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Ex-Trooper Pleads Guilty In Shooting Death

  Court Watch  -   POSTED: 2007/05/04 09:32

A former state trooper pleaded guilty Thursday to negligent homicide in the March 2006 shooting death of a disabled man whom police mistook for a prison escapee. "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," former trooper Larry Norman told Circuit Judge Tom Keith as more than a dozen of his former comrades looked on at a hearing in Benton County Circuit Court.

Keith set a sentencing hearing for June 28 and ordered a pre-sentence investigation. Norman faces up to a year in jail, a $1,000 fine and possibly other sanctions, including community service.

A grand jury indicted Norman in April 2006 in the shooting death Erin Hamley, 21.

The grand jury's findings detailed Norman's action when responding to the scene on U.S. 412 west of Tontitown, where police had Hamley surrounded, mistakenly thinking he was prison escapee Adam Leadford.

Norman disregarded his orders, played the radio in his police cruiser too loud to hear dispatches and did not communicate with other officers before fatally shooting Hamley, according to the grand jury's report.

Several of Hamley's family members, including his mother, attended Thursday's hearing but declined comment afterward.

"They were satisfied with the fact that Norman stood up and admitted guilt, and for the judge to determine the sentence," Prosecutor Van Stone said. "Both sides felt it would be best to let Judge Keith make the determination."

Norman waived his right to a jury trial in his plea and also waived right to appeal.

"The family didn't want to have to go through a trial," the prosecutor said. "It's a good way to resolve this particular case, given all the circumstances."

The Legislature approved a $1 million payment to Erin Hamley's estate because of the death. State police did not admit wrongdoing.

The agency granted Norman medical retirement last year because of what his attorney called an "enormous psychological overlay" from the shooting.

Norman had been on the scene less than one minute before shooting Hamley, who was lying on his back when shot. The grand jury's report stated Hamley may have been trying to turn on his stomach, as Norman ordered, instead of reaching in his pockets, as Norman said he suspected.

The slug Norman fired hit the pavement first, grazed Hamley's arm, then entered his body.

Some of the incident was captured on film by cameras mounted on police vehicles. The film will be made public after the sentencing hearing, Stone said.

Other evidence will be opened to the public the same day, including hours of interviews conducted by the grand jury with Norman and other officers on the scene.


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