Attorney for officer: 'Gunn chose for his life to end that night'

Published: Mar. 2, 2016 at 7:04 PM CST|Updated: Apr. 1, 2016 at 9:37 PM CDT
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Attorney Mickey McDermott says his client is receiving death threats but no protection from...
Attorney Mickey McDermott says his client is receiving death threats but no protection from authorities. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Montgomery police officer Aaron "A.C." Smith sat silently and stone-faced at a conference table Wednesday afternoon, holding his mother's hand and staring into the camera as his attorney spoke with WSFA 12 News about the murder charge brought against him earlier in the day.

Attorney Mickey McDermott said he wanted to "show to the public that there is a face to the officer that has been portrayed as a killer in this community by the district attorney's office, the city, and the public," and called what Smith is going through a "public humiliation."

McDermott referred to his client as a "highly decorated" officer who is, along with his family, facing death threats following the shooting death of 59-year-old Gregory Gunn Thursday. McDermott added that Smith is from a law enforcement family.

"There are Facebook postings with wanted posters for this young man's life," the attorney stated firmly, pointing toward Smith. "This is a Montgomery police officer who has put his life on the line for these citizens for years." His payback, according to McDermott, no protection by the city or the county for him or his family."

The attorney did say that some unnamed law enforcement officers had offered to help Smith pay his $150,000 bond requirement.

The day's events were unexpected, according to McDermott, who earlier in the day stated he "will not allow [his] client to be sacrificed at the altar of political correctness," said he believes proper protocol would have been to take the case to a grand jury.

"We understand this is a sensitive case, and it's politically sensitive," McDermott said. "And we can understand the district attorney and the city wanting to make sure that there is no public outcry. Give the public a clear and transparent look at the legal process and present this case through the proper channels... But you don't do that...on the back of this officer."

Smith's attorney placed blame for Gunn's death on Gunn's shoulders.

"We're sorry Mr. Gunn's life was taken, but Mr. Gunn placed himself in a position where this officer had to use the progressive levels of force that we train him, and he used those to the tee. He used those, and he encountered a situation where his life, and the lives of the citizens in the community was in jeopardy. And he used deadly force," McDermott said.

McDermott said the City of Montgomery "[threw] a 23-year-old police officer, highly decorated, years on the job, working third shift while the rest of us were asleep..." into a high crime area where he had an encounter with Gunn. The shooting happened in the city's Mobile Heights neighborhood, which has had multiple burglary calls overnight in the last month.

"We believe the evidence will show that Mr. Gunn was not just innocently walking home," McDermott explained when asked about the strongest evidence he thinks will prove his client is innocent. "We believe that the Montgomery Police Department, and its records of specifically sending officers to make traffic and random stops in high crime areas to reduce the criminal behavior of certain people placed Mr. Gunn within the legal right of this officer to make a stop and investigation."

McDermott contends Gunn ran from a police officer during an investigation, fought with him and turned violent.

"We understand that Mr. Gunn's life has ended, but Mr. Gunn chose for his life to end that night, and the facts will prove that," the attorney said.

Asked if he trusts the investigation and its transparency, McDermott called the investigators "above board" and "experienced," but said it was not a law enforcement question, it is a political question. "Because of it, the usual procedures have been thrown to the wind..." he said.

The investigation into Gunn's death is being handled by the State Bureau of Investigation, not the Montgomery Police Department. However, due to a city policy, because Smith is charged with a felony, job termination proceedings against him will begin.

Copyright 2016 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.