Prosecutor: Green Forest officer justified in fatal shooting
The Green Forest police officer who fatally shot an armed suspect June 5 “was justified in discharging his duty weapon,” according to an opinion released Monday by Carroll County prosecuting attorney Tony Rogers.
According to Rogers’ report, while the investigation into the incident by the Arkansas State Police is still underway pending additional forensic evidence, the body camera footage of the incident was sufficient to render an opinion.
“It is the opinion of this office that [Officer Francisco Pedraza] of the Green Forest Police Department was justified in discharging his duty weapon, and his actions accordingly were justified under the laws of the State of Arkansas,” Rogers wrote in a letter sent to Green Forest police chief John Bailey and special agent Jana Cordes of the state police.
Bailey told the Carroll County News on Monday he had met with family of the suspect — identified as Maung Tway, 34 — to review the case.
“They watched the video and I answered any questions they had at this time,” Bailey said. “It was a very unfortunate situation.”
Pedraza, a veteran police officer who has served with both the Green Forest and Eureka Springs police departments, was placed on paid administrative leave while the investigation into the shooting was conducted.
The June 5 incident began when Pedraza responded to Tway’s apartment shortly before 8 a.m. after his roommates called police, reporting that Tway was creating a disturbance and asking that he be removed from the apartment.
Rogers said the body camera footage showed Pedraza securing the lower level of the apartment before proceeding upstairs toward Tway’s bedroom.
“Officer Pedraza stood approximately five feet from Mr. Tway’s bedroom door at the top of a narrow staircase,” Rogers wrote in his description of the video footage. “The bedroom door was closed and Mr. Tway refused to open it. At no point did Officer Pedraza try to force entry into the bedroom.”
Rogers said Pedraza asked Tway three times to exit the room before drawing his duty weapon. At that point, there was a loud bang, “as if someone hit the bedroom door with some type of club or blunt object,” Rogers writes. Tway then “rapidly” opened the bedroom door and “exited aggressively,” charging at the officer with what Rogers describes as a “machete-type knife.”
Pedraza repeatedly ordered Tway to drop the knife — which he refused to do — before firing a shot at Tway.
“Mr. Tway continued to rush the officer, with the knife raised in a striking position,” Rogers writes. “Officer Pedraza fired two more shots that hit Mr. Tway and then Mr. Tway fell to the ground.”
Tway was transported to Mercy Hospital in Berryville, where he was pronounced dead.
The use of physical force by law enforcement officers is governed by state statute, which states that an officer is justified in using deadly physical force upon another person if the law enforcement officer reasonably believes it is necessary to make an arrest, prevent an escape from custody of “an arrested person whom the law enforcement officer reasonably believes has committed or attempted to commit a felony and is presently armed or dangerous,” or to defend himself or a third person from what the officer reasonably believes to be the imminent use of deadly physical force.
“It is clear from the body-cam video that Officer Pedraza was under deadly attack and that a reasonable person in the officer’s position would have felt he was under imminent threat of death or serious physical injury,” Rogers writes. “Accordingly, Officer Pedraza’s use of deadly force was justified.”
Bailey, who issued a detailed report of the incident on June 6, said he immediately contacted the State Police to ask them to conduct the investigation.
“At that time, we began cooperating with the state police’s investigation,” Bailey said at the time. “We have provided them with everything that they have requested and will continue to cooperate fully with their investigation.”
According to Bailey, this was the first officer-involved shooting in Green Forest since 1969, when then-Carroll County Sheriff Orval Bishop was killed in an armed confrontation with a suspect while responding to a domestic disturbance.