- Associated Press - Thursday, April 27, 2017

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) - The parents of an unarmed black teen who was fatally shot in the back by a Tempe police lieutenant last year ridiculed the decision by prosecutors to not charge the officer and vowed to carry out protests over the case.

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery on Wednesday announced there would be no charges against Lt. Edward Ouimette, a longtime department veteran who fatally shot 19-year-old Dalvin Hollins on July 27, 2016.

The shooting took place in a parking lot behind a senior living facility after Hollins allegedly robbed a pharmacy of 11 bottles of codeine cough syrup, telling the employees he was armed and would kill them.

Montgomery said state laws allow people who reasonably believe their life is in danger to use lethal force.

Police never found a weapon. Hollins died of a gunshot wound to the back.

His family is suing the Tempe Police Department, saying there’s no proof Hollins pointed anything at the officer and that the shooting wasn’t justified. They’re planning to protest in Tempe on Friday.

Sarah Coleman, the boy’s mother, said her son was a loving person who was probably just scared of police when he ran away. She questioned whether the lieutenant would have shot her son if he’d been white.

Hollins’s family says he suffered from mental disabilities and had been on social security disability most of his life.

“I can’t understand how an officer can’t recognize a scared kid from a hardened criminal,” stepfather Frederick Franklin said.

Montgomery said that although there were no witnesses or video to corroborate the officer’s account, the law protects him because he was defending his life in what he perceived was a moment of danger.

“The suspect made a gesture with an item consistent with the perception that a gun was being pointed at an officer,” Montgomery said.

Tempe police say they have reviewed their body camera policy since learning that Ouimette didn’t turn his on until after the shooting. The department said Oiumette’s use of the camera during the confrontation “may have provided additional evidence of the encounter.”

Tempe police officers are now required to turn on their body cameras when responding to an emergency call as opposed to when they arrive at the scene. All officers were trained on this new policy.

“This should help alleviate inadvertent non-activation of (body-worn cameras) under stress and therefore aid our officers and ultimately the community,” the department said in a written statement.

But Hollins’s parents say Ouimette should have known to turn on that camera before he shot Hollins once in the back.

“Like I said at first, if the cameras would have been on, we would not be standing here today. If you had a way to verify what happened and he didn’t use it then he should be penalized for that. He should not be allowed to get away,” Franklin said Thursday.

The use of body cameras has grown significantly since a string of shootings of unarmed black men and teens around the country. A Pew Research Center study published in January found that 66 percent of police officers favor the use of body cameras, although only half of officers said they would make police more likely to act appropriately.

A detailed report on last summer’s shooting was released this week.

According to the report, Ouimette was responding to reports of an armed robbery at a pharmacy. Witnesses told police that Hollins walked in and demanded cough syrup with codeine.

Hollins never showed a weapon but kept his hand in his bag and told workers he would kill them, witnesses said.

Ouimette encountered Hollins about 20 minutes later and tried to apprehend him behind a senior living facility. A chase ensued as Hollins refused to stop.

At one point, Ouimette told investigators that Hollins turned around and pointed what he thought was a gun at him. Ouimette fired one shot at Hollins, who ran into the facility, where he was later found dead.

Ouimette suffered scrapes and minor injuries in the chase. He is a 19-year veteran of the force.

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