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Trooper Admits Guilt In Hamley Shooting
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
May 3, 2007

BENTONVILLE, ARKANSAS--Retired Arkansas State Police Trooper Larry Norman stood before Benton County Senior Circuit Judge Tom Keith, the family of Joseph "Erin" Hamley, the media, and more than a dozen law enforcement officers Thursday -- and admitted fatally shooting the innocent 21-year-old.

"I mistook this young man's actions as threatening toward me and the other officers and I made the mistake of acting on this misunderstanding, sir," Norman told the judge, as he pleaded guilty to negligent homicide in the March 7, 2006 shooting.

Norman could face up to one year in prison, a fine of $1,000, or both, when he is sentenced on the misdemeanor charge on June 28.

Last May, Norman pleaded not guilty after a Benton County special grand jury indicted him upon determining that he acted improperly when he shot Hamley -- who had cerebral palsy, an intellectual disability, and a psychological disability.

According to the grand jury's report, Norman was several miles away when he heard a radio dispatch from fellow State Trooper Wilson Short, who was trying to determine the identity of a man that matched the description of a Michigan prison escapee that was considered armed and dangerous. Officer Short instructed Norman to block the highway's westbound lanes to secure the scene and to protect motorists. Norman sped to the site, sometimes going over 100 mph, with his AM/FM radio blasting so loud he could not hear his police radio.

When Norman arrived at the scene, Trooper Short and four Washington County Sheriff's deputies had surrounded Hamley. They had their guns drawn and were taking defensive positions behind their cars. One officer mentioned that if he could get close enough to Hamley, he would use his Taser stun gun.

Instead of blocking traffic, Norman pulled up about 25 yards from the young man, pulled out his shotgun, and took a defensive position behind his car.

Meanwhile, Hamley had followed officers' instructions to get down on the ground, but lay down on his back instead of his stomach. When the officers told him to put his hands up where they could see them, Hamley raised his hands briefly three times.

When Norman directed him to turn over, Hamley reached across his body with one hand toward his pocket, possibly in an effort to comply with the trooper's instructions to roll over, the grand jury concluded. That's when Norman shot one time, the slug hitting the pavement, then striking Hamley's arm and going into his body.

When officers approached Hamley, he moaned, saying, "I'm sorry". He then asked, "Why did you shoot me?"

He died a short time later.

The grand jury made special note of the fact that Trooper Norman was on the scene for less than one minute when he shot Hamley, and that he "made no attempt to communicate with State Trooper Wilson Short or the Washington County Sheriff's deputies."

Members of Hamley's family told reporters after his death that he had trouble communicating verbally because of his disabilities, and often put his hands in his pockets when he was nervous.

The grand jury viewed several toy balls that were taken from Hamley's pockets after he was fatally shot.

Nearly one year after the shooting, the Arkansas State Police agreed to pay $1 million to settle a lawsuit filed by Hamley's family.

Thursday's Morning News quoted the family's attorney as saying they were satisfied that Norman "stood up and admitted guilt" for the crime.

"Trooper Admits Negligent Homicide" (The Morning News)
"Erin Hamley: Innocent Man Shot By State Trooper" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)

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