FORT DEPOSIT, AL (WSFA) - A Fort Deposit man who was wrongfully shot by a police officer is looking to move on from his ordeal after reaching a settlement with the city.
Travis Thigpen, 24, was awarded $450,000 as he continues to deal with the injuries he received in the incident. The agreement is believed to be one of the largest, if not the largest, wrongful shooting settlements in the state in the past 25 years.
"It's been an emotional, stressful roller coaster but I'm glad everything is settled and out of the way," Thigpen said. "I'm glad the city did what they had to do and we can let everything go behind us."
On July 1, 2013, Officer Andrew McCall Jr. with the Fort Deposit Police Department responded to the home on County Road 45 where Thigpen was living with his girlfriend and her family in reference to an argument.
Thigpen says he had a verbal disagreement with his girlfriend that night. When Officer McCall got to the scene, he removed one man from the home and went back inside with his gun drawn. The officer stood in the living room and called for Thigpen.
Thigpen was walking from one of the bedrooms into the bathroom to take a bath when he encountered the policeman and put his hands up. He was only wearing a pair of shorts and was not armed and had no prior convictions.
McCall ordered Thigpen to get on the floor and as he was kneeling to get down, McCall shot him in the arm.
"Thigpen never verbally or physically threatened McCall in any manner nor did Thigpen have any type of weapon," court records state.
The whole thing played out in front of several children, ages 2 to 10.
The bullet shattered the bone in Thigpen's right arm and went into his back. Fragments are still lodged there because removing them would cause too much tissue damage. He was rushed to LV Stabler Memorial Hospital in Greenville and then airlifted to Baptist Medical Center South in Montgomery. He was treated and eventually released.
Two weeks after he was shot, Officer McCall swore out arrest warrants for Thigpen, charging him with resisting arrest and domestic violence assault in the third degree.
On December 3, 2013, Thigpen was brought to trial and found not guilty on all of the charges. He then filed a civil suit against the City of Fort Deposit and Officer McCall and the lawsuit was settled October 8th, 2015, according to court documents.
On Friday, Thigpen and his attorney spoke about the case for the first time since the shooting happened. They are happy with the outcome after more than two years of legal proceedings.
"This never should have happened. Mr. Thigpen was complying and he was shot. Our opinion and our position was that it was without cause," said Thigpen's lawyer, Dustin Fowler of the Dothan Firm, Buntin, Etheredge, & Fowler. "But at the end of it all, our system does work. He was found not guilty. He went to court and he got what he deserved."
With the settlement money, Thigpen says he bought a new home where he is living with his paralyzed mother. He continues to adjust to life with very little use of his right arm. The gunshot caused severe nerve damage.
"It's really rough because a lot of the things I used to do, I can't do anymore, like shooting basketball with my friends. I have to sit on the side and watch them. And I'm still in a lot of pain with nerve damage and the bullet fragments moving around and everything," he said. "I still have nightmares and dreams that keep playing over and over in my head."
Officer McCall was fired from his position after the shooting. An investigation was conducted by the State Bureau of Investigation. Lowndes County District Attorney Charlotte Tesmer says no criminal charges were brought against McCall.
Thigpen and his attorney say it remains unclear why the former officer shot him that night but Thigpen says McCall did apologize to him for his actions.
Arlene Richardson, City Attorney for Fort Deposit, says McCall violated the city's policy on use of force.
"It was a domestic violence call that got out of hand," she said. "We can't tolerate those kind of mistakes that hurt people."
She says it's an ongoing struggle in small towns to keep officers on the force because they often move to larger cities where there is better pay and benefits.
"We strive very hard to get and keep really good officers in our town," she added.
As for Travis Thigpen, he is focused on his future.
"I just want to live my life," he said.
"He wants to move on. He wants to put it behind him. There are good people in Fort Deposit. This is just one person. There are great judges, a great district attorney. This is not a reflection of Fort Deposit and the people of Fort Deposit or the legal system in Fort Deposit. This is one isolated incident that we hope does not happen again to anyone else," his attorney, Dustin Fowler, explained.