Police shooting justified says Henry County District Attorney

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Henry County District Attorney, Darius Pattillo, says the deadly police shooting of a man armed with an unloaded pistol following a lengthy police stand-off was justified.

The investigation showed that police who responded to a 911 domestic disturbance call never knew the weapon was empty.  And, Earl Eubanks ignored repeated pleas to drop the weapon during a 19 minute stand-off.

Now, the FOX 5 I-Team has reviewed the case file which shows a heartbreaking story of a Marine war veteran, and his interaction with police that lead to his death.

But, what we didn’t know when we first reported on this, is that it was Eubank’s ex-wife, Staci Robinson, who pulled out a gun during an argument with him and she unloaded it when police arrived.

The 911 call came in last December. A disturbance at a dentist’s office. An ex-husband had confronted his wife at her work.

Hampton Police officer Brannon Cooley rushed through the hallway of a dental office, surrounded by concerned faces, and into the alleyway. There he finds Earl Eubanks face to face with his ex-wife Staci Robinson.

Staci Robinson later told police "she felt threatened" by her ex-husband when he showed up, so she got her gun out of the back seat of her Mustang, and put a round in the chamber.

Earl Eubanks mother, Jacqueline Eubanks, is a former reserve police officer and daughter of Georgia's first elected black sheriff.

“He felt threatened,” Ms. Eubanks said.  “It was a threatening situation for him all around. From the time he arrived on the scene and she pulled a gun on him, until the time the police officer came to the scene and he started pulling guns on him.”

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation report, Staci and Earl had recently divorced. They had one child. Jacqueline Eubanks later told police, Earl was a Marine, back from the war, who battled depression, and feared losing his daughter. Staci Robinson told the G.B.I. her ex-husband had earlier abducted her from the dental office with a gun pointed at her side. There was no police report filed and no witnesses to the event.

Arriving at the scene, armed with his Taser, Officer Cooley saw the gun and tasered Earl Eubanks

Lance LoRusso is a former police officer and now an attorney who has written a book on police officer shootings. He examined our video, beginning with Officer Cooley confronting an armed man.

“He (Cooley) could have gone for cover himself; he could have left her standing there. But, he used the only means available to him which was the Taser,” LoRusso said.

Eubanks fell. But, he never dropped the gun.

Earlier this year, the I-Team had obtained exclusive cell phone video of that standoff, taken by a witness, Mike Terrell.

Now, through an Open Records Request, we've obtained the standoff captured by police officer's body cameras and dash board cameras.  A clearly distraught Eubanks, crying out that his life was over,

“No. It's not over,” police respond.

At times, Eubanks was thumping his chest, and disobeying commands to drop the gun, as officers pleaded with him to cooperate.

“I want you to go home to your family,” one officer screamed.

The standoff, involving a number of Henry County and Hampton police officers on both sides of Eubanks was clearly tense. 

Lance LoRusso says it was amazing work by police.

“What you saw there was a textbook attempt at de-escalation,” said LoRusso.

Near the end, Eubanks, moved closer and closer to Henry County Police Officer Justin Boggs, armed with a .40 caliber submachine gun. Boggs, pleads for Eubanks to stop walking so close.

  LoRusso says numerous studies show the danger for Officer Boggs was that Eubanks could have fired one or more shots before Boggs could respond. In short, action is faster than reaction.

“So, the officer will be shot three times before he can get one shot off,” said LoRusso.

About 30 seconds after Eubanks inched closer Boggs fired one shot. It was over.

“He could have stopped him many other ways. He could have shot him in the knee; he didn't have to shoot him in the head, said Jacqueline Eubanks.

The Henry county DA Darius Pattillo would not discuss the case with us; he cleared the officer in the shooting. In a press release, Pattillo said the shooting was justified because Eubanks refused to "refused to drop his gun and walked towards officers with the gun."

“It's the right call by the D.A. and the thing that people need to remember is those officers will never be the same,” said LoRusso. “Ever.”

Eubank’s mother disagrees. “No, I do not think the D.A. made the right decision I feel that there was things that should have come out, been exposed, that were not exposed.”

So, case closed. But, when we read the GBI file we learned what police didn't know during the entire 19-minute standoff, was that the gun Earl Eubanks was holding was empty.

According to Staci Eubanks' statement, she dropped the clip and un-chambered the gun as soon as police arrived at the scene. The clip and bullet were marked in the crime scene pictures. 

LoRusso says it doesn’t change anything because officers had to treat the gun as loaded even if it wasn’t.

Jacqueline Eubanks says, “I'm not mad at anyone at this time, I'm just hurt. My heart is broken. That was my only son and he was my youngest.”

We tried to talk with Staci Robinson about the incident. She confirmed she told law enforcement that she unloaded the gun after the stand-off was all over. She didn’t want to talk about anything else.