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Montgomery police officer indicted on murder charge in shooting of Gregory Gunn

Published: Nov. 18, 2016 at 9:29 PM CST|Updated: Nov. 19, 2016 at 3:35 PM CST
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(Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)
Gregory Gunn (Source: Gunn family)
Gregory Gunn (Source: Gunn family)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)
(Source: WSFA 12 News)
Henry Lewis Gillis, who represents the Gunn family, discusses the latest in the case. (Source:...
Henry Lewis Gillis, who represents the Gunn family, discusses the latest in the case. (Source: WSFA 12 News)

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The family of a man killed during an encounter with a Montgomery police officer says they are pleased with the pace the court case is progressing, following the officer's indictment for murder.

On Friday, it was announced that a group of Montgomery County residents, who made up the grand jury, found enough probable cause for Officer Aaron Smith to be charged with the crime.

Smith is accused of shooting and killing Gregory Gunn earlier this year.

[TIMELINE: The shooting death of Gregory Gunn]

Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey issued a news release following the indictment stating:

"Eighteen Citizens of Montgomery County, who were empaneled by a Montgomery County Circuit Judge, issued an indictment today against Aaron C. Smith for the crime of Murder.  I want to be clear, that the indictment issued today is not an indictment against the Montgomery Police Department or any other law enforcement agency.  The Montgomery Police Department and the City of Montgomery cooperated fully with the State Bureau of Investigation and the District Attorney’s Office during the course of this investigation.  The Montgomery Police Department is made up of men and women that everyday protect our community in a lawful and professional manner.  They are truly the thin blue line between a peaceful community and anarchy.

A State Bureau of Investigation Agent, Magistrate, District Court Judge and now a Grand Jury have all determined probable cause that Aaron C. Smith should be charged with the crime of Murder.  A jury will determine his guilt or innocence.  Due to the Alabama Rules of Professional Conduct I cannot and will not comment any further regarding this indictment or the investigation of this case. Furthermore, the Rules require me to remind everyone that an indictment is only an accusation and Aaron C. Smith is presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a Court of Law."    

Henry Lewis Gillis represents the Gunn family and says relatives sensed news about the grand jury proceedings would be coming soon.

"We knew that the indictment would be returned. We did not see how any group of Montgomery citizens could do anything but return an indictment given the facts under which Greg died," he said.

On Feb. 25, Officer Smith was working third shift when he initiated an investigation of a 'suspicious man,' Gunn, 59, around 3:20 a.m. in the 3200 block of McElvy Street in Montgomery's Mobile Heights neighborhood. There was an altercation between the two men and Gunn lost his life. He was shot five times.

Officer Smith was arrested and charged with murder on March 2.

On March 24, nearly a month after 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.

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.

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

It took roughly nine months for the state forensics lab to process the evidence from the scene, allowing the state to prepare and present the findings to the grand jury.

On Friday afternoon, Smith's attorney Mickey McDermott confirmed the officer was indicted and said he plans to fight the case in court.

McDermott said he and attorney Roianne Conner will prove that Smith is innocent.

According to the Montgomery Police Department, Smith remains on administrative leave pending the city's determination of disciplinary action.

"Due to pending litigation, the Montgomery Police Department is in consultation with the City Legal Department regarding this ongoing matter," spokeswoman Lt. Regina Duckett said in an email.

Gillis says the Gunn family is following the case every step of the way.

"When you look at the facts and circumstances of the case, Greg Gunn did nothing wrong. All he was doing is walking home. The officer has acknowledged on at least two occasions that he had no reason to believe that he had committed a crime. He did not observe him doing anything. And in each instance in which there was a confrontation, Gregg was trying to run away from him, not run to him, not cause any commotion whatsoever,"  he said.

Gunn's mother, Nellie Ruth Gunn, has struggled with her son's death. Other relatives stepped in to help provide support.

"Mrs. Gunn had come to depend upon her son and he was taken away from her...she misses her son and will forever miss her son," he said. "She simply asks that a trial be held and she believes that God will deliver a verdict that is just. We are glad that the District Attorney has moved not in any hurried manner, but certainly has moved in a manner that the evidence would dictate in this case."

The case has gotten attention from many different media outlets.

"They've been thrust into the spotlight, both here locally and nationally. We've had national people calling for interviews in connection with other instances in which black unarmed males have been shot and killed by law enforcement officials," Gillis added.

Arraignment is next in the criminal case, which is a formal way of telling a defendant what they're charged with and making sure they have legal counsel.

After that, the case will be assigned to a judge and put on the docket. No dates for the case have been set in circuit court.

Meanwhile, the Gunn family is suing Officer Smith, the City of Montgomery and the police chief. The civil case is pending in federal court. They're waiting for the judge to rule on some preliminary motions that have been filed.

"They want to return, in a sense, to some normalcy in their lives but until all of this is over, they're not going to have any closure. They can't get it behind them so they live with it every day but they are faithful, God-fearing people. We're going to be patient and allow the system to work, but we're going to fight," Gillis said.

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