SELMA, AL (WSFA) - The investigation into a weekend ‘ambush’ shooting of a veteran Selma police officer continues.
Selma Mayor Darrio Melton identified the officer as Michael Hale and said he was in good spirits despite being shot and is recovering at home. Melton said the officer expressed hopes he could quickly return to work.
Melton, during a news conference Monday, renewed his call for a one-cent sales tax increase in the wake of the Sunday’s shooting, saying it would generate an additional $2.2 million to help police and firefighters purchase much-needed equipment. Selma officers, specifically, rifle-tested vests.
“We proposed giving our police officers an additional million dollars to become fully vested," Melton said. "We know if [Officer] Hale had been fully vested he would not have gone to the hospital perhaps but it would have been bruises and some wounds.”
Investigators believe Hale was followed by four suspects from the Edmund Pettus Bridge to the intersection of Broad Street and Furniss Avenue where they fired shots at him/
“This demonstrates the worst fear," said Selma Police Chief Spencer Collier, Sunday, who said for weeks he’s been dealing with his officers being shot at. No one had been hit, until now. “He was shot with a high-powered rifle. We recovered multiple casings," Collier said.
Once Hale realized he was being ambushed, his sped away but with his injuries. He lost control of his car and crashed a block away.
Collier says one round penetrated the officer’s body but that bullet apparently missed all vital organs. The chief said he wasn’t aware of any additional injuries as a result of the vehicle crash.
“He was shot in the chest. He had a Kevlar [vest] on. Our vests are not rifle-rated and, as you know, we’re seeing so many rifles. The Kevlar slowed it down but it still penetrated," Collier confirmed.
State Bureau of Investigation agents have since taken over the case. For much of Sunday morning, SBI personnel put down cones to mark the spots where they may have found clues to help piece the crime together.
“This is why in law enforcement it’s a fatal frontal. It is set up to shoot from different sides and different angles where they are not in each other’s crossfire, it’s a very difficult thing to survive," Collier said.
“After learning the officer had that vest on, the vest was not rifle-graded. We’ve been pushing for the last year," said Melton.
The injured policeman radioed for helped and a fellow officer rushed him to Vaughn Medical Center in Selma. From there, he was airlifted to a hospital in Birmingham. We’re told he is in stable condition and is expected to survive.
It was initially believed Hale had been shot twice, but Melton said Monday that he was actually hit three times.
Meantime, Chief Collier is angry.
“I’ve been pissed off over the last several weeks over this," he said.
The chief is promising to take the motto ‘To Protect and To Serve’ to a new level starting right now.
“I only have one way to respond to this and that is with overwhelming force and you’re going to see that today. I have asked for assistance from agencies from all over the state," said Collier.