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No one charged in motorist’s death – Civilian shot Temple as he fought BR officer

Author(s): ADRIAN ANGRLF.TTE Date: May 19, 2006 Section: NI-WS

A grand jury Thursday decided against charging anyone in the death of motorist George Temple 11, shot and killed by a civilian Feb. 17 while fighting with a police officer. Prosecutors presented about 15 witnesses during six hours of testimony before the East Baton Rouge Parish grand jury.

Temple was shot six times during a struggle with Baton Rouge Police Officer Brian Harrison. Authorities have said Harrison pulled over Temple after he cut into a funeral procession on Greenwell Springs Road.

The traffic stop escalated into a fight between Harrison and Temple, Police have said Temple offered a bribe to the police officer, and the struggle began when Harrison attempted to arrest Temple.

During the fight, the 24-year-old Temple was shot six times. One of the bullets came from the officer’s gun.

The other five came from the gun of Perry Stephens, who authorities have said came to help the officer. One of Stephens’ shots hit Temple in the head, killing him.

After the grand jury returned Thursday, District Attorney Doug Moreau said his office typically has grand juries look at cases in which a death occurred and a police officer was involved.

“We think the grand jury is a good sounding board to consider the evidence, particularly when there is a case of great community interest,” he said.

Prosecutor Steve Danielson presented every witness the District Attorney’s Office knew about, Moreau said, including Harrison, Stephens and Police Chief Jeff LeDuff.

Moreau also said that on the state level, the case is now closed. However, the U.S. Justice Department is still investigating the case.

Temple’s mother, Sharalean, was unhappy that the state grand jury did not indict anyone in her son’s death.

“It’s unfair, it’s unjust, and it’s not over,” she said.

The Temple family attorney, Nathan Fisher, said he’s confident “that the courts will assess responsibility at some point in this matter.”

Stephens’ attorney, Tommy Df Amico, said he expected his client to be cleared.

“I believe he saved the officer’s life, lie certainly saved him from suffering great harm,” D1 Amico said. “It has always been obvious to me that my client is nothing less than a citizen hero because he stepped up to save the officer while others stood and watched.”

D1 Amico said he is certain Stephens will also be cleared in the federal investigation.

“I’m absolutely positive,” he said. “He did what needed to be done.”

At a news conference after the grand jury’s decision, LeDuff noted that the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriffs Office, not the Police Department, investigated Temple’s death.

Asked whether Harrison could have done something different to circumvent the situation, LeDuff said he will not second-guess the officer.

“I wasn’t there,” LeDuff said. “It would be unfair for me, you or anybody to put ourselves in a place of a human being.”

LeDuff also commended Stephens, who shot Temple with a .45-caliber handgun.

“I want to say thank you to Mr. Stephens,” LeDuff said. “It takes a lot of courage to stand up and do what he has done and come to the aid of an officer.”

Moreau also said he is aware that there are some people in the community who will not be satisfied with the outcome.

Neither Kwame Asante, executive director for the local chapter of the NAACP, nor the Rev. Leo Cyrus, a member of the Baton Rouge Area African-American Ministers, were available for comment Thursday.

State Rep. Michael Jackson, D-Baton Rouge, who is president of the East Baton Rouge Parish Black Fleeted Officials group, also was not available for comment.

Some members of the three groups requested an independent investigation into Temple’s death shortly after the shooting.

Temple was black. Harrison and Stephens are white. The grand jury comprised six white people and six black people.

Advocate reporters Kimberly Vetter and Mark Bonner contributed to this report

Copyright (c) 2006 Capital City Press, Baton Rouge, La.