An Alabama jury found a white police officer guilty of manslaughter on Friday in the fatal shooting of an unarmed black man in Montgomery in 2016, the latest case in which an officer has been held to account for using lethal force.
The officer, Aaron Cody Smith, 26, faced a murder charge, but the 12-person jury also had the option of convicting him of manslaughter, which it did after a few hours of deliberation.
Officer Smith was patrolling the Mobile Heights neighborhood in February 2016 when he stopped Greg Gunn, who was returning home from a late-night card game. According to the officer, Mr. Gunn fled midway through the stop-and-frisk encounter.
Officer Smith chased Mr. Gunn, used his Taser on him three times, struck him with a metal baton and fired seven bullets from his gun. Five hit Mr. Gunn, who died steps from his home.
The officer later said that Mr. Gunn, 58, fit the description of a black man in dark clothing who had previously run from him in an area where burglaries had been reported. He also said Mr. Gunn tried to strike him with a paint pole during the encounter.
Prosecutors said Officer Smith’s account had many inconsistencies, including about the struggle that broke out after he patted down Mr. Gunn. Officer Smith did not turn on his body and dashboard cameras after getting out of his vehicle to stop Mr. Gunn at 3:20 a.m.
“We were very confident in the facts of the case,” Daryl Bailey, the Montgomery County district attorney, said in comments to reporters after leaving the courtroom. Mr. Bailey said his office would ask for the maximum punishment, which is 20 years. Officer Smith remained in custody after the verdict and his lawyer, Mickey McDermott, said he would appeal.
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SOURCE: The New York Times, Vanessa Swales and Adeel Hassan