Fayette grand jury clears Moscow officer in shooting incident

On July 27, District Attorney General Mike Dunavant presented to the Fayette County grand jury the results of a TBI investigation into a shooting incident involving subject Mark Harold Luellen by Moscow Police Officer Eric Austin on April 20 in Moscow.
After a review and consideration of all of the facts and circumstances of the incident, the Fayette grand jury agreed with the findings and recommendations of both the TBI and Dunavant that the use of force by Austin was justified, proper and necessary to stop the further threat of deadly violence and endangerment being presented at the time by Luellen.
The grand jury declined to return any indictment or presentment in the matter, or to assign any other criminal responsibility for the gunshot injury to Luellen.
According to Dunavant, the results of the investigation reveal that on April 20, Austin made a traffic stop on Luellen’s vehicle after he observed erratic driving on Highway 57 in Moscow.
Upon receiving information that Luellen had outstanding warrants for his arrest, Austin opened the vehicle driver’s door to attempt to take Luellen into custody.
Luellen then unexpectedly drove his vehicle in reverse, striking the officer, Dunavant said.
With Austin then standing in front of the vehicle, Luellen then drove his vehicle forward directly toward the officer, attempting to strike him again. Austin then fired one shot with his service weapon through the windshield to stop the threat by the vehicle being used as a deadly weapon, striking Luellen in the shoulder area.
Luellen’s vehicle then traveled a short distance down Highway 57, where it crashed and came to rest.
EMS responded to the scene, and transported Luellen to Regional One Medical Center in Memphis, where he was treated for his gunshot injury and later released.
TBI responded to the scene, where they processed and collected evidence, and questioned all witnesses to the incident, including Austin, Luellen and citizens in the area.
TBI investigators also obtained and reviewed the officer’s law enforcement training records and determined that his actions were consistent and in compliance with the Moscow Police Department use of force policy.
“Based upon the foregoing, the results of the TBI investigation indicate that Austin’s use of force in shooting Luellen was justified, proper and necessary to stop the further threat of deadly violence and endangerment being presented at the time by Luellen,” Dunavant said. “It is also clear from the circumstances of the shooting incident that Luellen was a dangerous, impaired, and unstable subject who posed a serious and immediate risk of serious bodily injury or death to both the law enforcement officer as well as other citizens in the immediate area.
“There is no question that the officer acted legally, appropriately, and just as he was trained to do when confronted with such a dangerous and unpredictable situation,” he continued.
As a result of the Fayette Grand Jury’s finding of justification in this matter, the Office of the District Attorney is closing its file in the investigation of the officer, and requesting that the TBI do the same.
Also on Monday, the Fayette County grand jury returned an indictment charging Luellen with the offenses of attempted second degree murder, two counts of Aggravated Assault, and DUI.
The Circuit Court has set Luellen’s bond in the amount of $100,000.