WASHINGTON – The Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced today that there is insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against a Muscogee County Sheriff’s Deputy who shot and killed Kenneth Walker on December 10, 2003.
An independent investigation, which carefully considered all of the evidence into the shooting incident, was conducted by the Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI. During the investigation, federal officials reviewed a Georgia Bureau of Investigation investigative report; a Muscogee County Sheriff’s Office investigative report; forensic evidence reports; a videotape of the incident; and the autopsy report for Kenneth Walker. FBI agents also interviewed a number of witnesses and medical personnel who had not been interviewed by local investigators. The Walker family and local civil rights groups were also afforded the opportunity to provide information to investigators. After carefully reviewing all of the evidence, the Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI determined that the tragic incident did not constitute a prosecutable violation of the federal criminal civil rights statutes.
In order to prove a violation of the applicable federal criminal civil rights laws, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a law enforcement officer willfully deprived an individual of a Constitutional right. To act “willfully,” for purposes of the federal statute, means to act with a bad purpose to disobey or disregard the law. An accident, mistake, fear or bad judgment is not sufficient to establish such a criminal violation.
Experienced civil rights prosecutors reviewed the voluminous reports generated during the investigation. Based on that review, federal officials determined that the evidence was insufficient to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the deputy who fatally shot Kenneth Walker acted willfully, that is with the specific intent to do something the law forbids. Accordingly, the Department has closed this investigation without prosecution.
The Civil Rights Division, the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI devoted many hours and significant resources to a complete and careful review of the events surrounding Kenneth Walker’s tragic death. The decision not to pursue criminal charges is based on painstaking analysis of the facts developed during a lengthy and thorough investigation. The Department of Justice remains committed to investigations of this kind and stands ready to devote the resources required to ensure that all allegations of serious civil rights violations are fully and completely investigated. The Department of Justice aggressively prosecutes criminal civil rights violations whenever the evidence developed in these investigations warrants doing so.