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SMITHS STATION, AL (WTVM) -
Friends and family of the man accused of trying to run over a Lee County sheriff's deputy are speaking in his defense.
Eddie Nevels, 33, was shot and killed during a traffic stop in Smiths Station Saturday while a child was in the passenger seat.
Officials said Nevels failed to comply with commands to stop, leading a deputy to fire through his windshield. A woman who witnessed the shooting said she saw the van moving towards the deputy even as guns were being drawn. But people who knew Nevels well believe there must have been some misunderstanding.
"If you could have met him a day before, all it takes is one day of knowing him to know that is nowhere in his lifestyle to endanger or harm anyone, especially with a kid involved," said family friend Terri Bell.
"There could have been several different things that could have happened. His foot could have slipped off of the brake onto the gas, but I know he did not try and run over a police officer. If you know someone for 20 years, you know what type of person they are," said close friend, Paula Messer.
A 7-year-old boy who watched Nevels get shot in the head was in the vehicle. Family said the two were on a fishing trip when their van was stopped. Police said was reported stolen.
"He's traumatized for life. He'll never forget that. He always says that little Eddie was his best friend. He was just trying to take him fishing, that's all. So how is someone who is going to take him fishing be a cold-blooded person who tries to run over police. They just wouldn't," said Jennifer Chinell.
"I know that he didn't run. I know that having Jonathan in the car with him, he wouldn't have done anything crazy," said Patricia McCardle.
Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones could not comment further on the issue, citing an open investigation by the state of Alabama. However, the sheriff of neighboring Russell County said a traffic stop is the wrong time to be having a miscommunication. The increasing number of attacks on law enforcement has caused training to adapt dramatically in response.
"The whole mindset of everything you do when you approach the vehicle is completely different than everything you did, even as early as ten years ago. Statistically it's one of, if not the most, dangerous things that you can do in this job is stop a vehicle. You don't know who you're stopping; you don't know what they just committed. You may just be stopping them for a traffic violation, but you don't know what's in the car, you don't know if someone's hiding; you can't see. It's an extremely dangerous scenario every time. I feel sorry for the family, and for the deputy who had to go through this," said Sheriff Heath Taylor.
The sheriff added some tips for drivers to help things go smoothly if they are ever pulled over:
Before the officer gets out of the patrol car, have all paperwork ready in advance. Even when an officer has directed you to retrieve items from the glove box, it becomes an unnecessarily tense situation because they don't know what's inside.
As the officer approaches and stands by your car, keep your hands in full view at all times. If it is at night, turn on the interior lights.
If there is a firearm in the car, even if you have a permit to carry, disclose that information as soon as possible.
And of course, comply with everything the officer tells you to do without any delays. Following all of these steps can ensure everyone's safety and put a driver in the best graces with the officer pulling them over.