The officer who shot and killed Greg Gunn in Montgomery, Alabama last Thursday has been arrested on murder charges, reports say.
Montgomery County district Attorney Daryl Bailey announced Wednesday afternoon that the MPD officer, 23-year-old Aaron “AC” Smith was held by the State Bureau of Investigations and released shortly after under $150,000 bond. The SBI and district attorney have found enough evidence to charge him with the murder of the unarmed black 59-year-old man, who was shot and killed while walking home late at night after. A Montgomery County grand jury will be presented with the evidence and decide whether or not they will indict Smith.
“I will do everything in my power to protect a police officer who is operating within the law,” Bailey said at a news conference. “I will use every ounce of my power to prosecute a police officer who is acting outside of the law.”
Smith was a patrol officer on duty in the Mobile Heights neighborhood to watch for car break-ins. As witnesses report, there was a brief scuffle before the officer discharged his weapon on Gunn, hitting him five times. The MPD and Montgomery mayor Todd Strange have been silent on what they think happened as the SBI investigates, releasing only that the officer says he thought that Gunn had been carrying a pole or stick, and that he had confronted him after perceiving Gunn to be a “suspicious character.”
According to Mayor Strange, body-cam evidence of the killing was on record and had been handed over to the SBI.
“SBI and I agreed at the beginning of this investigation that this case would be treated as any other case,” Bailey said. “We agreed that if there were probable cause that a crime had been committed then an arrest would be made. After meeting extensively with SBI agents, we have concluded that probable cause exists to make an arrest in this case.”
Bailey cautioned that the arrest should not be an indictment of MPD or lead anyone to presume that Smith is guilty of murder.
— Ellis Eskew (@EllisEskew) February 29, 2016
Gunn’s killing has been a matter of concern for the largely black community where he lived and died. The Black Lives Matter movement has organized protests and demanded a fair investigation.
Montgomery, Alabama has a long history in racial unrest and is the birthplace of the civil rights movement. It has been sixty years since Rosa Parks sat in the front of a Montgomery bus and refused to move to the back.
“We cannot sit idly by and let our young men be shot down. We don’t want to start marches or massive demonstrations in Montgomery again, but we will unless something is done about this case,” said Alvin Holmes, a state representative on Monday.
— Anisah Muhammad (@MuhammadAnisah) February 29, 2016
Witnesses to the incident and the victim’s family have been outspoken that they believe that race was motivating factor in the killing of Greg Gunn. Community leaders have gone as far as to decry the MPD’s use of white cops in black neighborhoods and to demand that they no longer be allowed to patrol in these areas.
“I know he was racially profiled,” Franklin Gunn, Gregory’s younger brother, told The Washington Post early Tuesday morning. “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.”
According to Mayor Strange, Officer Smith does not have a previous record of discrimination or brutality in his four years working for the MPD. Strange also said that proceedings have already begun in Smith’s termination from the MPD. It is city policy that an officer must be fired after being charged with a felony.
Smith’s attorney Mickey McDermott told WSFA this afternoon that his client would not be “sacrificed on the altar of political correctness.” He says the arrest was a surprise to him and his client because, McDermott says, evidence is normally presented to a grand jury before an arrest.
According to the attorney, Smith is cooperating with the investigation and is justified in his use of lethal force because he felt that his life was in danger.
“Mr. Gunn chose to run from a Montgomery police officer during a field investigation and he fought the police officer for a great length of time,” McDermott said. “Mr. Gunn became violent.”
He said “no one has more empathy for Mr. Gunn” than Smith.
McDermott has also said that McDermott has received death threats, and his family will have to go into hiding.