Grand Jury Refuses To Indict Officers In Black Motorist’s Death
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. (AP) _ A grand jury today refused to indict seven white police officers involved in the arrest of a black motorist who died from a choke hold restraint.
The grand jury, comprising 11 whites and three blacks, said the officers were doing their jobs.
Larry Powell, 39, of nearby Dayton, died Feb. 5 after being stopped by two officers on suspicion of drunken driving.
The officers called for backup, saying the former heavyweight boxer resisted arrest, investigators said.
During a struggle, Powell was handcuffed, put face down on the ground and a choke hold was applied to restrain him.
″It is our strong feeling that the names of every one of these officers should be cleared and that they should be exonerated of any wrongdoing in this case,″ said grand jury spokeswoman Marsha Crabtree.
″We feel that in this case these officers were trying their best to do their job in the best way they could, based on their training and experience,″ she said.
Powell’s family did not answer calls for comment and their attorney was not in her office this morning.
Rheubin Taylor, chairman of the Hamilton County Commission and a prominent black lawyer in Chattanooga, said he was disappointed by the grand jury decision.
″There’s been too many incidents of people being hurt or dying in police custody. For that reason, I think something needs to be done to address at least the perception that prevails,″ Taylor said.
An autopsy by medical examiner Dr. Frank King ruled Powell’s death a homicide. But he said there was no medical evidence that Powell was brutally beaten or physically abused.
District Attorney General Gary Gerbitz said before the grand jury reported that the case had been an emotional one for the Chattanooga community.
″There’s two sides to it. There is no question that there is an opportunity for criticism,″ he said. ″The whole point in giving it to the grand jury is to eliminate as much of the criticism as possible.″
Gerbitz had said he would make no recommendation to the grand jurors on charges.
The FBI reportedly is looking into the case to determine if Powell’s civil rights were violated.