DECATUR – Asking residents to keep the family of Steve Perkins in their prayers, Mayor Tab Bowling responded Monday to the findings of an internal investigation into the shooting death by Decatur police of Perkins.
Bowling’s remarks to the City Council come three days after the police chief told reporters violations of department policy were involved.
Chief Todd Pinion, however, did not reveal the nature of the possible violations. There were 12 shots fired by police with seven hitting Perkins, 39, a Black man.
The incident happened Sept. 26 in Perkins’ front yard and touched off daily protests outside city hall in the River City calling for the termination and prosecution of the three police officers who were on the scene of the shooting.
One officer who fired the shots is on paid administrative leave. The other two on-duty officers present at the time of the shooting and a supervisor were reassigned to administrative duties.
Meanwhile, the racial justice group Standing In Power has called for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate law enforcement officers’ treatment of protesters in the aftermath of the lethal shooting.
Bowling addressed the issue Monday morning.
“I want to provide an update with the latest information on the city’s investigation into the death of Steve Perkins,’’ Bowling said. “As you likely know, the Decatur Police Department has concluded its investigation, and Chief Pinion determined that police department policies were violated. Counsel for the city advises me that he is in receipt of Chief Pinion’s determinations. He anticipates recommending discipline as a result of those determinations and providing me with a formal statement of charges and specifications on Wednesday, Nov. 22.
“Hearings on any proposed discipline will be tentatively scheduled for Dec. 4, subject to the availability of the parties and witnesses.’’
Decatur officials can only look into potential violations of city policy. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is conducting the criminal investigation.
“In any hearing, I will hear the facts of the case and decide if discipline is warranted and to what extent,” Bowling said. “Under Alabama law, any decision can be appealed to the Personnel Board if any officer is disciplined. The Decatur Police Department has committed, and I have committed, to make the findings of these hearings public.”
In an earlier press release, Decatur police claimed Perkins threatened a tow truck driver attempting to repossess his vehicle. The tow truck driver left the house but returned with officers. Police said Perkins turned a gun toward the officer, “causing the officer to fire.”
Pinion also said original reports of Perkins disobeying an order to drop his firearm were not accurate, but that after identifying themselves as police he was ordered to get on the ground. Pinion said the department “erred in stating Mr. Perkins ‘refused’ to drop his firearm prior to the shooting.”
Perkins family lawyer Lee Merritt posted a statement on Instagram last week. He said video from a house camera showed Perkins going outside to see why his dog was barking.
“What he didn’t know was that a tow truck driver conspired with several officers to quietly surround the property. This was, in fact, why the dog was barking.
“In a matter of seconds the men hidden in the dark surrounding his property revealed themselves and simultaneously opened fire. He never had a chance to surrender. Officers didn’t announce their presence until the very last moment. Steve was committing no crime. Officers surrounding Steven in his front yard fired over a dozen rounds striking him seven times — killing him. They later discovered the attempted repossession was a mistake.”
The family released a second clip of the shooting. Perkins went outside and shouted for the tow man to “put the truck down.” It shows a police officer running and shouting “Hey, hey, police, get on the ground” and immediately firing multiple rounds. Someone is heard saying, “that’s the gun” after the officers rush over to Perkins lying on the ground.”
Merritt and a representative of the Morgan County NAACP have called the scene an “ambush.”
Monday, Bowling made a personal comment at the end of his statement.
“Thanksgiving is Thursday,” he said. “Thanksgiving is a day of reflecting on our blessings and spending time with family and loved ones. For the Perkins family, this will undoubtedly be a hard day. They will have an empty seat at their table. They will be missing their father, husband, brother, and friend.
“I ask for all Decatur citizens to keep them in their prayers. And beyond that, I ask for prayers for this process – for justice, for healing, and for peace for everyone involved. I ask you to join me in praying for Steve Perkins’ family and friends, for those who are hurting, for our law enforcement officers and first responders, and for our city.”