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A Case for Calm in the Gregory Gunn Murder

Aaron C. Smith, the Montgomery police officer who shot and killed Gregory Gunn, has been charged with murder. The incident occurred on February 25th at approximately 3:20 a.m. in the Mobile Heights neighborhood. 59-year-old Gunn was said to be walking to his mother’s house after visiting some friends. Aaron Smith, patrolling the community after a recent surge in crime, viewed Gunn’s behavior as suspicious and approached him. As Smith began to pat Gunn down to check for weapons, Gunn fled from the officer. From this point, however, the details become murky.

Gunn may have been carrying a paint roller with an extension rod on it. Community members have reported that it’s not unusual for individuals to carry a stick or object to protect themselves at night. Others insist, however, that Gunn’s hands were empty at the time of the shooting. Gunn allegedly called out for his neighbor and may have banged at his door. Getting no response, Gunn took a crouching stance. Police indicated that Gunn crouched as he prepared to swing the stick. Others insist that Gunn was simply trying to shield himself. By 3:35, Gunn was pronounced dead. An autopsy revealed that he was shot five times, likely while crouching.

Smith, initially put on administrative leave, has been charged with murder. He was released from jail on $150,000 bail and is now in hiding with his family. The family reports that they have received death threats since the incident occurred. The police have vowed to look into this case carefully. Neighborhood residents admit that the recent crime surge has caused them to appeal to the police department for further patrols. At least one resident insists, however, that white officers should not patrol this predominantly black neighborhood.

This case comes as our nation heals from several recent shootings of unarmed black men. Although most agree that 99.9 percent of police officers perform exceptionally well under challenging conditions, it is important to examine all cases carefully. Through proper analysis of the data, we may be able to address this disturbing trend and prevent further loss of life. We urge all residents to remain open to the facts as they emerge in this case, and withhold judgment until all the details materialize. No matter who is to blame, a tragedy occurred on February 25th. A rush to judgment and condemnation of either party before a thorough investigation occurs would just add to the tragedy.

At Barfoot & Schoettker, LLC, we vow to help our clients stand tall. We hope our city of Montgomery, Alabama will stand tall during this trying time.

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