The death of a black man at the hands of his white neighbor has become the subject of fierce debate in a small Missouri community.
Justin King, 28, was gunned down on Nov. 3 in the trailer park he lived in in Bourbon, a town of 1,600 people about 70 miles from St Louis.
The gunman, a 42-year-old white male, was arrested but released without charge after the Crawford County Sheriff’s Department determined he was acting in self-defense when King broke into his home.
However, family members and neighbors refuted the account adopted by police in interviews with NBC News, saying King was shot “in cold blood” by a man he considered a friend.
“The only person who says it’s a home invasion is the guy who shot my son,” King’s father John King told the outlet. “And all the neighbors say, ‘No, you shot him in cold blood outside. “”
The father noted that his son was shirtless in pajama pants when he was shot in broad daylight, asking, “So what was he a threat in?”
King and the shooter lived across from each other, according to trailer park manager Lesa Stiller.
Ms Stiller described watching King walk towards the neighbor’s trailer before gunshots rang out at around 11:45 a.m.
She said she did not see King enter the trailer herself, but saw him “backing up very slowly with his hands in the air” near the steps of the residence after the shots had been fired. been drawn.
“I heard him say, ‘I thought we were friends.’ And [the neighbour] said, “We were! “And he just came back slowly,” recalls Ms. Stiller.
The Crawford County Sheriff’s Department determined that the neighbor shot King because he “feared for his life” during an altercation that took place when King “forced entry” into the house.
Various pieces of evidence “preliminary corroborate” the neighbor’s account, the department said in a statement.
Police say the shooter was protected by the Missouri “Castle Doctrine”, which allows owners to use deadly force against intruders.
But King’s family insist the doctrine does not apply because King did not enter the house and was shot outside.
Her father, John King, called the shooting a “racially motivated hate” act.
Neighbors described King, the father of a nine-year-old daughter, as a caring and upbeat man who was always happy to lend a hand to others.
Three neighbors who spoke to NBC described the shooter as having a history of violence, making racist comments and showing off his gun collection. They said he also expressed a desire to kill someone.
Court records showed the shooter was arrested in June 2017 for second degree assault and unlawful use of a weapon while intoxicated. The status of these charges is unclear, NBC reported.
For the neighbors, the most confusing part of the shooting was realizing that King and the gunman were friends.
Neighbor Trina Willson said, “He knew Justin. You’d think if your friend came 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? “
Crawford County Sheriff Darin Layman told NBC all of the information his department has released on the case so far is “accurate to our investigation and findings.”
“Our office found no evidence to support the idea that this was a racially motivated incident,” Layman said.
“We have contacted the FBI regarding this investigation and requested their assistance in processing some of the evidence gathered.”
King’s family, meanwhile, accused law enforcement of failing to conduct a thorough investigation. Her mother, Eva Bruns, said she felt “betrayed” by the police.
“They are not fair. I don’t know if it’s because of the color or because of the way the killer is, ”Ms. Bruns told NBC.
“In the investigation, nothing was done. Twenty-four hours later and he was released from prison. I don’t know what kind of justice it is.
The Independent Gt