Multiple officer ambushes prompts promise for action by Selma chief

Selma's police chief promising action after multiple officer ambushes
Published: Sep. 5, 2018 at 11:20 PM CDT|Updated: Sep. 6, 2018 at 10:13 AM CDT
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SELMA, AL (WSFA) - Selma's police chief says the department is taking action after a series of officer ambushes.

"I wish I could say that's unusual, but in my 18 months that's at least the sixth time we've been ambushed in that housing complex," said Police Chief Spencer Collier.

Collier says on Monday officers were lured into George Washington Carver Housing Complex - responding to a 911 call. Collier says the suspect or suspects saw the patrol vehicle and started shooting.

"Our chief investigator was shot at - at least 10 - 12 times and his vehicle was hit multiple times. By the grace of God he was not hit," said Collier. "We recovered a 7.62 millimeter - which is an AK47 or an SKS. That is a military grade high powered rifle."

The patrol truck has multiple bullet holes and the back window of the vehicle was shot out. Chief Collier says looking at the bullet trail, it looks like the shooter was shooting to kill.

"If you look at where they're striking our vehicles - it started at the rear of the vehicle and shot all the way towards the front," Collier said. "So he was obviously shooting towards the officer."

Lt. Tory Neely was driving the patrol truck that night and says he heard the loud blasts of the rifle but didn't immediately realize his truck had been shot.

"I really didn't know the vehicle was hit until I turned and went back and saw the bullet holes and glass on the ground," he said.

Neely says this isn't the first time he's taken fire responding to calls at the complex.

"This has happened to me two times before - in the same complex...was shot at in the same style incident," he said.

Now whenever a call comes in to go -- Neely says he's not sure what to expect.

"When I arrive in the area, I am very cautious," said Neely. "When I exit the vehicle. I'm extremely cautious and paying attention to what's going on."

In the most recent incident, Collier says officers were lured into the area for an ambush. He says in other instances, officers have been shot at to distract them from responding to criminal activity.

"We've intercepted phone calls during traffic calls and people have literally said you want me to shoot now," Collier said.

Collier also says he believes the person or people behind the incidents don't live in the GWC community but have recruited younger teens in the area to carry out their ambush missions. Either way - he has one word to describe them.

"You jump out a car and fire at cops from two blocks away and that make you somehow tough -- what it makes you is an absolute coward," he said. "That's my message to them."

The department has partnered with federal agents to find and arrest the person or people responsible and hand down tougher punishment.

"They're going to see more police officers at GWC than they've ever seen in their life," said Collier. "No more state charges. Every time we can get a federal nexus - we're going to charge them federally."

Police say to stop the problem also involves help from the community.

"If the community doesn't get together with the police it's like we're fighting a war and this is what happens every time a police officer responds to a call," said Sgt. Jeffery Hardy, Homicide Division. "Some of the calls in some of the areas are not going to get answered because of this type of action."

Chief Collier says the new detail in the community is expected to start Thursday. He is also pushing for more funding from the city for the department to help fight and prevent crime.

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