PROSECUTOR ELLINGTON RULES BLYTHEVILLE POLICE OFFICER JUSTIFIED IN SHOOTING
THE FOLLOWING LETTER REGARDING PROSECUTOR SCOTT ELLINGTON’S FINDINGS OF AN OFFICER INVOLVED SHOOTING IN BLYTHEVILLE, ARKANSAS THAT CLAIMED THE LIFE OF TERRANCE DAWSON ON MAY 18, 2013 WAS RELEASED TODAY, SEPTEMBER 6, 2013:
September 6, 2013
Lt. Brant Tosh
Criminal Investigation Division Commander
Arkansas State Police
2216 Access Road
Jonesboro, AR 72401
RE: Arkansas State Police Case No. CID-F-06222-13
Use of Deadly Force
Dear Lt. Tosh:
My office has reviewed the above referenced case file submitted by the Arkansas State Police concerning an incident on May 18, 2013 involving the death of Terrance Dawson of Blytheville. After our review, this office concludes that Blytheville Police Officer Stephen Sigman was justified in using deadly force and that no further review of this matter is necessary.
Arkansas Code Annotated § 5-2-601(b)(2) allows the use of deadly force if the officer reasonably believes that the use of deadly force is necessary to defend himself or a third person from what he reasonably believes to be the use -or imminent use- of deadly force. The investigation reveals that Officer Sigman was confronted with circumstances justifying the use of deadly force the morning Mr. Dawson was shot.
Witnesses state that Dawson had argued with his girlfriend Carrie Payne, struck her in the face and then forced her by knife point to walk to his mother’s home at 408 South 1st Street in Blytheville. Blytheville police officers were alerted to a possible hostage situation and responded.
Before Dawson and Payne reached his mother’s home, Officer Sigman and Officer Marshall Foster encountered the couple. The officers observed Dawson sweating profusely and acting paranoid. When Officer Sigman approached the couple, Dawson pulled Payne into a choke hold and placed a knife to her throat and exclaimed, “I’ll kill her, I’ll kill her, I’ll kill this bitch!”
The officers tried to calm Dawson and defuse the situation. Officer Sigman drew his service weapon but did not point it toward Dawson at that time. He kept it at a 45 degree angle. Dawson yelled, “I’m going to cut her! I’ve got a knife to her throat, I’m not going back!”
Sigman saw panic on the face of Payne as Dawson dragged her backward into his mother’s house. Officer Foster was unable to assist at this point because a third party began a disturbance in the yard of the residence that required his attention.
Sigman followed Dawson and Payne into the home of Dawson’s mother, Ms. Mildred Bruce. At some point, Ms. Bruce tried to talk Dawson into giving her the knife and Sigman used this distraction to grab Dawson’s hand in an attempt to get the knife away from him and, more importantly, away from Payne’s throat. As Sigman grabbed the knife with his left hand, he fired a round from his service weapon toward Dawson’s abdomen. Then the fight was on. Dawson lunged at Sigman trying to take him down. Sigman was still holding the hand in which Dawson held the knife as Dawson lunged forward trying to tackle Sigman. At that time, Sigman fired six more rounds from his service weapon.
According to the autopsy report, Dawson had five gunshot wounds near the top of his shoulders, which included two wounds on his left arm, two wounds on his upper back and one wound on his chest. The medical examiner advised your investigators that the wounds appeared to be defensive in nature and consistent with shots being fired downward toward Dawson as Sigman was being tackled. Immediately after the threat was alleviated, Sigman began cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) efforts on Dawson until an ambulance arrived.
Officers interviewed other witnesses who knew Dawson and they said he was acting strange that day and was not himself. According to the toxicology report, there was cocaine in Dawson’s system, which might explain why he was acting in an unusual manner.
This was a tragic event. My sympathy goes out to the family of Mr. Dawson, as well as my concern for the officers involved. However, Mr. Dawson’s actions that day brought about the circumstances that threatened the life of Payne and Sigman. I cannot find that the officer acted criminally. Therefore, I find the shooting justified under these circumstances and no criminal charges will be filed in this matter.
The file will be returned to the Arkansas State Police for permanent record. If you have any questions, please let me know. Thank you for your service.
District Prosecuting Attorney
CC: Col. Stan Witt, ASP
Major Henry La Mar, ASP
Special Agent Allen Earnhart, ASP
Special Agent Ron Hitt, ASP
Chief Ross Thompson, Blytheville Police Department
Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Curtis Walker