Three officers in Alabama were fired and another was suspended without pay in connection to September’s fatal police shooting of a man outside his home as a towing company tried to repossess his vehicle, Decatur city officials announced Thursday.
Stephen Perkins, 39, was fatally shot by police outside his home in the northern Alabama city of Decatur on September 29 after he allegedly “brandished a handgun” equipped with a light “towards an officer with the Decatur Police Department,” the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said in a statement weeks ago. This led the officer to open fire at Perkins, the agency added. Perkins died later at a hospital, police said.
The city’s mayor decided to fire three officers and suspend one after Decatur Police Chief Todd Pinion concluded in a hearing that the officers violated policy, Pinion said in a news release Thursday. The release did not say what the violations were.
Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling told reporters he made the decision for each officer, and said a state law prohibits city officials from releasing certain information Thursday, including the officers’ names or how they violated policy.
“Per Alabama law, there is an exception to the public records law that covers sensitive personnel records. Officers’ names and the specific policy violations along with specific decisions remain sensitive to personnel records and cannot be made public at this point in the process,” Bowling said Thursday in a news conference.
“However, if any of the officers choose to appeal these decisions, their names charges and additional details will become public as part of a potential personnel board appeals hearing,” the mayor said, adding those hearings would be publicized.
The officers have seven days beginning Thursday to file an appeal, city attorney Herman Marks Jr. said during the news conference. The suspended officer “was found to be involved to a lesser degree” based on the reviewed facts of the case, the mayor said.
“It is now incumbent on us as a city, as people who love Decatur, to move forward and to work to ensure that this tragedy is not forgotten or ignored,” Bowling said.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency still is conducting a criminal investigation, Pinion said. That probe is independent of the completed investigation by Decatur police, he said.
“As I have said from the earliest days, we will accept whatever decision results from that process,” Pinion said.
CNN has reached out to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency for an update on the investigation.
The incident unfolded around 1:30 a.m. September 29 when Decatur officers were called to Perkins’ home by a towing company that alleged he’d pulled out a handgun on the tow truck driver as the driver was trying to repossess a car in Perkins’ driveway, according to an initial statement from Decatur police.
When officers arrived at the home with the tow truck driver, Perkins “exited the residence armed with a handgun and began to threaten the tow truck driver,” police said.
The initial police statement said Perkins refused to drop his weapon when officers ordered him to do so, and that an officer shot him when he turned the gun toward that officer.
However, the police chief subsequently said the officer did not order Perkins to drop a weapon.
“We now know the officer identified themselves as ‘police’ and ordered Mr. Perkins to ‘get on the ground’ prior to the officer firing rather than ordering him to drop the weapon at that time as we initially reported the morning of the shooting,” Pinion said in a social media post October 11.
“That means that we also erred in stating Mr. Perkins ‘refused’ to drop his firearm prior to the shooting. I apologize for the inaccurate description of the encounter in our initial statement,” Pinion’s post reads.
Shortly after the shooting, Perkins’ brother told CNN that Perkins feared dying at the hands of police.
“This has always been his biggest fear, being shot and killed by police. Just being a Black man in America, it was his fear,” Nicholas Perkins, his eldest brother, told CNN for a story published in early October. “This is a very hard loss; he was such a likeable guy. He had no enemies.”
Stephen Perkins was married and left behind two children, his brother said.
“He was a great guy, a family man,” his brother said. “His favorite hobby was going to the gym. That’s all he did. Work, home and gym. He was always smiling, laughing and joking. He was levelheaded. Just an all-around cool demeanor. This doesn’t add up.”
Perkins’ family disputed any claim that he owed money on his car, saying they “found financial receipts proving” he was not at risk of “being in an active status of repossession” and that “monthly payments were processed through his financing company.”
CNN’s Cara Lynn Clarkson, Nick Valencia and Maxime Tamsett contributed to this report.
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