Pine Bluff, Arkansas

From the August 18, 2007 Pine Bluff Commercial:

PINE BLUFF, Ark. – The owner of a Pine Bluff pawn shop shot dead a teenager he suspected to be a burglar, police said.

Taron Hopkins, 15, was pronounced dead at the scene early Friday morning, said Chad Kelley, chief deputy coroner. Hopkins suffered a gunshot wound to the upper body.

Police Lt. Bob Rawlinson said the shooting happened at Chuck Smith’s Pawn Shop in Pine Bluff. The store’s owner, Chuck Smith, told police he shot the teenager with a .38-caliber revolver as the teen and others tried to break into the store.

Smith was in a small living area at the back of the business when he heard people breaking in, Rawlinson said. Smith told police he fired several shots toward the group.

Several of the people fled, and a tire iron was left behind, Rawlinson said.

“We’re going to gather the facts and then present them to the prosecuting attorney to determine whether the shooting was justified or if charges are warranted in this case,” Rawlinson said.

From the Pine Bluff Commercial of September 13, 2007

SHOOTING OF TEENAGER RULED JUSTIFIED BY PROSECUTOR

Jefferson County’s prosecutor ruled Wednesday that the death of a 15-year-old boy who was shot by the owner of a Pine Bluff pawn shop was “justified under the law.”

Taron Hopkins was shot by Chuck Smith, the owner of Chuck Smith Pawn Shop at 3621 W. Sixth Ave., on Aug. 16 after Hopkins and two other juveniles tried to break into the business at approximately 11:30 p.m.

In a memo to Police Chief John Howell, 11th Judicial District West Prosecuting Attorney Steve Dalrymple said, “The physical evidence of the event was corroborated by the statements of the two youths that accompanied Taron Hopkins in the burglary of the building. Additionally, their two statements support the account of Chuck Smith.”

Smith told police he heard a noise at the back door of the building and, when he opened the back door, saw several individuals standing in front of him, including one holding what appeared to be a tire iron.

“The law is very clear on the use of deadly force,” Dalrymple said in the memo to Howell. “The use of a firearm by Smith was justifiable when faced by an intruder armed with a potential weapon, a tire iron.”

Hopkins was pronounced dead at the scene at 12:15 a.m. of an apparent gunshot wound to the upper body.

“The results are both tragic and deadly,” Dalrymple said. “Also clearly upsetting is the fact that three young teenagers were out and about in the late hours. Taron Hopkins was 15 years of age. It does not require a keen insight to recognize that such an act is an invitation to trouble.

“Both the evidence of the burglary and the statements of the accomplices of the deceased demonstrate that these actions were far beyond a mischievous act of a youth but rather were a planned criminal act,” Dalrymple said, adding that Smith’s actions “are not the subject of criminal prosecution.”

Wednesday afternoon, Dalrymple said he has received the complete case file in the death of Winston Walls Jr., 14, who reportedly kicked in the back door of a house in the Dollarway area on Aug. 23, and was shot by the homeowner, Jimmy Shaw, who had a handgun.

Dalrymple said he is reviewing that file before making a decision on whether the shooting was justified under state law.

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