Little Rock police officer Dennis Hutchins was acquitted by a jury on August 17 and cleared of charges resulting from the 2016 fatal shooting of a man who it turned out was holding a BB gun.
On October 25, 2016 Hutchins and one other officer, Justin Tyler, responded to a report of a physical altercation in which one of the men was armed. When the officers arrived on scene, they saw Roy Richards Jr. holding what appeared to be a rifle as he engaged in an argument with his uncle, Darrell Underwood. Hutchins then fired at Richards five times, striking him twice and killing him. It was later discovered that the weapon Richards was wielding was actually a pellet gun.
Richards’ sister, Vanessa Cole, who represented the Richards estate, sought millions of dollars in damages during the trial, which lasted over a week. Her legal team argued that Hutchins had used excessive force when he shot and killed Richards. Ultimately, the jury deliberated for three hours and returned a not guilty verdict.
The defense team, led by city attorney Tom Carpenter, left the courtroom after the verdict was read and spoke to reporters, saying “I think the verdict was appropriate. I think this was a situation where an officer faced, what he felt and what he could tell at that point, was a life-ending possibility and acted to keep that from happening.”
The Richards family also left the courtroom shortly after the verdict was read, and lead attorney for the family, Judson Kidd, told reporters the family was “devastated” by the outcome. “”Ms. Cole lost her brother — her only brother — her protector as she so testified,” Kidd said. “And we have two boys, 14 and , who lost their father, lost his financial and emotional support. And we got Roy Richards Sr., the father, who has lost his only son. So obviously they are devastated by the verdict,” Kidd said.
After the verdict was read, Mike Laux, an attorney for the Richards family, filed a motion for the judge to declare a mistrial, arguing the jury had ignored expert testimony during the proceedings, which should result in jury nullification. Laux also told reporters he would explore filing an appeal.