DECATUR, Ala. (AP) — An Alabama city has fired three police officers connected to the fatal shooting of a Black man in front of his own home during a dispute with a tow truck driver.
Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling announced the decision Thursday night after the conclusion of personnel hearings. The mayor's office did not name the officers or the specific reasons for their dismissal. The city police chief said previously that departmental policies were violated with the shooting. A fourth officer was suspended, the mayor said.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s review of the shooting is ongoing, a spokesman said Friday. The findings will be turned over to the local district attorney and grand jury to determine if criminal charges are merited or if the officers acted within the bounds of the law.
Steve Perkins, 39, was shot and killed by police on Sept. 29 when officers accompanied a tow truck driver trying to repossess Perkins’ truck. Authorities said in September that Perkins had brandished a handgun, which was also equipped with a light, “causing the officer to fire at Perkins.”
Video from a neighbor’s home surveillance camera video, published by WAFF-TV, captured the shooting. The video shows the tow truck back into the driveway and Perkins come out of his house. An officer or officers appear to run out from beside the house. One is heard shouting, “Police, get on the ground,” and a large number of shots are immediately fired in rapid succession.
The Perkins family issued a statement calling the dismissals a “step in the right direction,” but they want to see more done.
“Three officers being fired and one being suspended is no comparison to Catrela losing her husband, me losing my brother, my mom losing her son, that’s not justified. We want these officers prosecuted” Nicholas Perkins told WHNT-TV. “We deserve more, Catrela definitely deserves more, this Perkins Family deserves more. And so we won’t give up until we get what we deserve.”
The fatal shooting has drawn regular protests in the north Alabama city. Protestors carried signs reading “You could have knocked” and “We need answers.” Police have not released the race of the officers.
The Decatur Police Department’s initial statement in September about the shooting said that officers were called to the scene by the tow truck driver, who said the homeowner pulled a gun when he tried to take the truck. The department said that after officers accompanied the tow truck driver back to the home, Perkins threatened the driver and “turned the gun toward one of the officers.”
Perkins’ family said that the neighbor's security camera video refutes that version of events.
An attorney for the family said officers immediately opened fire on Perkins and that he did not appear aware of their presence until he was being shot. Perkins’ family issued a statement saying the truck payments were up to date, so the truck shouldn’t have been towed.
Decatur Police Chief Todd Pinion in October issued a public apology saying the department had initially given inaccurate information about the shooting. The department’s initial September statement said that before opening fire that officers ordered Perkins to drop his weapon and that he refused to do so. Pinion said officers did not tell him to drop his weapon but had said, "get on the ground.”
Pinion said Thursday that he and the mayor visited with Perkins' family to deliver the news about the dismissals.
“I have pledged to take action to ensure something like this never happens in Decatur again, and that process has begun in earnest,” Pinion wrote in a statement.