Prosecutor issues release, will not charge in King’s shooting death - CORRECTED

Crawford County Prosecuting Attorney David Smith issued the following press release on Wednesday, January 12 following the coroner’s inquest held on the shooting death of Justin King the previous day (which was later corrected - see note at the end of the release):

            On November 3, 2021, Justin A. King of Bourbon Missouri died as result of injuries caused by gunshots fired by Mr. Kings’ neighbor. The Crawford County Sheriff’s Department conducted a thorough investigation into Mr. King’s death. The primary investigation included interviews with many neighboring residents, crime scene processing for multiple sites, retrieval of multiple recorded security camera feeds and forensic examination of digital devices.

            Additional investigative reports conducted by other entities were subsequently submitted to my office such as forensic autopsy findings, blood toxicology reports and a forensic interview of a minor. The Sheriff’s Department kept me apprized throughout the process of the investigation. The investigation established the following facts:

            Mr. King and the shooter had been neighbors for over a year and frequently socialized. In the mid-morning of November 3, 2021, a neighbor accused Mr. King of letting her dogs off their chains; an accusation that Mr. King denied, and which angered Mr. King. The shooter learned of Mr. King’s anger regarding this accusation and assisted in resolving the issue with the dog owner. Despite the resolution, Mr. King remained agitated, so the shooter visited Mr. King inside Mr. King’s residence. Mr. King’s interior security camera captured audio and video footage of the shooter talking with Mr. King in a continued effort to calm Mr. King. The video footage captured the last interaction between Mr. King and the shooter prior to the later conflict. This last friendly interaction showed the shooter exiting Mr. King’s home as Mr. King said to the shooter, “Love you, bro”. By all appearances, the relationship between Mr. King and the shooter at this point remained cordial. The shooter returned to his own residence across the street.

            Approximately 50 minutes later, Mr. King’s interior video security system captured Mr. King running out of his residence while yelling incoherently. Video footage from Mr. King’s exterior security camera did not record audio, but the video feed showed Mr. King running directly across the street and up to the front door of the shooter’s residence which was within an attached covered porch. The video footage continued as Mr. King appeared to be beating on the shooter’s door without making entry. After approximately 20 seconds, Mr. King left the covered porch area and began walking back toward his own residence; however, in the middle of the street, Mr. King stopped, thrust his arms down in apparent anger and ran back to continue beating on the door of the shooter’s residence for approximately 15 seconds before Mr. King made entry into the shooter’s residence.

            Approximately forty-five seconds later, Mr. King and the shooter emerged from the residence and toppled over within the covered porch area. There appeared to be a continued physical struggle until the shooter exited the covered porch walking rapidly with a gun visible in his hand. Mr. King emerged from the covered porch right behind the shooter; however, Mr. King was walking slowly and unsteadily, having already been injured by gunshot. Mr. King collapsed to the ground a short distance outside the covered porch enclosure where he subsequently died of his wounds prior to arrival of dispatched law enforcement personnel.  The shooter was taken into custody without incident and provided a detailed verbal statement of what occurred inside his residence. There was no video camera inside the shooter’s residence. The shooter stated that when Mr. King first came to his door, Mr. King was beating on the door repeatedly yelling “I’m going to f*****g kill you!” The shooter was bracing against the door to prevent Mr. King’s entry while pleading with Mr. King to stop and asked Mr. King repeatedly why he was acting this way. After Mr. King had left to the roadway and then returned, the shooter said that Mr. King was again beating on the door while threatening to kill the shooter. The shooter stated that Mr. King forced the door open and ran into the shooter’s residence. Inside, Mr. King continued stating that he was going to kill the shooter as Mr. King threw one television across the room and damaged another television mounted to the wall. Mr. King ran down the hallway toward a back room and the shooter put a small framed .22 magnum pistol in his pocket before running toward the door to exit his own residence. Mr. King caught up to the shooter, grabbed him and struck the shooter in the head, momentarily disorienting the shooter. The shooter made his way just outside the front door but then Mr. King knocked him to the ground on the covered porch. The shooter retrieved his pistol from his pocket and fired the first shot, intentionally aiming at Mr. King’s leg in hope that it would cause Mr. King to disengage. The shooter stated that this first shot only enraged the Mr. King more.  The shooter fired again and was able to break free to run out in the driveway.

            The forensic autopsy confirmed that Mr. King was shot three times. One shot was to the right leg, another shot was a grazing wound to the head. Both of these gunshots were not life-threatening injuries. The third shot entered near the shoulder and traveled to the heart. This was determined to be the injury that caused Mr. King’s death.

            The shooter stated that in the short time between their friendly visit at Mr. King’s residence and the attack at the shooter’s residence, he and Mr. King had no contact, and the shooter had no idea what caused Mr. King’s behavior to change. Both Mr. King’s live-in girlfriend and Mr. King’s minor daughter, who were both preset in Mr. King’s home during these events, spoke with investigators. Neither offered any explanation for Mr. King’s change of behavior or his anger toward the shooter and this question remains unanswered.

            I reviewed the investigation of this incident and made a preliminary assessment regarding the criminal culpability of the shooter. After conferring with the County Coroner, Darren Dake and Sheriff Darin Layman, we all agreed that a Coroner’s Inquest may be beneficial to provide an independent review of the incident for the benefit of Mr. King’s family and others who may be critical of the investigation.

            On January 11, 2022, a thorough presentation of evidence including video evidence and witness testimony was presented to a six-person Coroner’s Inquest panel. The panel was also provided a written copy of Section 563.031 RSMo, Missouri’s law on “Use of Force in Defense of Persons”. The panel members unanimously voted that the death of Justin A. King was caused by the shooter and that the shooter acted in lawful self-defense. Pursuant to Section 563.031 RSMo., If an aggressor attempts to enter, enters, and/or remains after entering private property without the consent of a defender who is lawfully occupying that private property, the defender is permitted to use any level of force, including deadly force, to defend themselves so long as the defender has a reasonable belief that the aggressor is using or is about to use any level of unlawful force upon the them. The law additionally provides that when upon their private property, a defender has no duty to retreat from the aggressor. I fully concur with the finding of the Coroner’s Inquest panel, and I am declining to issue charges related to the death of Mr. King.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Correction to January 12, 2022 Press Release Issued by Prosecuting Attorney David Smith
My office issued a Press Release regarding the death of Justin A. King earlier on today’s date. I subsequently discovered a drafting error that I made on the 5th from last paragraph which read, “The shooter stated that this first shot only enraged the shooter more”. The corrected sentence should read “The shooter stated that this first shot only enraged the Mr. King more”. I have issued a corrected Press Release. I apologize for any confusion the mistake may have caused.