Timeline: Gregory Gunn’s death and Officer A.C. Smith’s arrest

Updated: Oct. 24, 2017 at 2:07 PM CDT
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You'll find the latest day-by-day coverage from WSFA 12 News regarding the investigation into the death of Gregory Gunn by Montgomery police officer Aaron "Cody" Smith.

FEBRUARY 25, 2016

Montgomery police officer A.C. Smith, 23, working third shift, begins an investigation of a 'suspicious man' around 3:20 a.m. in the 3200 block of McElvy Street in Montgomery's Mobile Heights neighborhood. The officer is white. The suspect he is investigating is 59-year-old Gregory Gunn, a black resident of the neighborhood.

The details of Smith and Gunn's interactions remain to be determined by evidence presented at court, but what is known for certain is that Officer Smith fired his weapon, killing Gunn early that Thursday morning.

(Scene of the shooting on Montgomery's McElvy Street on 2/25/16. Source: WSFA 12 News)

(Photo of Gregory Gunn provided by the Gunn family.)

Just hours after the sun comes up, Montgomery Police Chief Earnest Finley calls a news conference to discuss the situation. Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange is out of the country and Montgomery Department of Public Safety Director is in California.

Chief Finley confirms that an officer and suspect were involved in a "slight struggle", that their interactions continued for "about a block", and that the officer "fired and shot and killed the suspect." The chief went on to say the suspect was armed. "There was some indication of some instrument," he stated, later calling it a stick, or pole and painting pole.

The investigation is confirmed to have been handed over to the State Bureau of Investigation, a standard practice when an officer is involved in a shooting.

(Montgomery Police Chief Earnest Finley discusses the developing situation the morning of Gunn's death. Source: WSFA 12 News)

The victim's family identifies him to the media as Gregory Gunn and says he was shot five times before dying in the front yard of a home on McElvy Street.

"This was a wrong and senseless death by the Montgomery Police Department. My brother was not a violent person and never was," said Kenneth Gunn, the victim's brother.


FEBRUARY 26, 2016

The day after Gunn's death, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange, in a phone interview, promises transparency in the investigation and asks for patience from the community until the investigation concludes. Strange says he will hold a news conference to address rumors the following Monday. The investigation is expected to last several weeks.

FEBRUARY 28, 2016

State Representative Alvin Holmes (D-Montgomery) holds a news conference calling for the arrest of the police officer, still unnamed, on first degree murder charges. He calls Gunn's death an "execution". The officer is on administrative leave pending completion of the investigation.

Rep. Holmes says he's been told by Montgomery Director of Public Safety Chris Murphy that the officer's body camera "malfunctioned", a statement the director later denies he ever made. Murphy issues a statement refuting Holmes' claims.

(Rep. Alvin Holmes calls for the arrest of the as-of-yet unnamed police officer on Sunday, Feb. 28 Source: WSFA 12 News)

FEBRUARY 29, 2016

Leap Day sees several developments in the case as Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange returns to Alabama and calls a news conference to discuss the city's role in the investigation. Strange, and Chief Finley, hold a contentious news conference attended by many in the community, including Gunn's brother, Franklin. It is during this news conference that Mayor Strange reveals the identity of the police officer as A.C. Smith.

(Mayor Strange and Chief Finley listen as Franklin Gunn talks about his brother's death, demanding five minutes of silence in his memory. The request was honored. Source: WSFA 12 News)

District Attorney Daryl Bailey and investigators with the State Bureau of Investigation return to the scene where Gunn was killed.

MARCH 1, 2016

Tension grows among Montgomery's black residents who believe action is not being taken quickly enough in regards to Gunn's death investigation. Members of the 'Black Lives Matter' movement attend the city council meeting on Tuesday to make their frustrations known. One person is removed from the council chambers by police. 

(Members of the Black Lives Matter movement attend Montgomery's March 1 city council meeting. Source: WSFA 12 News)

The attorneys for Greg Gunn's family releases a statement.

MARCH 2, 2016

Less than a week after Gregory Gunn's death, Montgomery Count District Attorney Daryl Bailey calls a news conference to announce that the State Bureau of Investigation has found "probable cause" for Officer Smith's arrest.

(Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey announces Officer A.C. Smith's arrest. Source: WSFA 12 News)

Following the announcement of Officer Smith's arrest, the Montgomery County Jail books him and releases a mug shot. Smith is released a short time later on a $150,000 bond.

