Friday, Huntsville Police Officer Billy Clardy III was shot and killed in the line of duty. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey (R) expressed her grief at the loss of yet another Alabama law enforcement officer killed defending the public safety of the people of Alabama.
Officer Clardy was part of a STAC team operation that set up a drug buy at a house on Levert Street Friday night. When officers arrived, LaJeromeny Brown allegedly shot Clardy. The officers maintaining the perimeter caught Brown after a short foot chase. Clardy was rushed to the hospital where he died from his wound.
Clardy was a fourteen year veteran of the Huntsville Police Department. His family has a long history in law enforcement in Madison County. STAC is a multi-jurisdictional federal drug task force led by the Huntsville Police Department.
LaJeromeny Brown, age 41, has been charged with capital murder for the slaying of Agent Clardy.
“I am grieved to hear of the Huntsville Police Officer killed in the line of duty and extend my deepest sympathies and prayers to his family for their unimaginable loss,” Gov. Ivey said in a statement. “It has been an exceptionally tough year for our law enforcement community, and this will be felt across our state. I will also be praying for strength for the Huntsville Police as they grieve the loss of their fellow officer, as well as for their continued protection as they keep us safe. May the Lord’s peace that passes all understanding be with the family and everyone who loved this dedicated officer.”
“With the loss of Officer Clardy, all of us lost a little bit of life yesterday,” Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle said. “Clardy was the first officer I rode with after being elected Mayor, and I’ll never forget his spirit, his selfless dedication to this City and his true talent as an officer.”
“Officer Clardy was an exemplary Community Resource Officer with a special emphasis of taking care of the homeless,” Battle added. “In addition to being a member of the STAC team, Officer Clardy was a key member of HPD’s Anti-Crime team. He was a great example of the heart and soul of being a police officer. We stand united as a City, as a State and as a Nation in support of the Huntsville Police Department and the Clardy family.”
“A @HSVPolice officer has fallen tonight, killed by gunfire in the line of duty,” Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall (R) said on social media. “As we mourn the loss of yet another one of Alabama’s heroes, let us pledge to find ways to keep law enforcement safe. Please pray for the officer’s family and fellow officers. #ThinBlueLine.”
“Last night, a Huntsville police officer was tragically killed in the line of duty,” Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) said. “My thoughts and prayers go to him, his family, and his colleagues. America’s law enforcement is all that stands between dangerous criminals and our families. Please thank all police officers who risk their lives for us.”
“All of Alabama is heartbroken again as another Alabama peace officer is gunned down in the line of duty,” U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town said in a statement. “The Huntsville Police Department investigator, whose name will be released tomorrow, will always be remembered as a good man and a fine officer. Those of us who knew him admired his dedication and professionalism. We must now direct our prayers to his grieving family and pull together in full support of the Huntsville Police Department and law enforcement everywhere who lost another brother of the badge tonight. I am beyond grief.”
“The Madison County Democrats express deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of Officer Billy Clardy,” the Party said in a statement. “Officer Clardy was the nephew of Retired Deputy Sheriff and former Democratic Candidate, Tim Clardy. Words cannot express the community’s gratitude each citizen feels towards every officer who puts their life on the line for our safety every day, and for the families they leave to grieve their memory.”
“When we talk about a family in law enforcement, the STAC team is a prime example of that,” said Madison County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Stacy Bates. “It’s kind of the ultimate representative of what a family-type law enforcement unit is.”
The STAC Team has been fighting drugs in Huntsville for decades.
“There’s no investigation too small that they don’t handle, there’s none too big they can’t handle,” said Bates.
Brown is a parolee with a long, sordid history of repeated criminal conduct. In 2013 his probation was revoked after he was arrested for conspiracy to distribute crack. That year, he was on a list of the 31 most dangerous criminals in Chattanooga released by the Mayor of that city. In March 2018, Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Poole filed a petition seeking a warrant for Brown for a parole violation after the Border Patrol arrested him near Laredo, Texas and charged him with being a felon in possession of a firearm. Poole argued that that and leaving the jurisdiction of his parole justified revocation of parole. On October 2018, Poole filed another petition for a warrant stating that Brown committed another crime after he was arrested by the Chattanooga Police issued warrants for Brown’s arrest on the charges of: aggravated robbery aggravated burglary, aggravated kidnapping, and impersonating a police officer. He is a suspect in a series of home invasions in 2018. He was arrested again in December 2018 and charged with assault of a police officer.
A lack of sufficient prison space to house the many dangerous repeat offenders like Brown is an issue that confronts the state of Alabama and many other states.
Clardy’s father, Billy Clardy Jr., was killed in the line of duty, in a fatal car crash in 1978 at age 26. Clardy III had hung an ornament on the Fallen Officers Tree in honor of his father on November 29.
