Aaron Cody Smith sentenced to 14 years in death of Greg Gunn
MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Former Montgomery police officer Aaron “Cody” Smith has been sentenced to 14 years in prison and will be required to pay court costs and restitution.
Smith was sentenced Wednesday after being convicted of manslaughter for the 2016 shooting death of 59-year-old Gregory Gunn. The charge of manslaughter is a Class B Felony with a sentencing range punishable between two and 20 years.
Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey said the sentence fell short of the maximum 20 years they requested but says justice was served
“We have worked tirelessly, many hours in making sure that the gun family received justice. And I think today, they received that justice by seeing him being escorted back to a jail cell,” Bailey said after the sentencing.
Bailey says Gunn’s death was not the result of Smith’s lack of training or something ‘in the heat of the moment’ but was done purposefully.
“This was an officer who purposefully did not turn on his body cam, did not turn on his car camera and went out there with the reason, with the intent of harassing a citizen that night in hopes that he could make a statistic,” he said.
Defense attorney Mickey McDermott said Smith believes he was being targeted in this case, calling the state’s investigation flawed.
“He believes he's still innocent. He believes he still operated that night within the boundaries of his sworn duties as a police officer,” McDermot said.
McDermott says they’re ready to file an appeal. In the meantime, they are seeking an appeal bond that would allow Smith to be out of prison while the appeal is going through the justice system.
During the sentencing, Gunn’s siblings told the court the void his death left in their lives.
Greg Gunn’s sister Kimberly Gunn tearfully talked about how her brother helped her be a successful single mother, always pushing her to be better. Kimberly Gunn says she believes their mother, who passed away not long after Gunn’s death and whom Greg Gunn cared for, would still be alive today had he not been killed.
His brother, Kenneth Gunn, says Greg Gunn stepped up and took care of his family after his father’s death, providing food and support. He also says the Gunn family and the city will never be the same.
“This community was robbed,” Kenneth Gunn said. “This city was robbed.”
Franklin Gunn, another brother, said the Gunn family was a family of service, citing several family members who served in the military and had respect for law enforcement.
“I’ve never seen anyone who gets to kill someone and later walk in and resign. You did what you intended to do. You killed my brother. You hung him. You were the prosecutor, the judge, and jury,” Kenneth Gunn added.
After the Gunn family, the defense, the prosecution, and Smith himself addressed the court.
Smith spoke directly to the Gunn family saying he knows an apology is not good enough, but he believes something good will come from this. He also asked for their forgiveness.
“I am truly sorry for your loss,” he said. “I kissed my family that night not knowing if I would come home. I loved my job. I never intended to kill Mr. Gunn. To the Gunn family, I promise I tried everything to avoid this outcome. I struggled then and I struggle now. I can’t imagine walking out the front door and seeing the place where my loved one was killed.”
Smith fatally shot Gunn during a field interview on McElvey Street on Feb. 25, 2016. During his trial, Smith testified his district was ‘getting torn up with burglaries’ and that his lieutenant instructed him to ‘stop everything that moved’ in his district.
Smith was arrested on March 2, 2016, following unrest and tension over Gunn’s death. A murder indictment followed in November 2016.
Smith exhausted all legal avenues to have this murder charge dismissed. The trial was held in Dale County after a series of petitions to have the trial moved out of Montgomery County.
Retired Circuit Judge Philip McLauchlin Jr. was the ninth judge to preside over this case following a number of recusals.
A majority white Dale County jury chose to convict Smith after hearing from a dozen witnesses, including Smith himself, over three days. They deliberated for about two hours before returning with the unanimous verdict.
Smith was charged with murder, but the jury was given the option to consider the lesser included charge of manslaughter.
Following his conviction, Smith immediately resigned from the Montgomery Police Department.
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