Attorney General James’ Office of Special Investigation Releases Report on the Death of Clarence Little

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James’ Office of Special Investigation (OSI) today released its report on the death of Clarence Little in Brooklyn. Following a thorough investigation, including review of security camera video, body-worn camera (BWC) footage, interviews with responding officers and civilian witnesses, ballistics testing, and evidence from the scene, OSI concluded that a prosecutor would not be able to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt at trial that the officer’s use of deadly force against Mr. Little was justified under New York law.

On January 4, 2022, around 4:20 p.m., Mr. Little entered a Dollar Tree store on Rockaway Parkway in Brooklyn. He purchased a few items with cash before leaving the store. About 20 minutes later, Mr. Little returned to the store and made another purchase. Surveillance video shows that when the cashier opened the register, Mr. Little took a gun out of his coat pocket and pointed it at the employees before taking the contents of the register and exiting the store.

A Dollar Tree employee had previously called 911, as they thought they recognized Mr. Little from past incidents at the store. Two officers arrived as Mr. Little was attempting to leave. According to BWC footage, one of the officers grabbed Mr. Little and the two struggled to the ground. Mr. Little fired his gun twice, and the second officer, who remained standing, fired his service weapon in response. Mr. Little was transported to a local hospital and eventually died on February 3, 2022. Officers recovered a gun at the scene.

Under New York’s justification law, a person may use deadly physical force to defend against the imminent use of deadly physical force by another. To convict a person of a crime when the defense of justification is raised at trial, the prosecution must disprove justification beyond a reasonable doubt.

In this case, the investigation showed that Mr. Little had robbed the store and then struggled with and shot at an officer. Under these circumstances, given the law and the evidence, a prosecutor would not be able to disprove beyond a reasonable doubt that the officer who fired was justified, and OSI determined that criminal charges could not be pursued against the officer.