A special prosecutor determined no criminal charges should be filed against law officers involved in the Aug. 8 shooting of a reportedly armed man after a chase that started in Jefferson City and ended in Callaway County.
Stephen Sokoloff was appointed by the Callaway County Circuit Court as special prosecutor in this matter. He is the general counsel for the Missouri Office of Prosecution Services in Jefferson City.
"After a thorough review of all reports, physical evidence, video and audio recordings, and lab reports, I have determined that no charges are appropriate to be filed in connection with the pursuit and death of Christopher Morris in Callaway County on August 8," Sokoloff said in a news release.
Jefferson City police officers attempted to stop Morris, 41, of Jefferson City, near West Schroeder Way and Broadway Street, according to Jefferson City Police Department reports. Officers were trying to talk with Morris about a narcotics investigation.
Morris failed to stop, and the pursuit began and went into Callaway County.
Once the tires on Morris' vehicle were disabled just north of New Bloomfield on U.S. 54, he exited the vehicle and reportedly fired at officers. He then fled into the wood line while continuing to exchange gunfire with officers, according to JCPD reports.
Law enforcement officers from several agencies created a perimeter, and before a search could start Morris reappeared. Morris suffered a fatal gunshot wound.
A Jefferson City police officer and Callaway County Sheriff Clay Chism were involved in the shooting.
"Although the actual suicide is not shown on any body-worn camera footage, due to the officers wearing ballistic vests over the cameras, the actions that occurred are discernable in the audio portion of the recordings," Sokoloff said. "These actions are confirmed by the physical evidence and the lab reports. The reports confirm that Morris' blood was located on the muzzle of his pistol, a Hi-Point .40 pistol, later reported as stolen in Jefferson City. Ballistics analysis found that the fatal bullet could not have been fired from the officers' weapons, all 9mm semi-automatic pistols, but was consistent with having been fired from Morris' gun."
The bullet jacket, recovered from the fatal injury during the autopsy, was too damaged to make a conclusive match, Sokoloff added. The autopsy toxicology report also noted Morris had a significant level of methamphetamine in his blood.
"The videos from the dash-cams show Morris firing his pistol at officers as he emerged from his vehicle while it was rolling to a stop," Sokoloff said. "A few of the officers in the pursuit returned fire, wounding Morris in his right leg, but he continued to flee on foot from the stop site, running into an adjacent wooded area."
The dash-cam video showed that after officers had established a perimeter around the wooded area, Morris came out of the east side of the woods near Old U.S. 54, Sokoloff said. After he emerged from the woods, Morris was observed by officers first pacing back and forth with his gun to his temple, then kneeling and placing the pistol to his temple and firing. Officers then approached him and attempted CPR, but Morris was unresponsive.
"Based on a review of all the evidence, it became clear that there was no excessive use of force by pursuing officers, as Morris initiated the use of deadly force, firing at the officers," Sokoloff said. "But the more important conclusion to be drawn is that the fatal injury sustained by Mr. Morris was self-inflicted."
In most cases the prosecutor in the county where the shooting occurred handles the case, but Callaway County Prosecutor Christopher Wilson said he had requested a special prosecutor be appointed for this investigation due to his close working relationship with Chism and because he serves as the county counselor for Callaway County and is called upon to defend the sheriff in some civil actions.