On Dec. 18, 2012, in Durham, North Carolina, police officer Kelly Stewart pulled over Carlos Antonio Riley for a routine traffic stop. What happened next is a matter of intense dispute. Riley, who is Black, says the officer racially profiled him then attacked him. Stewart, who is also Black, says Riley engaged him in a violent, physical struggle. The encounter ended when Stewart accidentally shot himself in the leg with his firearm. Soon after, the police department logged the gun’s discharge: “1 shot fired by officer.”
District Attorney Roger Echols, working closely with the police department, then launched a criminal case against Riley—claiming that Riley shot Stewart with Stewart’s gun. The DA kept mounds of evidence away from the jury that proved Stewart shot himself. And he pressed his case against Riley all the way to trial, where Stewart testified, under oath, that he did not shoot his gun. Earlier this month, a jury acquitted Riley of shooting Stewart, bringing a just end to a deeply troubling story.
During the trial, defense attorney Alex Charns repeatedly described the prosecution’s strategy as “a shell game, a cover up, and a railroad.” Examining the evidence, it is nearly impossible to come to any other conclusion.