(Officer Aaron "A.C." Smith's mug shot. Source: Montgomery County Jail)

Following the announcement by District Attorney Daryl Bailey of Officer Smith's arrest, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange calls a news conference to discuss the City's response.

Hours after being released, Officer Smith appears on camera with family and his attorney. Smith does not speak, but his lawyer, Mickey McDermott spends 10 minutes defending his client as a "highly decorated" officer who was put in the situation where he came in contact with Gunn by Department policies. McDermott lays blame for Gunn's death on Gunn.

(Attorney Mickey McDermott discusses his client's innocence as Office Smith and his mother look into the camera. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

Gunn's family and friends gather on the lawn where he died to pray shortly after the announcement that Officer Smith has been arrested.

"We'd like to thank everyone for their support, and I'm pretty sure my uncle is smiling down now that justice has been served, right is right and wrong is wrong," says Gunn's nephew, Aaryn Jordan.

(Gunn's family and friends gather to celebrate an arrest in the case. Source: WSFA 12 News)

MARCH 3, 2016

While the state's autopsy has not been released, a second performed by an independent forensic pathologist hired by Gunn's family shows what they believe happened during the shooting. Dr. Jim Lauridson, who has more than 30 years of experience, says his autopsy shows Gunn was shot five times.

"The grazed shot and the shot that went through the upper right arm both entered the chest and they were fatal found to Mr. Gunn," Lauridson said.

(A rendering of the autopsy provided by the Gunn family's autopsy shows what they believe to be five shots. Source: Dr. Jim Lauridson)

"The grazed shot and the shot that went through the upper right arm. Both entered the chest, and they were fatal founds to Mr. Gunn," Lauridson demonstrats. Source: WSFA 12 News)


MARCH 4, 2016

Officer Smith's arrest has ignited questions about timing, leaving some wondering if he was arrested to keep peace in the city's black neighborhoods and to tame emotions in the city. The officer's attorney says it was done to prevent "another Ferguson", a reference to the social unrest created in the wake of the white officer-involved shooting death of Michael Brown, a black man.

While the timing of the arrest is called into question, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange and other leaders visit with Nellie Ruth Gunn, the mother of Greg Gunn.

Police Chief Ernest Finley also spent time with Officer Smith Friday, who is also the son of two Montgomery police officer parents.

MARCH 5, 2016

Saturday sees more than 200 family members and friends of Greg Gunn come together for a peace walk in the neighborhood where he died. Gunn's funeral was held several hours later. Gunn's mother invited Officer Smith to attend the funeral as a sign of goodwill, but he did not come. Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange and Montgomery County Sheriff Derrick Cunningham did attend. There was no known Montgomery Police Department presence at the funeral.

MARCH 7, 2016

Gregory Gunn's mother, Nellie Ruth Gunn, visits with Mrs. Florence Whitehurst as well as her sons Stacy and Bernard III. She is the widow of Bernard Whitehurst, Jr, shot and killed by a Montgomery police officer in 1975 after being mistaken for a robbery suspect. An investigation showed the police department tried to cover up the truth by putting a gun in Whitehurst's hand.

Stacy Whitehurst says the conversation lasted for approximately 45 minutes as his family showed sympathy for the Gunn family. "We just wanted to encourage her to be strong," Stacy said.

Before leaving, the families held hands and prayed.

(Photo courtesy: The Whitehurst family)

MARCH 8, 2016

Mayor Todd Strange confirms the City will open its own investigation into the fatal shooting of Gregory Gunn. Strange says the investigation will not hinder that of the State Bureau of Investigation.

(Ronald Sams, a retired 3-Star General and Dir. of City Investigations for Montgomery will handle the city's investigation. Source: WSFA 12 News)

MARCH 9, 2016

Gregory Gunn's family reacts to news that the Montgomery Police Department will launch its own investigation into the handling of the deadly police shooting.

"It is apparent that there are some in law enforcement who do not believe in our justice system," the statement reads, in part.

(Full statement from the Offices of Means Gillis Law regarding MPD's own probe. Source:

MARCH 10, 2016

Circuit Judge Jimmy Pool sets a hearing date to discuss three motions filed by Officer Smith's attorneys in which they are seeking to exclude their client from being present at a March 24 preliminary hearing, add extra security, close the proceedings, and film the hearing for a future lawsuit against the District Attorney's office.

(A judge will consider motions regarding Officer Smith's presence, security, and other matters at a March 15 hearing. Source: WSFA 12 News)

MARCH 11, 2016

Judge Pool denies Officer Smith's motion that sought to keep him from being physically at March 24 preliminary hearing.

