Security concerns surface as Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee wraps - Montgomery Alabama news.

Security concerns surface as Selma Bridge Crossing Jubilee wraps up

(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News) (Source: WSFA 12 News)

Selma leaders said there were safety issues surrounding the annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee festivities over the weekend. A huge brawl broke out during a celebrity basketball game and the police department was forced to call in reinforcements.

It's raising more questions about security at large-scale events.

Jubilee organizers chose not to pay the city a fee for added police protection. Instead, they hired private security guards. But, city police had to step in anyway when things got out of hand. Thousands came to the historic city for the annual festivities.

“The Bridge Crossing Jubilee did go on in spite of various challenges, and it was a great success," said state Senator Hank Sanders with Bridge Crossing Jubilee, Inc. "Every event I went to was well attended and very productive. It turned out to be a great jubilee in spite of various challenges.” 

For 2017, organizers opted not pay the city for services like police and fire protection during the jubilee. Organizers and co-sponsors paid $860 for the necessary permits for the parade. There was no agreement as to the street fair or music festival, which is why those events were held on National Voting Rights Museum property on the Selmont side of the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

Selma Police Chief Spencer Collier said the department was still maxed out over the weekend. On Saturday night, there were two shootings in Selma.

One occurred downtown at Club Entourage on Alabama Avenue, located only a block from the police department’s headquarters. The chief said two brothers were shot as a result of a fight in the club. Both were taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. Police are asking for the public’s help identifying the shooter.

Officers were also nearby at George Washington Carver homes in reference to another shooting. Collier said there’s been a rash of shootings in the city in which the shooter or shooters fired into occupied dwellings.

On Saturday night, someone fired into one of the buildings in the housing complex and a patrol officer spotted the suspects. It sparked a car chase and the suspects ended up crossing the center line before hitting another car head on.

Both of the suspects were taken to the hospital. One is listed in critical condition.

The innocent people in the car they struck were also injured and transported to the hospital.

Once the suspects are released from the hospital, they will face multiple felony charges, including assault, attempting to elude, and shooting into an occupied dwelling, as well as several traffic violations.

The chief said they may be the suspects in the string of other recent cases whereby occupied dwellings were shot up.

As Selma police officers were dealing with those incidents, there was also a situation Saturday night at Selma High School where a celebrity basketball game was being held as part of the Bridge Crossing Jubilee festivities.

Collier says one officer had been hired to work security for the event, but a large fight broke out. The crowd began fighting to an extent that the officer wasn't able to control it. He called a "10-00” on his radio, which is the most urgent call an officer can put out. It took nearly the full police force to break up the large brawl to get things under control. 

The police department was so overrun with trying to manage the calls from the jubilee that the late shift was left with only one officer on duty. So other officers had to extend their shifts or were called in on their off days to provide necessary police protection for the city, officials said.

“That put a big strain on our department and our manpower. We were left with a high bill for overtime,” Collier said.

Jubilee officials say they weren't aware of the basketball game or the brawl.

“I didn't know there was a celebrity basketball game and I certainly didn't know what group might have put it on," Sanders said. "The jubilee is too much for one person or group to put it on so other organizations sometimes put on an event. I didn't know one was there and certainly didn't know there were any problems. This is the first time I have heard that.” 

According to Sanders, over the past several years, there have only been several incidents during the jubilee, including a disorderly conduct.

“There have never been any major problems with the Bridge Crossing Jubilee in all of these years," he explained. "In fact, the rate of violence goes down greatly during the jubilee. Security has never been a problem. Violence has never been a problem. It helps reduce violence in Selma. I think the important thing is that everything went on and when you have that many events, and they all go well, you just can't ask for more.”

Selma Mayor Darrio Melton issued the following statement Monday regarding the weekend events during the jubilee:

"My job as mayor is to make the best decisions possible for the city of Selma and the residents that live here. I take this charge seriously; no decisions are personal. 

"The Bridge Crossing Jubilee organizers decided to move their event to private property to avoid being charged for city services. The festival left behind a large amount of trash and debris but because the majority of the debris is on private property, the property owners will be responsible for clean up. 

"I am disturbed by the reports of violence that occurred during the Bridge Crossing Jubilee which required police assistance. Due to inadequate security, numerous fights broke out, placing all attending the events in danger. While the celebration was outside of the Selma city limits, the property for the event was within Selma's police jurisdiction--so Selma Police responded to emergency calls from Jubilee attendees. At one point, every available Selma Police Officer was required in order to regain control, which left the rest of our community vulnerable. I applaud our law enforcement officers for responding quickly and securing the scenes, and I'm thankful that there were no serious injuries. But things could have escalated to so much worse. 

"These were the problems the city attempted to avoid by asking event organizers to take financial responsibility for the services that the city would need to provide for a safe and secure event. We will take steps to guarantee private events are safe and efficient in the future."

Copyright 2017 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.

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