Family Upset Race Wasn't Considered When Shooting Of Gunman Was Ruled Justified
Madison, AL – Five Madison police officers are back on active duty following the Oct. 27 shooting death of an armed suspect in a Planet Fitness parking lot.
On Nov. 22, the Incident Review Board determined that the officers “acted according to department policies and procedures” during the fatal encounter, WAAY reported.
Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard announced that his office also cleared the officers of any wrongdoing on Nov. 15, according to The Birmingham News.
“The evidence in this case is crystal clear,” Broussard said. “The actions of Madison Police Department were entirely justified.”
Madison City Police Chief David Jernigan has since returned the five officers involved in the shooting to full duty without any restrictions, WAAY reported.
In addition to other evidence, investigators used surveillance footage and bodycam videos to piece together the events that led to the deadly altercation.
Madison police responded to the Planet Fitness location at 8050 Highway 27 West, after a citizen reported that a man was taking videos and photos of employees and asking them “weird questions,” Madison County Prosecutor Tim Gann explained during a press conference.
The suspect, later identified as 39-year-old Dana Sherrod Fletcher, had already been trespassed from two businesses in the area that same day for similar behavior, Gann said.
The first Madison police officer arrived at the scene at 4:43 p.m., and made contact with Fletcher as he was standing outside the open passenger side door of a van in the parking lot.
Fletcher’s wife and daughter were also inside the vehicle, Gann said.
“Immediately, Mr. Fletcher becomes aggressive towards this officer,” and attempted to shut the van door on him, according to the prosecutor.
“The officer continues to speak with Mr. Fletcher, but things go south pretty quickly,” Gann continued.
As the suspect became increasingly belligerent and noncompliant, the officer radioed for additional units to respond to his location.
Approximately two minutes into the officer’s conversation with Fletcher, the aggressive suspect pointed at his forehead and ordered the officer to “shoot me right here in the third eye,” Gann said.
He repeated the command 13 times, according to the prosecutor.
“You better shoot me if you’re smart,” Fletcher added, according to Gann.
A minute later, the suspect reached over and grabbed a gun.
“It’s over for you,” he told the officer, according to Gann.
“When he touches the weapon, the Madison officer pulls his service weapon and instructs Mr. Fletcher to take his hands off the gun,” the prosecutor said.
Although Fletcher initially complied, he immediately became belligerent again and ordered the officer to shoot him.
At one point, the officer asked the suspect if he was suicidal.
“Are you homicidal?” Fletcher responded, according to Gann.
The officer repeatedly tried to de-escalate the situation, but the suspect “wasn’t having it,” the prosecutor added.
Recognizing that Fletcher was likely going to become combative, the officers instructed the suspect’s wife to get out of the vehicle for her own safety approximately 14 times.
She refused, and locked her driver’s side door.
A second officer broke out the driver’s side window in an attempt to get the woman and her child out of the vehicle, Gann said.
The officers tried to forcibly remove Fletcher from the vehicle, but he initially fought them off.
The suspect was warned that a K9 would be deployed if he did not comply, but he remained inside the van as police finally managed to extract his wife and daughter from the vehicle.
Fletcher attempted to choke the K9 when it was deployed, then grabbed his gun and began exiting the passenger side of the van, Gann said.
One officer fired his Taser as he alerted his fellow officers that Fletcher was coming out with a gun.
The weapon was later identified as a .40-caliber Taurus, Gann said.
One Taser probe struck the armed suspect in the back, but the other did not make contact.
As Fletcher came out of the vehicle, he raised the weapon towards an officer as the K9 grabbed onto his right foot, Gann explained.
The K9 handler who was trying to pull Fletcher out of the van fell to the ground, at which point the suspect aimed his gun at the officer’s chest and head as he tumbled down on top of him, according to the prosecutor.
“The K9 officer was able to get his gun out and fired four rounds at Mr. Fletcher,” Gann said.
Another officer at the scene also fired his duty weapon at the suspect.
Fletcher was hit twice in the head, once in the shoulder, and also had various graze wounds, Broussard told reporters during the press conference.
Fletcher’s family has since asked Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall to review the case, claiming that the investigators’ findings conflicted with bystanders’ videos of the altercation, WAAY reported.
“It is in everyone’s interest for the facts to be determined by a process that is fair and free from bias or influence,” the family said in a letter to Marshall. “Consequently, we request that you, as the top law enforcement official in the State, conduct a review of the case to preserve the semblance of fairness in the legal system in Alabama.”
The family also alleged that Fletcher’s race may have played a role in the officers’ decision to use deadly force against him.
“D.A. Broussard publicly has made statement that may be interpreted as providing blanket exoneration of police officers’ interactions with people of color, apparently rejecting out of hand that race may play any role in any officer’s perception of threat or use of force,” the letter read.
The City of Madison has refused to release bodycam footage of the shooting due to an anticipated lawsuit from the suspect’s family, WAFF reported.