An attorney representing the family of a man shot and killed by Montgomery police said Tuesday that video surveillance footage shows the man was unarmed, never threatened police and that he was given no commands prior to police firing multiple times into an occupied car.
One of those shots hit Gary Moncrief, 32, in the back of the head, killing him. Attorney Michael Strickland, who represents Moncrief’s family, said at least four rounds from a rifle fired by police struck the vehicle, narrowly missing Moncrief’s mother, who was in the car with her son.
Montgomery Police, however, have a different version of the events and they are just as emphatic that their version is the accurate one. In their version, provided the night of the shooting, Moncrief fired on officers and they returned fire, killing him. MPD Chief Ernest Finley described Moncrief that night as a “kidnap suspect,” and said there was “an exchange of gunfire.”
Asked Tuesday if Finley and MPD stood by their accounts of the night’s events, MPD public information officer Capt. Saba Coleman said, “Yes sir, he does.” All other questions were directed to the State Bureau of Investigations, which is, as normal practice, investigating the officer-involved shooting.
Strickland called Finley’s account “a lie” during an interview Tuesday.
“There’s a difference between just getting something wrong and lying, and they are lying about it,” Strickland said. “I don’t say that lightly. Their account is completely fabricated and I’ve seen the video to prove it. I’ve been doing this for 28 years and this is the most egregious thing I’ve ever seen.”
That video, Strickland said, came from the security cameras located outside of the Microtel Hotel in Montgomery, where the shooting took place. Strickland said he wasn’t allowed by the hotel’s owner to take a copy of the video from that night, but that he and two of his staffers were allowed to spend several minutes viewing it and taking notes on what they saw.
On that video, Strickland said, Moncrief can be seen exiting his hotel room holding a phone and vaping pen, but by the time he takes the elevator down to the lobby, he has placed both items in his pockets. When he exits the hotel, Strickland said, Moncrief makes his way to an awaiting car that is being driven by a family friend, in which his mother and aunt are also riding.
Strickland said that Moncrief’s mother reaches across the backseat and unlocks the rear door of the car for him, and he starts to get inside. At that point, Strickland said, what appears to be an unmarked, black MPD SUV quickly approaches the car, and Moncrief notices it. But Strickland said Moncrief didn’t alter his actions and continued to climb into the backseat of the car.
“The video shows an officer get out of the SUV with what looks to be some sort of an assault rifle, and he begins to fire into the car,” Strickland said. “He gives no commands to Gary. He barely pauses. He just starts to fire into the vehicle.”
Strickland said he later viewed Moncrief’s body and observed one bullet wound on the back of his head and an exit wound on his forehead. The car, he said, had been hit at least four times, but he was not sure how many shots had been fired.
“I’m telling you that this is what the video shows,” Strickland said. “It’s not my interpretation.”
APR attempted to obtain a copy of the video but attempts to reach the owner of the Microtel Hotel were unsuccessful on Tuesday. Strickland said his office has requested to view body cam and dashcam footage from the officers, but that request has not yet been addressed by MPD.
Strickland also disputed MPD’s and Finley’s accounts for why police were at the hotel that night and the assertion that Moncrief was a “kidnap suspect.”
According to Strickland, earlier that day, May 18, Moncrief’s girlfriend phoned police and reported a domestic altercation. When police went to investigate, they said witnesses informed them that Moncrief had taken his girlfriend hostage, with one report claiming he was holding her at gunpoint while taking her away.
While Strickland doesn’t dispute that an altercation took place, he said there was no kidnapping. And he said that Moncrief’s girlfriend later phoned MPD officers, spoke with a female officer, and informed the officer that she was fine and safely at home. Additionally, Strickland said Moncrief’s mother spoke with officers and told them that she would bring Moncrief to the police station to speak with them.
“They knew (his girlfriend) was safe and that she told them there was no kidnapping — they had gone to Atlanta together and back, and she was the one who rented the hotel room for Gary,” Strickland said. “They knew well before this shooting that there was no kidnapping. They had also talked to his mother. ”
APR specifically detailed the claims by Strickland, and statements he said were made by Moncrief’s girlfriend and Moncrief’s mother, in an email to MPD. Coleman said the department would have no additional comments.