A white Alabama police officer has been charged with murdering an unarmed black man who was shot dead yards from his front door.
Aaron Smith, 23, is accused of deliberately shooting Greg Gunn, 58, in Montgomery at 3.20am on Thursday.
Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey said state investigators obtained a warrant for Smith’s arrest on Wednesday morning.
He was detained hours later and placed in custody, with bond set at $150,000.
Bailey calls the shooting an ‘isolated incident’. But he says he won’t tolerate officers acting outside the law.
Authorities initially said Smith deemed Gunn, a grocer, ‘suspicious’ because he was holding ‘a stick’.
Smith, who joined the force in 2012, left his car and approached Gunn on foot. A struggle ensued before Smith fatally shot Gunn.
But a neighbor of Gunn tells The Associated Press the stick was actually an extension handle for a paint roller that belonged to him.
Late on Wednesday, Smith’s lawyer spoke to WSFA reporter Sally Pitts, lashing out at the indictment.
‘He will not be sacrificed on the alter of political correctness,’ Mickey McDermott said, adding that his client has been receiving death threats.
At a Monday news conference, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said he couldn’t specify why Smith deemed Gunn suspicious but said all patrol officers were aware of a rash of burglaries in the area lately.
Gunn was reportedly carrying a retractable painters stick, family members said according to the Washington Post, but Montgomery Police Chief Ernest Finley denied this accusation.
‘He was not carrying a painter’s stick,’ he told The Post. ‘I do know the painter’s stick is a lie, and they know it’s a lie.’
Neighbors said they heard commotion – one saying he heard banging on his windows – before shots were fired.
Gunn’s younger brother told the Post that Gunn ‘was racially profiled’.
‘I know he was racially profiled,’ Franklin Gunn, Gregory’s younger brother, told the Post.
‘He was black. That was the only thing suspicious about him.
‘They thought he was a low-life nothing, walking the street,’ he said.
‘They didn’t see a man. They didn’t see a black man. They saw somebody who needed to die, and they executed him. Now they are trying to cover it up.’
Local attorney Tyrone Means, who represents the Gunn family, said Gunn attended a regular card game with friends Wednesday after he got off work.
Gunn frequently walked from his friend’s house to his home a few blocks away, where he lived with his mother.
‘Trayvon Martin was a black kid walking in a predominantly white neighborhood, and someone just thought he looked suspicious,’ Means said. ‘Greg Gunn was in a community in which he was well-known and well-loved. That’s scary.’
Authorities said they are conducting a thorough investigation into what happened.
‘We will get to the facts. It will be open. It will be transparent, and wherever the facts lead us, that will then tell us what our next steps will be,’ said Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange on Friday, according to WSFA.
‘I understand that there is frustration right now. The [state investigators] will not do a quick investigation; they will do a thorough investigation.’
Gunn and his family grew up in the west Montgomery neighborhood, Means said. After a divorce, he had returned home to care for his mother.
‘All this gentleman was doing was walking home,’ Means said. ‘Little did the family expect that a walk this man has done all his life would end with him dying in terror.’
Family and community activists want answers from city authorities and police, specifically about possible body and patrol camera footage.
But city officials said the situation is out of their hands while the State Bureau of Investigations handles the case.
‘We’re not satisfied either,’ Strange said Monday. ‘We obviously want answers. It’s out of our hands. We’ve done everything possible to make sure this is done correctly.’
Strange said the crime scene was immediately sealed Thursday after Gunn was declared dead around 3.35am, and no police officers reviewed any potential camera footage at the scene.
All evidence was turned over to SBI, Strange said, who arrived on scene around 4.30am.
Means said the Gunn family is concerned about their family but also ‘broader implications’ of Gunn’s death.
‘If nothing else, perhaps this will change the way law enforcement responds,’ Means said. ‘There has to be some manner of screening people who do not have the discernment or discretion to use a lethal weapon.’
SBI on Monday would not comment on any aspect of the investigation. Strange said he has requested SBI expedite the investigation.
Some of Gunn’s family members, friends and neighbors are calling for white police to stay out of their historically black neighborhood following the incident.
‘I want to see all white officers out of the black community,’ Chris Miles, a close friend of the Gunn family, told The Montgomery Advertiser. ‘I don’t want them patrolling here anymore, because we’re either “suspicious”
Or if something happens, they say they were in fear of their life. Those ‘talking points’ get them not indicted. We can’t live under those conditions anymore.’