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Sunday, July 21, 2024

Alabama police shooting tensions mount

Colvin Hinson talks about the fatal police shooting of neighbor Greg Gunn on Wednesday, March 2, 2016, in Montgomery, Ala. Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey said Wednesday that state investigators have obtained a warrant for the arrest of Montgomery police officer Aaron Smith, who is white. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)
Colvin Hinson talks about the fatal police shooting of neighbor Greg Gunn on Wednesday, March 2, 2016, in Montgomery, Ala. (AP Photo/Jay Reeves)

Colvin Hinson, his wife and their 13-year-old daughter were asleep when a neighbor started banging on his front door and calling his name in the middle of the night. Hinson got out of bed, but a barrage of gunshots sounded before he could even turn the door knob.

Opening the door, Hinson was confronted by a ghastly scene: Next-door neighbor Gregory Gunn lay dying in the grass. Empty shell casings were on the ground, fired by what city officials say was a young police officer working an overnight shift.

Initially, Hinson wondered whether the shooting meant police had declared open season on blacks in a city known as the “Cradle of the Confederacy.” It seemed eerily reminiscent of a time in the 1970s and ’80s when tensions ran high in Montgomery over a series of confrontations and shootings involving white police and black residents.

But authorities seemed to answer Hinson’s questions Wednesday as they filed a murder charge against 23-year-old Officer Aaron Smith and began the process of firing him over Gunn’s killing.

“I will do everything in my power to protect a police officer who is operating within the law,” District Attorney Daryl Bailey said. “I will also use every ounce of my power to prosecute a police officer who is acting outside of the law.”

An attorney for Smith, Mickey McDermott, said the officer his innocent and that Gunn was to blame for what happened. He called the arrest a “political witch hunt” to “quell public unrest” and said fellow officers from across Alabama helped fund Smith’s $150,000 bail.

“This is on the back of a 23-year-old police officer working by himself in a high crime area, with a larger man who ran,” said McDermott, with Smith seated silently beside him at a news conference. “We’re sorry for the loss of this man, but he brought it on himself.”

Mayor Todd Strange said Montgomery values its law enforcement officers but has changed in the decades since it seemed like a hotbed of police violence. Gunn’s death shouldn’t be a setback for police-community relations at a time when the nation is grappling with the use of lethal force in minority communities, he said.

“Those incidents occurred many, many, many, many years ago on other people’s watch in other sets of circumstances in different times,” Strange said at a news conference.

Smith comes from a multigeneration law enforcement family, McDermott said. His father retired as a major from the Montgomery Police Department and then went to work for the state alcohol control board and the Alabama Bureau of Investigation. Smith’s mother is a former cadet with the Montgomery Police Department.

Oddly, Gunn’s late father was one of the first blacks hired as a police office in Montgomery, Hinson said.

“You know I tip my hat to (police) because we do need them,” Hinson said. “I just want to know if the protocol is to shoot an unarmed man down dead in front of somebody’s house anytime they feel like it.”

Authorities said Smith shot and killed Gunn around 3:20 a.m. on Feb. 25. Police Chief Ernest Finley said Monday that Smith deemed Gunn “suspicious,” left his car and approached Gunn on foot. Authorities have not said what Smith found suspicious about Gunn.

The Gunn family’s attorney, Tyrone Means, said Gunn was walking home at the time from a regular card game with friends. Hinson’s wood-frame home, where Gunn was shot to death, is just yards from the small brick house where Gunn lived with his mother.

Gunn’s death comes amid a national conversation about law enforcement’s use of guns and other legal methods. Yet the quick move to charge a white officer with murder in the shooting of a black man stood in contrast to past episodes of police violence dating back decades in Montgomery.

A cover-up after a deadly police shooting of a black man in 1975 led to the resignation of the mayor, police chief and multiple officers. The city has erected two monuments in memory of the victim, Bernard Whitehurst, the most recent of which was unveiled by Strange in December.

In 1983, with memories of Whitehurst’s killing still fresh, months of unrest followed a confrontation in which two plainclothes police officers burst into a home full of funeral mourners believing something suspicious was going on. The mourners turned on the men, saying they didn’t realize they were police.

Some of the 11 people who were arrested later claimed officers beat them during questioning, and the mourners were acquitted after contentious trials.

Today, Strange said, the police force is about 45 percent black and has a black chief who is active in the community and oversees multiple outreach programs to engage the community. He urged residents to stay calm and left the legal system work.

“I believe that we have established over the last number of years a better working relationship with this community whether it be Hispanic or whether it be white or whether it be black,” the mayor said.