Clardy is the seventh member of law enforcement killed in the line of duty in Alabama this year.
(Original reporting by WHNT Channel 19 TV and WAAY Channel 31 TV contributed to this report.)
Seventh Alabama inmate dies after testing positive for COVID-19
A seventh Alabama inmate has died after testing positive for COVID-19, and the man is the second person from the infirmary at the Staton Correctional Facility to have tested positive for the virus and subsequently died.
Daniel Everett, 74, died Tuesday after testing positive for coronavirus at a local hospital, the Alabama Department of Corrections announced in a press release Wednesday. Everett, who had been housed in Staton’s infirmary due to previous illnesses, was tested after another inmate in the infirmary, 80-year-old Robert Stewart, tested positive for the virus and died on June 14.
Coronavirus seems to be spreading among inmates and staff at Staton prison, where, as of Tuesday, there have been 17 confirmed cases among inmates and 23 among workers. That’s more confirmed cases than in any other state prison. Tutwiler prison follows closely behind at 39 confirmed cases — 10 among inmates and 29 among employees, one of whom died.
ADOC also announced that an inmate at St. Clair Correctional Facility, one at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women and another at Staton prison all tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total confirmed coronavirus cases among state inmates to 68, 43 of which remain active, according to the department.
Of the state’s approximately 22,000 inmates, 329 had been tested as of Tuesday, according to ADOC.
In addition to the new cases among inmates, ADOC said a worker at the Easterling Correctional Facility and an employee at the Alabama Corrections Academy tested positive for COVID-19. There have been 165 confirmed cases among ADOC staff, who are asked to self-report if they receive positive test results independently. ADOC has not offered free testing to staff.
ADOC announced last week the first death of a prison worker, an employee at Tutwiler prison, who tested positive for COVID-19.
Despite calls by Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, and numerous criminal justice reform groups and advocates for incarcerated people for ADOC to increase COVID-19 testing and release as many of the very sick and older inmates as possible, who are more at risk from the virus, the department has not publicly indicated plans to do so.
ADOC Commissioner Jeff Dunn in an op-ed published in the Alabama Daily News on Monday wrote that he believes the depiction by some of prisons as petri dishes for the virus is not entirely off base, and said that “an enclosed environment housing a disproportionately unhealthy population where social distancing is virtually impossible, coupled with COVID-19’s highly contagious nature and long incubation period, creates a recipe for a potential health disaster if not managed correctly.”
But Dunn wrote that handling the pandemic in prisons “cannot be reduced to simple conversations about testing data or be solved through the sudden release of unrehabilitated inmates back into society.”
As the confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths continue to increase in Alabama prisons, the virus is also surging outside prison fences and across the state.
Alabama on Monday saw a new record number of patients in hospitals with COVID-19, and the number of new cases in the state has continued to reach record highs in recent days.
How qualified immunity affected an Alabama man shot five times during a police sting
Trinell King was driving his girlfriend’s car to give an acquaintance, Donavan Brown, a ride when a Warrior Police Department officer pulled him over because the car didn’t have a license plate.
King, who is Black, didn’t have proof of insurance or a driver’s license that September day in 2015, but gave the officer a photo ID.
Brown — on the other hand — gave a false name, and while the officer was back at his police vehicle, King told Brown to be honest with the officer, according to court records in a case over the incident. Brown told King that he had outstanding warrants and a gun. He was going to run.
Brown got out of the car and ran, and the officer ordered King out at gunpoint, handcuffed him and placed him in the back of the police car. King fully cooperated and told the officer that Brown had a gun. Even the responding officers, in court depositions, agreed that King fully cooperated.
Soon, King was surrounded by numerous white officers, one of whom testified in a deposition that King was “extremely cooperative from the beginning” and “willing to give [them] any information without having to really ask.”
King’s only crime was driving without insurance or a license, not something Warrior police usually arrest someone for, officers said in depositions, but he remained handcuffed while officers tried to coerce him into helping capture the armed man who’d ran from the scene.
“F— him [i.e. meaning King], you don’t want to help us out, we’re going to throw — we’re going to hit you with this charge, you gonna start f—ing us over, we’ll f— over you,” King said an officer told him, while testifying in a deposition.
Officers repeatedly threatened King that they would “f—” him “over” if he didn’t help.
King said he was “nervous” and “scared” — that he “felt threatened.” He believed his “life was in danger,” according to court records, and after nearly two hours of coercion, he agreed to take part in a dangerous sting operation to capture Brown. Police officers in depositions disputed that they coerced King into helping them with the sting operation, and said it was his idea to do so, according to those records.
“With the negotiation, the threats, everything they was telling me, if I don’t cooperate they’re going to throw some charges on me, and they going to f— me over. So in the streets that means it could mean anything. It can mean being shot. It can mean being anything. My life —,” King said in a deposition.
