Mayor clarifies, says city's internal probe of Gunn death ongoing

Published: Mar. 13, 2016 at 8:21 PM CDT|Updated: Mar. 16, 2016 at 2:42 AM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange clarified Tuesday a statement he made over the weekend regarding the suspension of an internal investigation by the Office of City Investigations into the officer-involved shooting death of Gregory Gunn.

Strange stated Sunday that, "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…"

Tuesday, the mayor explained he meant that after the deadly shooting the Office of City Investigations was alerted, and the city's investigation started after the SBI's investigation was completed.

"We then said to our city investigation, 'Let's now begin the on investigation again,' and so that's where we have been," the mayor said Tuesday. "For earnest, I think they really started this week. I know that the head, General [Ronald] Sams (Dir. of City Investigations), was supposed to go to Washington with us, and he's staying here to work on that simply because we've asked all of our people that are involved to drop other things."

Even though Strange stated that the city's investigation has resumed, we have not received word from the SBI that their investigation is complete.

Strange said Sunday the city's investigation was requested so that the city could examine the procedural or administrative practices that happened during the time of the Feb. 25 shooting.

"This is not an effort to contradict or second guess the ongoing work of SBI," Strange cautioned.

The investigation would help the city determine if any procedures or practices needed to be reevaluated or revised, the mayor explained.

"The independent investigation being conducted by the State Bureau of Investigation is working to determine the facts in this matter, and we will continue to cooperate fully and watch closely as this proceeds through the judicial process," Strange said.

It has been almost three weeks since Gunn was shot and killed in the Mobile Heights neighborhood in Montgomery. Strange called it a tragic situation that everyone is still trying to understand.

Gunn was shot by Montgomery police officer A.C. Smith in the 3200 block of McElvy Street. According to MPD, Smith was on routine patrol when he noticed what he believed to be a suspicious man walking down the street. Smith engaged Gunn, and there was a struggle that continued for about a block. At some point Smith fired his weapon, fatally injuring Gunn.

Five days after the shooting, on March 2, Smith was charged with murder by the District Attorney's office citing probable cause by the State Bureau of Investigation.

Strange acknowledged the fact that these are troubling times for both Gunn's family and neighbors, as well as for Officer Smith and his fellow officers.

"These brothers and sisters in blue are struggling to reconcile the arrest of a young officer they describe as 'squared away,' who was twice named officer of the month and has been decorated by the MPD," Strange said. "We all know police work is difficult and dangerous. It's both physically and emotionally demanding, and that is why the City has much [sic] stringent standards in place to guide us through the recruitment, hiring and training process among applicants to the police academy."

Over the past few weeks, Strange says he has spent many hours with both the Gunn family, as well as Officer Smith and MPD officers.

Strange pleaded with the citizens of Montgomery to not let the investigation divide the community and to not allow this incident to tear down the bridges that have have built as a community.

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