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Jury Rules In Favor Of Former Fort Smith Officer In Shooting Death

FORT SMITH (KFSM) -A jury on Friday (May 8) ruled in favor of a Fort Smith police officer in a shooting that left one man dead. A civil lawsuit had been filed i...

FORT SMITH (KFSM) -A jury on Friday (May 8) ruled in favor of a Fort Smith police officer in a shooting that left one man dead.

A civil lawsuit had been filed in U.S. District court in Fort Smith against former Fort Smith police officer Brandon Davis, who shot a man to death almost six years ago in a domestic disturbance call.

The jury trial began May 5 in U.S. District Judge Robert Dawson’s courtroom and ended Friday.

Davis, a sergeant with the Greenwood Police Department who at the time was a corporal with the Fort Smith Police Department, shot Fort Smith resident Eric Berry in the chest and killed him during a domestic disturbance on Nov. 11, 2009, according to a U.S. District court document. Berry was unarmed, the document states.

In 2012, Berry’s wife, Connie, filed a civil lawsuit against the police officer, the city of Fort Smith and the Fort Smith Police Department, claiming Davis wasn’t properly trained in handling situations involving the use of force. The Fort Smith Board of Directors also was named in the lawsuit. However, Dawson later dismissed that claim and the claim against the police department, according to published accounts.

Connie Berry asserted that her husband’s constitutional civil rights were deprived in the shooting death. She sought lost wages, compensatory damages, damages for emotional pain and suffering and attorney fees, according to the lawsuit.

On the day of the incident in 2009, the Fort Smith Police Department received a complaint from Connie Berry concerning a domestic disturbance involving her husband. Davis joined two other Fort Smith officers at the scene, and the officers met with Connie Berry at a neighbor’s house. She appeared unharmed, with no contusions or abrasions, the document states.

The officers went with Connie Berry to her house, where she used her keys to open the locked front door. Connie Berry, concerned about the officers’ intentions, asked Davis not to shoot her husband, the document states.

Using a flashlight, the officer located Eric Berry, sitting at the kitchen table at the opposite end of the house. Without identifying himself, Davis pulled a weapon, and Berry yelled an obscenity at him, telling the officer to leave his home. Davis told Eric Berry to put down his weapon, but Eric Berry told the officer he was not holding a weapon, the document states.

The officer was hiding behind the wall to the left of the door frame of the front door and, even though he couldn’t see the target, opened fire, striking Eric Berry in the chest, killing him, the document states.

Police Reports Filed On Day Of Shooting Death

A police report filed at 10:14 a.m. on the day of the incident states Connie Berry went to the police department information desk, saying Eric Berry hit her twice in the head and tried to smother her with a pillow. She had a knot on her forehead above her right eye that was starting to bruise, the report states.

Connie Berry’s husband said he would kill her and her son, Robert Richardson, if she told police, threatening to stomp on the son’s head “until his brains came out.”  Two weeks earlier, her husband had threatened to kill her with a .45-caliber handgun, the report states.

Connie Berry told police she would meet them at her home at 8500 S. 35th Terrace to retrieve some belongings, but then she returned to the police station, saying she didn’t know if she could go through with it.  She began a conversation with a domestic violence counselor at the police station, and the officers being dispatched to the Berry residence were called off, the report states.

A second police incident report filed about an hour after the first one on Nov. 11, 2009, states Connie Berry called a police dispatcher, saying her husband had pulled a gun on her. The officers handling the call, including Davis, were let into the house by Connie Berry, the report states.

Two officers, including Davis, said Berry was armed with a handgun and pointed the weapon at them. Davis fired twice, striking Eric Berry in the chest. Davis then handed Eric Berry’s firearm to an officer who had arrived seconds after the shots were fired, the report states.

The firearm was unloaded with the slide back. Davis also handed the officer a loaded magazine and a single bullet that Davis said had been in the chamber, the report states.

The Sebastian County prosecutor ruled the shooting was justified. No criminal charges were filed against Davis.