January 1, 2001
July 26, 2017
Age at Death:
Aries Clark attended West Memphis High School and was having trouble at home - running away and being unruly. His parents had sought help with getting him the right kind of support at East Arkansas Youth Services. His mother said this about her son: “Anyone knew my son they knew how special he truly was and anyone truly cared about human beings and humanity they would understand that it was just wrong to be taken away so terribly.”
Mr. Clark was shot in the back and the head in by police outside an eastern Arkansas emergency shelter for juveniles. A court ordered him to stay at the center, and he was denied re-entry because he was carrying a "weapon," then, police were called. He was standing in front of the shelter when he was shot as officers saw what appeared to be a weapon in his hands. Later reports state Mr. Clark was carrying a BB gun that looked like a hand gun. He reportedly had a conflict with another individual staying at the youth center. Police video provides audio of an officer pleading with Mr. Clark to put down his weapon. East Arkansas Youth Services is a nonprofit that "provides positive alternatives to institutionalization" for at-risk children, according to its website. Boys and girls ages 8 to 18 receive services there, but only boys can live there.
Was justice served?
No. First, the employees at the youth center do not appear to have properly prepared officers for the encounter, or, if the 911 caller relayed that Mr. Clark was 16 and a client, that information was not relayed to the responding officers. Second, as we know now, using the officer's video of the event, the prosecutor declined to press charges against the responding officer because from the officer's point of view, Mr. Clark was holding a real gun. Even though Mr. Clark presented as having a weapon, the officer's de-escalation tactics were guns drawn on Mr. Clark and use of words for him to drop his weapon. One must ask, why not a taser? Why approach him confrontationally? Could they not speak to him from their vehicles? Was a crisis team available? Finally, mental health resources failed Mr. Clark - he was placed in a home for delinquent or at-risk youth. The family describe him as having trouble; placing him in a facility that allowed him to exit and return with a BB gun suggests a situation that requires scrutiny. Mr. Clark likely needed some form of therapy, to be sheltered in a safer environment, where he could be assessed.