, contrary to the sheriff’s account.

“The only person who says it’s a home invasion is the guy who shot my son,” King’s father John King told NBC News. “And all the neighbors say, ‘No, you shot him in cold blood outside.’ “

“He didn’t have a shirt, only pajama bottoms. So how was he a threat? said John King. “Justin was shot in cold blood outside in broad daylight. “

Under the Missouri “Castle Doctrine” Act, individuals are permitted to use lethal force against intruders without being required to retreat, based on the idea that their home is “theirs.” Chateau “.

The shooter, whose name has not been made public and is not the subject of charges, did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment.

What happened on November 3

Neighbors described King as a carefree man who always offered a helping hand. He had recently moved from St. Louis to Bourbon to be closer to his 9 year old daughter, Harlee.

Lesa Stiller, the manager of the trailer park, said she saw King outside heading towards the neighbor’s trailer moments before the shooting. Suddenly she heard a “pop, pop, pop”.

“And just at that last pop, I saw Justin slowly back up very slowly with his hands in the air,” near the outside steps of the shooter’s trailer, Stiller recalls. She noted that she did not see King enter the trailer herself and that King and the gunman lived across from each other.

“I heard him say, ‘I thought we were friends.’ And [the neighbor] said, ‘We were!’ and he just came back slowly, ”she said.

Another neighbor, Katie Bosek, described King as “a gentle man who has helped everyone”. She said he had helped her search for her dogs who were missing on the same day as the shooting. Later that day, King and the neighbor who shot him worked together to fix his car, she said.

“They both ended up under the hood. They cut it while laughing while doing it, ”she said.

She claimed to have seen King and the neighbor leaving together. She said she heard three gunshots about 15 minutes later and rushed to the window to see King lying on the floor.

Trina Willson, who lives in several trailers behind the shooter, said, “He knew Justin. You’d think if your friend walked into your house, you’d be like, “Hey, man, what are you doing? Why do you automatically resort to pulling out a gun and shooting him? How can this even be considered self-defense? “

Chapel noted that the neighbor and the king had cameras in their home. Police did not release any video footage of the incident to the public or family, but said they “viewed all videos available to us”. The Crawford County Sheriff’s Department said it intended to share the footage “during the county prosecutor’s final review of the case.”

King’s death tore apart the tight-knit community of the small town of Bourbon, which has a population of 1,600.

“It’s been crazy here ever since. We’ve never had anything like this in this small town since I’ve been here in 20 years, ”said Earl McCoy, another neighbor. “We take care of each other here. It was strangely quiet here. It was like a ghost town. “

A story of threatening violence and racist language

Three people who live in the park said the neighbor who shot King had previously threatened violence.

Stiller said the neighbor was known to show off his gun – including once at a party she hosted on October 30.

“He’s never been anywhere without that .32 in his belt,” she said.

Bosek recalled that King told him months before the shooting that the neighbor threatened to shoot him.

“Justin came about two months before all of this happened. He was like, ‘You know he threatened to shoot me? Yeah, this guy threatened to shoot me, ”she said. “Justin was such a great guy. He would always forgive people and always go back. “

McCoy said the gunman “had guns all over his house.”

“The last time I spoke to [the neighbor] was at a party on Halloween when he showed everyone his little gun, ”McCoy said. “He said, ‘I don’t fight anymore; I shoot mom——. ‘ “

King’s father believes the shooting was an act of “racially motivated hatred” and said his son was the only black person in this trailer community.

Two neighbors also said the gunman was known to have used racial slurs.

“He was always opened with the N word. He never said ‘black man’,” Stiller said.

“He would let go [racial epithets] outside. He wouldn’t call him Justin if he was standing around me and Justin because he knows I would bring him down, ”McCoy said.

The neighbor who shot King has a criminal record involving assault. He was arrested in June 2017 and charged with second degree assault and unlawful use of a weapon while intoxicated, both felonies, according to court records.

Court records do not show whether these charges were dismissed. The Crawford County Court Clerk declined to comment and the Crawford County District Attorney’s Office did not respond to NBC News’ request for comment on the charges.

Federal law generally prohibits people from owning firearms if they have been convicted of a felony, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. In addition, Missouri also prohibits the possession of a firearm by anyone convicted of a felony under Missouri law.

Indignation at the handling of the case

John King said he was outraged to see sheriff’s deputies escorting the gunman to his trailer the day after his son died.

The family, along with local activists, call the sheriff’s department and demand a full investigation.

“I feel like I have been betrayed by all the police,” King’s mother, Eva Bruns, said. “They are not fair. I don’t know if it’s because of the color or because of the way the killer is. ”

“In the investigation, nothing was done,” she said. “Twenty-four hours later and he got out of jail. I don’t know what kind of justice it is. “

Crawford County Sheriff Darin Layman said in a statement all information shared so far in the case is “accurate to our investigation and findings.”

“Our office found no evidence to support the idea that this was a racially motivated incident,” he said. “We contacted the FBI regarding this investigation and requested their assistance in processing some of the evidence gathered. “

The Missouri FBI declined to comment on the case.

Now the family is focused on getting answers about what happened in the preparation for King’s death.

“The family want to make sure that whoever is responsible for their son’s death is held accountable,” said Chapel, the lawyer for the King family. “But for now, we are just disclosing the truth. “

So far, no lawsuit has been filed in this case, but Chapel said, “I wouldn’t rule anything out at this time. “

Statewide problem of not investigating black male deaths

Chapel said the lack of action in King’s case was part of a statewide problem when it came to investigating the deaths of African Americans, pointing to the cases by Tory Sanders and Derontae Martin.

Sanders, 28, a black inmate in a rural prison, died in May 2017 in similar circumstances to George Floyd, after a white law enforcement officer rested his knee on his neck, according to a report. wrongful death complaint filed by his family. Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt declined to press charges for his death.

Martin, 19, was found dead of a gunshot wound to the head on April 25 at the home of a white man who posted racist memes on social media. Authorities concluded he had committed suicide, but in July, a six-person jury ruled at a coroner’s inquest that Martin had been violently killed.

“It’s justice Jim Crow,” Chapel said. “This is a statewide problem. In Justin’s case, they claim there is an investigation, but then produce the results of the investigation before the investigation is complete. What kind of police work is this? “

The NAACP Missouri Chapter issued a travel advisory in 2017 that remains in effect today, warning people to travel with caution in the state because “crimes based on race, gender and color have a long history. history in Missouri ”.

“What Missouri needs is federal oversight to make sure law enforcement tries to treat people the way the Constitution requires, whether you are the alleged perpetrator of a crime or victim of crime – that you have the same rights regardless of the color of your skin, ”Chapel said.

On November 16, the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department said the investigation into King’s death was still open and the evidence was being processed and sent for lab analysis. The department also said that an informal review of the case had been conducted with the Crawford County District Attorney’s Office, and that there would be follow-ups with witnesses and collection of evidence.


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