Going along with the plan, an officer called Brown and put a cell phone to King’s ear while he was handcuffed. King told Brown what he was told to say: that police had let him go. He could come and pick Brown up. Police told King to drive his girlfriend’s car, pick up Brown and that they’d pull him over again.
Once again, an officer told King “if you f— over us, we’re going to f— over you,” according to the court documents.
Once King picked up Brown, the officers decided to pull him over before they had discussed, Brown pulled his gun and told King he “had” to shoot the officers, according to court records.
“King could not stop the car before Brown started shooting, and the officers returned fire,” King’s attorneys wrote in a court filing.
King, who wasn’t given a bullet-proof vest, was struck by bullets five times, and there were 20 bullet holes in the car. Brown was shot 13 times, but remarkably both survived. One officer was shot but was protected by a vest. King underwent multiple surgeries, but lost the use of one arm.
King’s case is an Alabama example of how the legal doctrine of qualified immunity prevents some who’ve been harmed by the actions of law enforcement from seeking relief from courts. Qualified immunity, a controversial doctrine established by Supreme Court precedent, protects government officials who have been sued in their individual capacity, unless their actions violate established legal precedent.
King sued, but a U.S. District Court judge in 2017 dismissed the case before it even went to trial on grounds of qualified immunity, and a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals in a June 5 ruling also found that the officers were protected by qualified immunity.
Despite the courts’ rulings, witnesses testified that the officers’ actions were improper.
Daniel Busken, a retired police chief and law enforcement consultant, testified in a deposition as a witness for King that the officers should have known they were putting King’s life at risk.
Busken said that the police “knew, or should have known, that their plan to force Mr. King to assist in their capture of Brown represented a significant danger to Mr. King’s safety … and an unpredictable situation for Mr. King,” because Brown “was a desperate man in a desperate situation that had showed how desperate he was.”
Another officer testified in a deposition that he was unaware of any plan to protect King’s life, or if the department had ever conducted such a sting before.
“Nevertheless, Defendants planned to have five vehicles and seven armed officers — all of whom planned to draw their guns on Brown — involved in the sting,” King’s attorneys wrote in an appeal.
The judges ruled that King could not bring his case before a jury to decide whether the officers should be held accountable for nearly costing him his life — not because his case lacked merit but because of the controversial legal doctrine of qualified immunity
Attorneys for King have appealed the 11th circuit panel’s ruling to the full 11th circuit court, and are asking all the circuit judges to reconsider, and to allow the case to go before a jury.
The attorneys argue that the officers violated his Constitutional protections. The June 5 ruling came at the peak of tensions between peaceful protestors and police, some of whom responded with tear gas and so-called rubber bullets.
The judges, in their opinion, wrote that “even taking King’s testimony as true and drawing all reasonable inferences in his favor, there is no evidence that the officers threatened him with false charges” — because the officer’s didn’t say what he might be charged with if he didn’t go along with their plan.
“As for the alleged threats of physical violence, the evidence is similarly thin,” the judge’s wrote. “If the officers had told King ‘help us, or we’re going to f–k you up’ (or something like that) then King would have a more compelling argument. But that isn’t what he said they said.”
“Instead, King testified that the officers told him “[if] you don’t want to help us out, we’re going to throw—we’re going to hit you with this charge, you gonna start f–king us over, we’ll f–k over you. I don’t know where you get your car back,” the judges wrote.
King’s attorneys in the appeal to the full 11th circuit argue that the case should be heard by a jury of King’s peers, and that the all-white judges on the panel are “good people with good intentions” but that they are out-of-touch with “the common experiences of the people, especially Black Americans, and the reasonable inferences that they would draw from the totality of the evidence presented.”
“Suffice it to state that Black and other Americans of color, and a significant amount of White and other Americans, would come to a different conclusion than the panel, based on their different life experiences, which is the reason why the Founders insisted that the Seventh Amendment require trial by jury, and not by a panel of judges who do not have the same life experiences,” King’s attorneys wrote.
King told APR that he was left without a choice, forced to risk his life in a bid to help the officers, with whom he cooperated from the start.
“I can’t believe that the courts have given the officers who made me help them catch their suspect immunity after they forced me to go along with their plan to trap him. They knew he was armed and dangerous. They put on their bullet proof vests while I waited, and they made me go pick him up with no protection at all,” King said in a statement. “I had done everything I could to cooperate and even told them his name, that he had a gun and had warrants on him, but then they forced me to help them catch him.”
“I didn’t have any choice because they made it clear that if I didn’t go along with their plan they were going to hurt me,” King continued. “There was no doubt about that. I was one Black man surrounded by all these white cops who were threatening me. How can judges sit there and say what a jury would think about that?”