(Court documents show Judge Jimmy Pool's denial of motion. Source: AlaCourt)

MARCH 13, 2016

On Sunday, Mayor Todd Strange issues a statement saying the city's internal investigation into the shooting has been suspended pending the SBI's investigation.

"Opening this inquiry is not contrary to normal practices, in fact it is standard procedure. However, this inquiry was suspended pending the SBI investigation, which we requested…" Strange said. He clarified the statement on March 15.

(Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange makes a statement confirming the City's investigation has been suspended.)

MARCH 14, 2016

The Montgomery County Court administrator officially advises media requests to have cameras inside the courtroom are denied by Judges Reese and Pool.

MARCH 15, 2016

Mayor Strange clarifies statements he made Sunday indicating that the city's investigation was suspended pending the completion of the SBI investigation, but is now ongoing.

(Mayor Strange clarifies a statement regarding the city's investigation being suspended. Source: WSFA 12 News)

MARCH 16, 2016

Officer A.C. Smith attends a motion hearing that lasts all of 10 minutes in the courtroom of Judge Jimmy Pool. The judge declined each of three motions put forth by Smith's attorneys.

(Officer A.C. Smith arrives for a March 16 motion hearing with his attorneys. Source: WSFA 12 News)

MARCH 17, 2016

Officer Smith's attorneys file court motion to appear and testify before any current or future grand jury in his case.

MARCH 24, 2016

Nearly a month after Gregory Gunn's death, Officer Smith and his legal team were in court for a preliminary hearing to see the evidence in the case against him.

During the preliminary hearing State Bureau of Investigation case agent Jason Dinunzio testified, revealing details of the struggle between Smith and Gunn.

Dinunzio says Smith changed his story in the second interview he gave after the fatal shooting. Smith's attorney says his client suffered a panic attack and that his statements changed after he was able to better reflect what happened.

(Officer Smith arrives for his court appearance on March 24. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

Judge Jimmy Pool ruled there was enough evidence to show probable cause and ordered the case bound over to a grand jury.

NOVEMBER 18, 2016

A Montgomery County grand jury returns with an indictment of murder against Office Smith. 


DECEMBER 2, 2016

Officer Smith's attorneys request a change of venue for his trial, citing media reports and racial prejudice as reasons.

DECEMBER 6, 2016

Judge Johnny Hardwick recuses self from case citing a personal conflict. He's replaced by Judge James Anderson.

MARCH 23, 2017

Montgomery Circuit Court Judge James Anderson recuses from the case after being advised by the Judicial Inquiry Committee that his son, as a private attorney, couldn't benefit financially from any decision he makes on the bench, which in this case would allow Anderson to preside over the murder case.

Montgomery Circuit Judge Roman Shaul appointed to preside over the case.

Judge Shaul later becomes the third judge to recuse himself from the case, declining to give a reason why.

Judge Greg Griffin is appointed to hear the case.

MAY 15, 2017

Smith's attorney's file a motion seeking the recusal of Judge Greg Griffin from the case citing two Facebook posts he made  not long after Smith was charged with murder. The judge discussed being stopped by Montgomery police officers during a morning walk and a subsequent meeting to discuss the incident with the top brass at MPD.   

(Judge Greg Griffin's first Facebook post from April 13, 2016. (Source: Facebook)

MAY 18, 2017

Judge Griffin declines to recuse himself from the case stating that "I can take this black robe off, but I can't take this black skin off. This troubles me. Y'all put race in it." The defense said they will appeal his decision to the Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals.

(Judge Greg Griffin (Source: WSFA 12 News)

JUNE 13, 2017

Judge Greg Griffin declines to allow a change of venue and sets a trial date for October.

AUGUST 14, 2017

The Alabama Court of Criminal Appeals declines to force Judge Greg Griffin to recuse from hearing the case. Attorneys for Officer Smith say they will appeal to the Alabama Supreme Court. They also file a motion for immunity from prosecution.

AUGUST 21, 2017

Officer Smith's attorney's file Writ of Mandamus with Alabama Supreme Court seeking to force Judge Greg Griffin to recuse from the case.



The Alabama Supreme Court issued a temporary stay of Officer Smith's case until it rules on the Writ of Mandamus.

OCTOBER 23, 2017

No timeline for MPD officer's murder trial, awaiting AL Supreme Court ruling

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