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Arkansas Trooper Mistakes Mentally Disabled Man for Fugitive and Kills Him; Deceased's Family Paid $1 Million

Former Arkansas State Trooper Larry Norman pled guilty to a charge of misdemeanor negligent homicide after killing mentally disabled Joseph Erin Hamley. Norman had mistaken Hamley, 21, for an escaped fugitive, and shot and killed him. Hamley's family was paid $1 million by the state as compensation.

Several police officers were dispatched to a location where a Michigan prison escapee was reportedly seen. Despite orders to block traffic, Norman raced to the scene at 100 mph and fired the fatal shotgun blast within one minute of his arrival. Due to what Hamley's mother called a nervous habit, Hamley had refused to take his hands out of his pockets when ordered to do so. He was lying on the ground when shot; his last words were "I'm sorry" and "why did you shoot me?" Hamley, who had nothing to do with the escaped fugitive and was afflicted with cerebral palsy, was unarmed.

The state legislature approved Governor Mike Beebe's proposed $1 million tax free settlement agreement, and the police-videotaped shooting was played after Norman's sentencing. The settlement was made outside of litigation in probate proceedings; the State Police admitted no wrongdoing.

Norman was sentenced in June 2007 to 90 days in jail, 30 days of community service, a $1,000 fine and one year probation. Hamley’s family used part of the settlement money to establish a scholarship fund for disabled high school students.

Sources: Rolla Daily News, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette,

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