Society

Officer Who Shot an Unarmed Panhandler Outside of a Walmart is Now Being Investigated

| by Cassandra Cassillas

Springfield City Police (SCP) have begun criminal and internal investigations of an officer involved in the shooting of an unarmed panhandler outside of a Wal-Mart Friday afternoon.

Jason Shuck, an 11-year member of the SCP, was responding to an anonymous tip to check a panhandler who may have had outstanding warrants when things went wrong. The panhandler, Eric Butts, 26, was shot while running away from the officer.

According to the SCP media release Butts was on probation and parole for burglary and had a second-degree felony burglary warrant and a municipal traffic warrant out on him at the time of the shooting. He is now in police custody while being treated in the hospital.

News-Leader reports that Butts has been on mental health medication since the age of three. His family also stressed to police that he was mentally disabled. He told investigators that he was abused by his mother and in group and foster homes growing up. According to court records, his mother lost custody after she tried to “drown him, hang him and [leave] him on freeways.”

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Authorities have offered no information on why Shuck fired his weapon or what his version of the story is. Only last year Shuck was given a service award for talking a man with a gun in his mouth out of suicide. He holds a Class A peace officer license.

SCP has a strict policy on lethal force, however. The policy, which went into effect Dec. 31, states police only have a right to use lethal force, such as firing a gun, when the officer “reasonably believes that the action is in the defense of human life."

A family member reported that Butts was in stable condition, he was shot in the buttocks and the bullet “nicked his intestine.”

The investigation into Shuck’s case in now underway. Steve Ijames, a former assistant police chief in Springfield now a consultant on police issues referenced a 1989 Supreme Court decision when he told News-Leader how he believed Shuck’s case should be decided.

"The standard for police is not that they be perfect or that they be correct but that they be reasonable," Ijames told News-Leader, "... In the split second that the event is occurring, it's not reasonable to expect an officer to be clairvoyant."

Shuck is on paid administrative leave.