FARMINGTON, Mo. (AP) -- With a pair of assault convictions, several years in prison and a pending drug charge for which he failed to appear in court, Callion Lance Hamblin was clearly no saint. But that doesn’t mean he deserved to die at age 32 under murky circumstances in a southeast Missouri police shootout, relatives said as the one-year anniversary of his death approaches.
“I know Cal was in the wrong,” said Brandy Hamblin, his ex-wife and the mother of one of his two teenage sons. “He should have turned himself in. I just don’t think that should have served as his death warrant.”
On Wednesday, Hamblin and other friends and relatives of the man nicknamed “Smoke” will gather for a 4:30 p.m. memorial service and rally outside the St. Francois County Courthouse in Farmington. The event’s organizers include Frances Madeson, a community activist and former publisher of the Madison County Crier newspaper.
An autopsy report showed Hamblin was shot six times from behind in the Feb. 20, 2012, encounter with Farmington police, St. Francois sheriff’s deputies and the Missouri State Highway Patrol. At least one of the bullets came from the gun of a local bail bondsman who would have lost $20,000 to $25,000 if Hamblin had remained a fugitive, county prosecutor Jerrod Mahurin said.
The prosecutor convened a coroner’s inquest, a process similar to a grand jury hearing, to review the police shooting. The six-member jury determined that Hamblin’s death was a justifiable homicide by self-defense, Mahurin said.
“If they had come back with felony murder, I would have filed (charges) immediately,” he said Tuesday.
Mahurin said that Hamblin, who was armed, appeared to have been shot from behind after the first bullet “spun him” around. Hamblin then landed in a ditch in a field he had fled to from the parking lot of a Farmington drug store. While on the ground, Hamblin rose and attempted to return fire, Mahurin said.
A Saint Francois deputy was wounded in the leg during the exchange of gunfire.
The deadly encounter began when two bail bondsmen tracked Hamblin to a local apartment and summoned police when they realized he had a gun. Both men declined to discuss the case with The Associated Press, though one previously said that Hamblin threatened to shoot them. Police used signals from Hamblin’s cellphone to track him to the downtown parking lot.
“There was almost nobody else that could have hit him,” Mahurin said, referring to Hamblin as the deputy’s likely shooter. “I tried to make sure that everybody’s rights were protected—including Callion Hamblin’s.”
Hamblin’s survivors haven’t been satisfied with that explanation. They said that while Hamblin was shot at 2 a.m., he wasn’t taken to the hospital for another four hours—although he was pronounced dead at the scene. The autopsy found heroin and morphine in Hamblin’s system, and police also said he was hiding drugs in his socks when he was shot.
Hamblin had called several friends earlier that night and said he planned to surrender, Madeson said. He had only recently connected with his biological mother in St. Louis, who put him up for adoption as an infant.
“Why did they have to kill him?” said Shirley Trotter, his mother. “I need some answers.”
Alan Scher Zagier can be reached at http://twitter.com/azagier