Copyright © 2016 Capitol Hill Blue

Copyright  © 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved

28 thoughts on “Alabama police shooting tensions mount”

  1. Well,Here we go again,Let me use Luther Obama’s Anger translator. Let’s see what the Lawyer’s run with and the Gov.Mr. Colvin Hinson may what to state rather or not the question was asked of him.Because First thing the lawyer going to say he’s racist because of past trauma.But they won’t dismiss this statement “This is on the back of a 23-year-old police officer working BY HIMSELF in a high crime area, with a larger BLACK man who ran,” THAT nigger good as died ain’t nobody doing FED.said McDermott. The End and it’s nothing you can do about it.Sorry to both family’s If they were serious WTF he”s young behind doing in hood?Another taxes write off or tap in other EMERGENCY funding.Call Florida’s Gov.he know how to tap into emergency funding and killing people without all this media exposure.How about we stop housing and pay people .Not the Lawyer’s 40 plus Percent on both sides.I’m so sick of this shit! Another black killed that Protest WILL bring revenue and training for the officer’s in the surrounding area . .Do you think death rate is by mistake it’s all controlled down to who they throw in jail. It’s still people during time behind Alabama Finest and they know the officer’s Lied! Mad as hell if the dash video/or body cam worked.They going to find funding now and write the family a check for 30-40 thousands.Hell they probably got that in organs a lone.I’m sorry we in trouble .Every thing after this is to protect the 23-year-old police officer.You would’ve done a 23 year old like that on the battle field in another country why here?He may not have called for back up but watch them come running HOW are they going to explain that.?He can say he was set up to die….INL

  2. He was walking to the home that he lived at with his mother in a high crime area 3:20am. Anyone walking in a high crime area at 3:20 am is suspicious. I have been walking in a high crime area on the south side of chicago at 2 pm and have been stopped and searched by police. I’m white and did not run and when they were done searching me asking me questions I walked home.

  3. “This is on the back of a 23-year-old police officer working by himself in a high crime area, with a larger man who ran,” said McDermott, with Smith seated silently beside him at a news conference. “We’re sorry for the loss of this man, but he brought it on himself.”

    Wow, black people protect yourself against coward cops!!

  4. What more do you want?? The man was walking in the early dark hours of the morning. That officer has a duty to stop and check to see what the man is doing. He can stop and ask who he is and where does he live. That is standard practice for any officer at that time of the day. God forbid that the officer did not do it, and the man broke in and raped a child. Once the officer stopped him and the man ran and then came at him with a stick, that is justification for deadly force. It doesn’t matter if he is black or white.

  5. This is the main reason that I decided many years ago to never return to the mainland and stay in Hawaii after leaving the military. Yes, being a large Black man and breathing is a threat! I left the mainland U.S in the 1970’s because of this. I have my own stories to tell in reference to this sad state of affairs that has never really changed.

  6. I am still questioning the assasination of john crawford III. how in hell was that justified, he did not even know the cops were there.they just shot him in cold blood cause some a$$ said he was pointing it at people.and they did not arrest the a$$

  7. This cop needs to be put in prison for life otherwise society is saying it’s perfectly fine to shoot a man (of course always African-American) in the BACK for running! In the old west only cowards shot someone in the back. This is just another of many outrageous, racist actions by white men that have no respect for human life. LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE!

  8. This is so very reminiscent of Trayvon Martin and Zimmerman.
    This is so very reminiscent of Michael Brown and Officer Wilson.
    Officer Wilson stated that “I felt like a 5 year old facing a giant.” Even thought he was over 6 ft. himself.

    Why couldn’t the small cop stay in his car and call for backup. He could have followed the man and see where he went. No, that would have been too brave of him. Instead he (left the safety of his car) to run the “larger” black man down….we know the rest of the story.

    He too will get off.

  9. You are obviously a Democrat who makes their opinion known before knowing All the facts. FYI, the news media doesn’t always get All the information before printing a story…..see Rodney King (the Whole video/story)…..see O.J. Simpson (All the facts)……see ……..and we can go on and on. No One wants to hear your ignorant responses before All the facts are in.

  10. Whatever. No gun no shoot! It’s that simple. If I was black and I lived in Alabama and the police were on the same sidewalk with me a mile away I am turning around and hop scotching the hell away in the other direction. I have read enough about the people of Alabama. I also read that the White men of Alabama love black women. I dated a white guy from Alabama when I went to Florida State in 95. When we broke up he began dating a black girl. I can’t help but remember all the stories he would tell me about his dad and grand dad when they would run blacks out of stores and off the road when they were walking. So much hatred and ignorance. I am just happy that when I gave him sum I made him wear two condoms.

  11. What kills me is that you have people holding on to the confederacy but was never there, say that period was a golden age when most of the people were dirt poor. Most whites were as poor as slaves. Next during the reconstruction period whites became rich from stealing or profiting off of someone else’s misery. Yet when these people are victims of the same actions that their ancestors have displayed ages before everyone becomes so self righteous and indignant. Now we benefit off of inventions from every race and have a better quality of life the ignorant feeble minds rally together to endorse these shenanigans.

  12. If you are scared of big-black men or just black men, don’t become a police officer in their community.

    They admit there were problems years and years ago and Smith is from a “multigeneration law enforcement family”. If this is true, I wonder who taught Smith how to police black communities!!!

