DURHAM, N.C. — A Durham man was acquitted Friday of shooting a police officer three years ago, with jurors convicting him only of common law robbery in the case.
Officer Kelly Stewart was shot in the thigh during a confrontation with Carlos Antonio Riley Jr. following a December 2012 traffic stop. Stewart testified that Riley was being uncooperative and shot him after the two got into a fist fight. But Riley’s defense attorney insisted that Stewart accidentally shot himself with his own gun during the struggle.
“I believed this was going to happen. My faith, my faith, my faith and prayer. Prayers going up, and prayers come down,” a relieved Patricia Riley, Riley’s grandmother, said after the verdict was announced.
“The truth always prevails over all things,” said Riley’s mother, Karen Judd. “My son always has to be honest. I taught him that. I taught him to treat people in a humane way. During this trial, they were trying to portray him as a vicious criminal.”
Stewart was unavailable for comment Friday, and Police Chief Jose Lopez expressed disappointment in the outcome.
“Although we’re disappointed with today’s verdict, we respect our justice system and the jury’s decision. We will continue to protect and serve the citizens of Durham,” Lopez said in a statement.
Riley’s supporters criticized prosecutors for pursuing the case.
“Our district attorney decided, after receiving hundreds of phone calls, not to drop these charges, and it was a wasteful amount of spending of taxpayers’ dollars,” said Nia Wilson, executive director of SpiritHouse, a community development group. “This trial should not have ever happened.”
Durham County District Attorney Roger Echols responded by saying the trial wasn’t a waste of time or money.
“If anyone is shot and there is a case of guilt to be made in a court against a perpetrator, I’m not doing my job if I ignore that,” Echols said.
Echols also dismissed allegations by defense attorney Alex Charns that prosecutors tried to have him removed as Riley’s attorney.
“The assistants trying the case saw things that concerned them about his readiness to try the case, so they brought those concerns to the court’s attention,” Echols said. “Whether or not that is seen as a request to remove him may be up to interpretation. However, bringing specific concerns to the court’s attention was the intent.”
Charns declined to comment after the case.
Superior Court Judge James Roberson sentenced Riley to 19 to 32 months in prison on the robbery charge, in addition to 15 to 27 months for a weapons charge that he pleaded guilty to last month. Because Riley has been in jail awaiting trial since the shooting occurred, his prison sentence on both charges could be over in as little as two months – or he could spend another two years in state prison.
After his state sentence is complete, Riley still must serve a 10-year federal sentence on a weapons charge connected to the case.
Charns said in court that Riley may have grounds to appeal the federal sentence because of Friday’s acquittal.
More Links from WRAL on the trial
- Jurors weigh question of who shot Durham police officer
- Prosecution focuses on accused man’s cellphone in Durham officer’s shooting trial
- Defense claims racism in Durham officer’s shooting trial
- Witness describes struggle following Durham officer’s shooting
- Officer testifies to battle for gun during Durham traffic stop