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Columbia police officer cleared in shooting death of Clarence Coats, Jr.

UPDATE 5:20 pm: Coats’ family attorney, David Tyson Smith, responded to the decision on Friday night saying, “Our continuing investigation has indicated that there were numerous discrepancies between the officers accounts of the incident as well as other witnesses which raise serious red flags as to what actually occurred. Many of the media accounts of what happened over the past few months were not entirely accurate. We are going to continue to investigate and make a decision with the family about the next step in moving forward to make sure that the truth comes to light.”

ORIGINAL: Callaway County prosecutor has cleared the officer who was involved in a shooting that killed Clarence Coats Jr.

Prosecutor Chris Wilson said in a media release, “Having reviewed that material, it is my belief that the officer involved acted within the law when he shot and killed Clarence Coats, Jr.”

On Jul. 26, 2017, Wilson was appointed as the special prosecutor to the case.

According to the release, the evidence that was available from police reports, eyewitness accounts, deputies and residents indicated that Coats had recently used methamphetamine and was upset about the end of a relationship.

Coats was in a verbal dispute with a number of family members when he armed himself with a shotgun and began shooting behind the residence at 107 Oak Street.

The prosecuting attorney said witness accounts made it clear that Coats’ family members were unable to calm him down and officers quickly found themselves under fire by Coats.

One officer appeared to have been struck in the foot by shotgun pellets or debris, and a deputy was struck in the upper arm and had to receive medical attention.

Wilson said, “Undoubtedly, Coats was a threat to every person and law enforcement in the area.”

Coats fled from the Oak Street scene and made his way to a rooftop on North Garth. Witnesses told authorities that Coats appeared to still be armed whith a shotgun.

Wilson said the reports suggest that the officer who shot Coats had a clear shot for a period of time, but held fire until Coats appeared to take aim at an uninvolved person. At that point, the officer fired and struck Coats in the chest, killing him.

Coats’ hands tested positive for gunshot residue.

Wilson ended his letter by saying, “In light of these facts, it is clear to me that the officer was acting lawfully in his use of deadly force.”

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