  13. The things people say to justify the action of police officers when they murder a unarmed person, police officers should be held for their unlawful actions when it comes to them shooting and killing unarmed black Americans, they just think they can get away with murder just by saying that they feared for their life and then you have prosecutors who take their side without doing any type of investigating what so ever. In 2016 you wouldn’t think that a police officer could get away with murder but a lot of them are just by saying these words ( I feared for my life) just because the person that they chase happened to be black.

  14. everything but an account of the actual shooting. if only there was a law against inept reportage.

  15. There has to be more than this. You can’t just shoot someone because they’re suspicious. You have to feel your life is in danger. If you see something is up, be it police officer or security guard, you call in for back up. Or, better yet, how about simply asking, “Hey, I’m an officer and just wanted to know what’s going on?”

    If the man was banging on his neighbor’s door he felt his life was in danger to begin with.

    While I don’t know what happened beforehand, I will wait to hear more details to give final judgement. I can only hope there is undeniable evidence that the officer HAD to shoot him.

  16. if running from the cops is legally punishable BY KILLING the running suspect why didn’t any of the officers on COPS ever shoot the runners??

  17. So the ghastly crime committed by Mr. Gunn according to officer Smith’s lawyer is he was “ a larger man who ran” this act according to him put the guilt for his own death squarely on Mr. Gunn.

    Yes as a black person in this country you’re culpable for your death if some young white officer felt afraid of your presence even in your own neighborhood, you could die because a white officer felt that your response to an impertinent question was not cordial see Sandra Bland, you could be culpable for your death if while in Wal-Mart you are oblivious to everyone around you and on your phone see John Crawford.

    This clear denial of the inalienable right to life for black people continues to be the unrestrained attitude of some whites and unfortunately some of those persons are in law enforcement and in several state and city official positions around this country.
    Where else in the world would a man walking alone at night in his own neighborhood be deemed suspicious enough to be apprehended, where else in the world would a supposedly educated person feel comfortable to present to anyone such a ridiculously depraved argument for this man loosing his life.

    • When your response to a question from a police officer is to run then you deserve whatever happens to you. When are people going to learn not to resist or run from the police. They don’t run out of fear from the police officer, they run because they know they have outstanding warrants and don’t want to be arrested. These people aren’t martyrs, they are criminals.

    • Yes, it is truth to the fact that there are a separate sets of rules to follow if your are black,,,, Shoot first and we will cover of the mess. How sad that we live in this wonderful country… But we are far from UNITED on all corners. Let me understand …So being born Black is the worse things could happen to you these days. The Supreme Courts say it is OKAY for a MAN TO MARRY a MAN,, but they can not stop these cowardly cops from shooting a MAN in the BACK.

    • This shooting is a tragedy…granted. The police officer had the authority to interview Mr Gunn at 3:20 AM in or out of his own neighborhood. The area was ‘high crime’ & we don’t know the circumstances without body or dash-cam video evidence. The public good is still being served if the apprehended subject was detained for an interview. Why struggle with the officer doing his job? Submit to the police questioning & complain to his superior’s later or sue for an unlawful detainment.

    • “This clear denial of the inalienable right to life for black people continues to be the unrestrained attitude of some whites” There are some stupid whites, agreed. Yet why is it that most black people always fail to mention the total disregard of life for black people by black people? I should say most life from all races is held in low regard to most blacks. Chicago, Baltimore etc come to mind. It is not the whites or cops that do the most killing but the blacks, yet that never gets addressed.

    • When confronting black males, the tendency of white policemen across this country to shoot first and ask questions later has gotten completely out of control!! The apparent total disregard for black lives has reached epidemic levels and something must be done to quell these gross miscarriages of injustice!!! I challenge all rational thinking individuals [regardless of ethnicity] to aid in alleviating this crisis!!

    • Mr. Perry why is it that blacks such as yourself just don’t want to think, but wanna just take the poor us the whites hate us whine? And you bring up such foolish reasons for your conclusions, which really means that you are racist yourself. Bland was stopped and sure, perhaps the cop lost his temper, but she was trying her best to insult him, and her death in the jail was AT HER OWN HAND, and she had a history of trying to kill herself. But of course it had to be the cop’s fault, right? And this black man who ran from the cop, and when he was shot, the first thing that the man opening his door was “oh he was shot because he was black…” Here are all these blacks NOT KNOWING WHAT REALLY HAPPENED but they have already made up their mind against the white cop. Who is racist now? A witness said he saw people struggling on the ground…..gee, did that mean the black suspect was fighting the smaller white cop? Could that mean the cop was in fear for his life? Oh no, that couldn’t be true, the white cop was just bored and wanted to shoot a black man…….and if you want to just accept that lie, then you are too big a fool to be quoted in the news…..but guess what, a bunch already have been. Thanks, media. Thanks, black non-thinkers. Thanks, racists. Now go home and shut up. You too, Mr. Perry.

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