Officials have ruled the Oct. 13 fatal shooting death of Samuel Morris in Fort Smith justified.
Fort Smith police officer Dylan Gray on Oct. 13 shot Morris during a domestic disturbance in an apartment unit in Allied Gardens Estate in which Morris reportedly threatened a woman with a knife. Sebastian County Prosecutor Dan Shue on Friday morning ruled Gray’s use of deadly force justified under Arkansas law, according to a prosecutor’s office news release.
"I didn't see any conflicts with what people said they saw and heard," Shue said Friday. The shooting occurred about five months before Fort Smith police officers began using body cameras, though police released an audio recording of the incident to the public.
Officers Gray, Krista Harrison and Alex Meza in the early hours of Oct. 13 responded to the apartments and found Morris sitting on the couch holding what Shue said was either a steak knife or paring knife to a woman's throat. Morris refused to put the knife down after police gave orders to let the woman go and said he was going to kill her. The woman then slid down while still in Morris' grip, which was when Gray shot him, according to the prosecutor's report.
In the audio recording, which was released four days after the shooting, a woman is heard screaming and saying "he's stabbing me" and "please, please" before eight gunshots are heard.
The tenant of the apartment where the incident took place said Morris began threatening her with the knife after she let him, a man and a woman stay with her the night of Oct. 12 to get high and hang out. She said she woke up to Morris standing over with a knife and threatening to stab her and rob her and the others, the report states.
The tenant said she and the man who was staying over got Morris out of her apartment but that he forced his way back in. She and the man then went to get help, which was when Morris went after the woman he was threatening when he was shot, the report states.
"He had a knife to her neck. He told us to get out or he was gonna kill her," the tenant said in the report. She added that Morris had been smoking marijuana and meth and that he had slammed her against the wall during the incident.
A who lives in a nearby apartment unit reported the tenant told him and his girlfriend during the incident that Morris had tried to stab her twice. He then kicked the door to the unit in and saw Morris holding his hands around the woman who was staying the knife while holding a knife to her throat.
The neighbor said he tried to calm Morris down, but that Morris still threatened to kill her, the report states.
"He looked like he was just, I mean, I don't know, just crazy, like he lost it ... And just, it was scary," he said in the report.
The woman who was in Morris' arms when he was shot said he grabbed the tenant and started poking her with knives from her drawer. She said Morris told her to call his ex-girlfriend, and that his ex-girlfriend's actions depended on whether she lived or not.
Morris' ex-girlfriend blocked the number after she called, the woman said.
"He kept telling me to call back and every time that I would call back and it went straight to voice mail he jabbed me with the knife and then he grabbed me," she said in the report. "He said if you don't obey my rules then I'm going to really kill you ... and I heard the police coming up the stairs and he ... grabbed me by my hair and he held the knife to my neck and yelled out if they come any closer that he was going to stab me."
The other man who stayed the night in the apartment, who said he, Morris and the tenant smoked weed and methamphetamine together before the incident, said he saw Morris making stabbing motions at the woman as he ran to other apartments. He said he saw officers going up the stairs when he returned and then heard several gunshots, the report states.
Gray said he heard a woman yelling "help" and "he's going to kill me" as he got to the front door. He said he repeatedly told Morris to put the knife down or he was going to shoot before he fired his weapon, the report states.
"(The statements) were very consistent with each other," Shue said. He said in the report Gray had reason to believe Morris during the incident had committed kidnapping, second-degree battery and aggravated assault.
Shue in the report mentioned Morris' mother on May 7 filed a petition for her son's involuntary commitment for mental illness. She said he was violent and "threatening suicide and threatening to hurt and kill others." The autopsy of Morris' body also tested positive for meth and cannabis at the time of his death, the report states.
Though they had reached out to the Police Department, Morris' family members as of Friday had not reached out to the prosecutor's office regarding the incident, Shue said. Morris' mother could not be reached Friday for comment about the incident.
The tenant in the report said she believed Morris had committed "suicide by cop."
After the shooting, Gray was placed on paid administrative leave in light of the investigation into the incident. Police spokesperson Aric Mitchell declined to comment on the incident, other than to say he anticipates Gray will soon return to work.
"The other two returned not long after the incident, so I assume he'll be back," Mitchell said.