Preliminary hearing set for officer charged with murder

AP News
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Posted: Mar 04, 2016 1:38 PM
Preliminary hearing set for officer charged with murder

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A white Alabama police officer charged with murder in the shooting death of a black man will go before a judge at a March 24 preliminary hearing.

Authorities on Wednesday arrested 23-year-old Aaron Smith for the fatal Feb. 25 shooting of 58-year-old Greg Gunn. Gunn died on a neighbor's lawn, just steps away from his home, where he lived with his mother.

Gunn's family attorney has said he was unarmed and walking home from a friend's house around 3 a.m. when Smith attempted an unlawful search.

Smith's attorney, Mickey McDermott, said earlier this week that Gunn resisted and used "deadly force" before Smith opened fire, but he wouldn't go into further details.

Authorities won't discuss evidence that led them to charge Smith. McDermott said the arrest skipped the normal protocol of letting grand juries consider whether to charge officers who use deadly force while on duty. The State Bureau of Investigations continues to examine the case.

McDermott called Smith's arrest a "political witch hunt" meant to appease the city amid a national debate over police violence in minority communities.

Gunn's mother, Nellie Ruth Gunn, told reporters this week that she wanted Smith to attend her son's funeral, set for Saturday.

"All I want is justice," she said.

The 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.