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Killing of Greg Gunn

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Killing of Greg Gunn
DateFebruary 25, 2016 (2016-02-25)
Timearound 3:20 am
LocationMontgomery, Alabama, US
TypePolice shooting
DeathsGreg Gunn
ConvictedAaron Cody Smith
ConvictionsManslaughter
Sentence14 years in prison

The killing of Greg Gunn occurred on the morning of February 25, 2016, in Montgomery, Alabama. Gunn, a 58-year-old African-American man,[1] was shot and killed near his home after fleeing from a stop-and-frisk initiated by Aaron Cody Smith, a white police officer. Smith was charged with murder and indicted by a grand jury in 2016. The case came to trial in late 2019 following a change of venue to Ozark, Alabama. Smith was found guilty of manslaughter, and, in January 2020, was sentenced to 14 years in prison.

Background[edit]

Gregory Gunn lived with his mother in the Mobile Heights neighborhood in Montgomery, Alabama.[2] The neighborhood had experienced a number of burglaries around the time of the incident. According to Montgomery Police officer Aaron Cody Smith, Gunn matched the description of a burglary suspect: "dark clothing, black male".[1]

Confrontation[edit]

Around 3:20 am on February 25, 2016, Gunn was walking home unarmed from a card game when he encountered Smith, who was patrolling the neighborhood. Smith stopped Gunn and performed a stop-and-frisk; during the encounter, Gunn fled.[2] Smith pursued, initially attempting to use a Taser to disable Gunn, and when that failed he began striking Gunn with his baton.[3] According to Smith's later testimony, Gunn then picked up a painter's pole, which caused Smith to fire his service weapon in self-defense.[4][5] Smith shot seven times, hitting Gunn five times and killing him.[3]

Trial[edit]

Smith was placed on administrative leave following the incident[6] and was arrested and charged with murder a week later following an Alabama Bureau of Investigation inquiry.[7] A grand jury indicted him for murder in November 2016.[8] He was originally going to be tried in Montgomery, but the trial was moved to Ozark in the white-majority Dale County at the request of his defense attorneys.[2] In the request to move the trial, Smith's defense attorneys said that racial prejudice in Montgomery, media coverage of the shooting, and the actions of city officials would all affect the jury. They also described Smith as "the first and only Montgomery Police Officer ever to be arrested and charged immediately after an officer-involved shooting."[9] Eight judges recused themselves from the trial.[2]

During the trial, Smith testified that Gunn had grabbed a metal painter's pole during the fight, at which point he escalated to using his gun. Prosecutors argued that Gunn could not have picked up the pole based on photographs from the crime scene which showed a hat in Gunn's hand.[10] A state investigator also testified that Gunn's fingerprints were not found on the pole.[5] They also emphasized that Smith had given several different accounts of the fight in the years between the shooting and the trial.[11] Smith had not turned on his body or dashboard cameras before the stop, so several details of the incident were unclear.[12]

On November 22, 2019, a jury found Smith guilty of the lesser included charge of manslaughter.[2][10][12] Following the verdict, Gunn's brother Franklin said: "They brought this case to a very conservative county, expecting a different outcome...But I believe that we have seen the best of Alabama today. One bad apple in a bunch has been weeded out."[2] On January 29, 2020, Smith was sentenced to 14 years in prison.[13] He was released on an appeal bond in March 2020 while appealing the conviction.[14] In May 2021 the appeal was denied. [15]

Wrongful death suit[edit]

The Gunn family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court against the city of Montgomery in February 2016. The suit was settled in April 2020.[16]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Brown, Melissa. "Greg Gunn murder trial: Who was the 58-year-old man shot by a Montgomery police officer?". Montgomery Advertiser. Retrieved June 3, 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e f "White Alabama Officer Guilty of Manslaughter for Killing Black Man". The New York Times. November 22, 2019.
  3. ^ a b Brown, Melissa; Fiscus, Kirsten. "Greg Gunn trial Day 2: Thick sweatshirt could have impeded Taser, pathologist testifies". Montgomery Advertiser. Retrieved June 4, 2020.
  4. ^ "Montgomery officer Aaron Cody Smith resigns after manslaughter conviction". WSFA. Retrieved June 4, 2020.
  5. ^ a b Cason, Mike (August 9, 2018). "Alabama Supreme Court puts hold on police murder case". AL.com. Retrieved August 4, 2020.
  6. ^ "Witness, family of victim speak about Montgomery officer-involved shooting". WSFA. Retrieved June 3, 2020.
  7. ^ "Montgomery police officer charged in death of Gregory Gunn". WSFA. Retrieved June 3, 2020.
  8. ^ Davis, Kelsey. "Officer indicted on murder charge in Greg Gunn death". Montgomery Advertiser. Retrieved August 5, 2020.
  9. ^ "Montgomery police officer requests change of venue for murder trial". WSFA. Retrieved June 4, 2020.
  10. ^ a b "Gregory Gunn: jury convicts white officer in shooting death of black man". The Guardian. November 22, 2019. Retrieved January 22, 2020.
  11. ^ Brown, Melissa; Fiscus, Kirsten. "Closing argument: AC Smith a 'bad apple,' district attorney says in final statement". Montgomery Advertiser. Retrieved June 10, 2020.
  12. ^ a b Brown, Melissa (November 22, 2019). "Alabama cop who chased, beat and shot black man after stop-and-frisk guilty of manslaughter". USA Today. Retrieved November 23, 2019.
  13. ^ "Ex-officer gets 14 years for killing unarmed black man". AP News. January 29, 2020. Retrieved April 27, 2020.
  14. ^ Robinson, Carol (March 6, 2020). "Montgomery ex-officer can be free during manslaughter appeal, judge rules". AL.com. Retrieved August 5, 2020.
  15. ^ https://www.alabamanews.net/2021/05/21/former-montgomery-police-officer-aaron-cody-smiths-appeal-denied/
  16. ^ Harper, Brad; Brown, Melissa. "Montgomery settles lawsuit with family of Greg Gunn who was killed by police officer AC Smith". Montgomery Advertiser. Retrieved August 4, 2020.