Spurred by the death of George Floyd, a Black man killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis, protestors and criminal justice reform advocates are calling for an end to qualified immunity, which they say allows police to escape responsibility for harming the public.
On June 19, in a tribute to Juneteenth, Colorado Gov. Jared Polis signed into law a series of law enforcement reform bills, included among them an avenue for Coloradans to sue police in state court if their rights have been violated. The Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity Act states that “qualified immunity is not a defense to liability.”
Colorado is the first state to pass such legislation barring qualified immunity as protection for officials, but the state law can’t stop such officials from claiming qualified immunity if a case is brought before a federal court instead of a state court.
That could change, if the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against such protections, but earlier this month, the Supreme Court passed up a chance to rule on the matter.
It was the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1967 Pierson v. Ray case that established qualified immunity as a doctrine as a protection against frivolous lawsuits, and over the years, courts have expanded the protection, and the doctrine still has its supporters.
Democrats have pushed for broad police reforms in the wake of Floyd’s homicide, including an end to qualified immunity, but many Republicans argue that doing so would result in frivolous lawsuits and discourage people from becoming law enforcement officers.
The U.S. House of Representatives on June 25 passed a series of policing reforms in a largely party-line vote, but the Trump administration is threatening a veto, and the measure has little support among Republican lawmakers, just three of whom broke ranks and voted for the House bill.
Democrats opposed a GOP proposal in the U.S. Senate, and said the bill didn’t go far enough, effectively stalling that bill and leaving the matter in limbo as protests against police brutality continue across much of the country.
Birmingham attorney Rip Andrews, one of King’s attorneys, told APR in a statement that he hopes the full 11th circuit considers the case in the current context.
“Qualified immunity has so far kept Trinell from having his day in court in front a jury. Win or lose — a day supposedly guaranteed by the Seventh Amendment,” Andrews said. “His only chance now is the hope that the full Eleventh Circuit reads his story in the context of our time and agrees to hear his appeal.”
Sixth Alabama inmate dies after positive COVID-19 test
A sixth incarcerated person in Alabama died Monday after testing positive for COVID-19, the Alabama Department of Corrections announced Monday.
Wanda Gaye Dison, 68, who was serving at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka died at a local hospital Monday, according to the department. Dison was hospitalized for advanced, chronic health problems, was tested and found to be positive for coronavirus.
Dison’s exact cause of death is pending an autopsy.
Two more inmates at Tutwiler tested positive for COVID-19, ADOC also announced Monday. One woman was asymptomatic but was tested for precaution during a transfer from another facility and was found to be positive, according to the release. The other woman was tested after showing symptoms. Both are now in medical isolation.
There have been 29 COVID-19 cases among workers at Tutwiler and nine cases among inmates, according to the department. The prison was at 175 percent capacity in April, according to the department’s monthly statistical report.
ADOC on Thursday announced that a worker at Tutwiler prison died after testing positive for the virus, becoming the first Alabama prison worker to have died after receiving positive test results.
ADOC also announced eight new coronavirus cases among staff from five separate prisons, including the Birmingham Community Based Facility and Community Work Center, St. Clair Correctional Facility, Holman Correctional Facility, North Alabama Community Based Facility and Community Work Center and the Kilby Correctional Facility.
Forty-one of the 65 total COVID-19 cases among inmates remained active on Monday, while 82 of the 163 cases among staff were still active. Coronavirus cases have been confirmed in 27 of the state’s 32 facilities.
Alabama Department of Corrections investigating inmate death
A 38-year-old man serving at Donaldson Correctional Facility died last week, but the cause was unclear Monday.
The Alabama Department of Corrections in a statement to APR on Monday said the department was investigating the events that led up to the death of Darnell McMillian of Mobile County, but the department declined to answer APR’s questions on whether there is a correctional officer-related use-of-force investigation or an inmate-on-inmate assault investigation underway in his death.
The exact cause of McMillian’s death is pending an autopsy, according to the department’s statement.
There have been at least five inmate homicides in Alabama this year, four possible overdose deaths and five likely suicides, according to the ACLU of Alabama’s records. ADOC doesn’t typically release information on an inmate’s death unless journalists discover the death by other means and provide the name of the inmate to the department in a request for information.
During 2019, there were at least 8 suicides, 14 homicides, including two men who died after being beaten by correctional officers, and five possible overdose deaths.
The U.S. Justice Department in April 2019, released a report highlighting what the department described as systemic problems of violence, sexual assaults, drugs and homicides in Alabama’s overpopulated, understaffed prisons.
The Justice Department continues to negotiate with the state to prevent the possibility of a federal lawsuit over what the department says is a potential violation of the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment and its prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment.