MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A white police officer in Alabama was indicted Friday on murder charges in the fatal shooting of a black man who died just yards from his front door.
A grand jury returned the indictment against Montgomery police Officer Aaron Smith for the February shooting death of 58-year-old Greg Gunn. The fatal confrontation began when the 23-year-old officer stopped Gunn as he was walking through his neighborhood shortly after 3 a.m.
Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey announced the indictment in a press statement Friday. Prosecutors had charged Smith with murder shortly after the shooting, and a judge sent the case to a grand jury.
A state investigator testified in a March hearing that Smith had given conflicting stories about what happened before he shot Gunn.
Smith's lawyer Mickey McDermott maintained Friday that Smith acted appropriately after Gunn ran, fought back and then swung some sort of object at the officer.
"It was Mr. Gunn's actions that resulted in his death," McDermott said.
McDermott said he believed Smith was charged because of "emotion and politics."
Friends said Gunn was walking home from his weekly card game to the house he shared with his mother. McDermott said Smith was a young officer, patrolling by himself in a high crime district, when he stopped Gunn because he thought he was suspicious.
A lawyer representing Gunn's family could not immediately be reached for comment.
The fatal confrontation was not captured on Smith's body camera or dash camera. Patrol car cameras automatically switch on when an officer activates his or her blue lights, but Smith didn't activate his patrol car lights.
The shooting death roiled the Deep South city. Yellow lawns signs reading "Justice for Greg Gunn" lined the streets in the neighborhood where Gunn was shot. More than 200 mourners packed a memorial service for the 58-year-old.
Bailey in a statement said he wanted to stress that the indictment against Smith was not an indictment of the entire Montgomery Police Department or any law enforcement agency.
"They are truly the thin blue line between a peaceful community and anarchy," Bailey said
This story has been corrected to show that an investigator testified Smith gave conflicting stories about the shooting.