Decatur, we have a problem.
I suspect city leaders were already aware of the problem long before hundreds – that’s right, hundreds – of people showed up at the city’s police station on Thursday night for a peaceful protest over the police shooting of Decatur resident Stephen Perkins.
White, Black, Hispanic – they showed up to let city leaders and police department officials and the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency know that they’re watching. That they’ve seen the suspicious behavior already. That they don’t want more of it.
They want justice. Whatever it might be. However it might look.
Because we’ve all seen the videos by now, and we know that something doesn’t add up.
Those security camera videos – and aren’t those things great, they almost make police bodycams, which the public so rarely get to see, unnecessary at this point – show a horrific scene.
It was 1:30 last Friday morning, on an average residential street in Decatur. Perkins was in his home asleep with his wife and child. When the videos begin, there is a tow truck in his driveway, and a vehicle is being lifted into the air for towing. It’s a repossession.
In the audio from the video, you can hear Perkins exit his home and shout at the driver, “Hey, put my truck down.” He is holding what appears to be a flashlight, but ALEA has released a statement saying that it was a gun with a light affixed to it.
But here’s why there’s such a problem. This is how police describe the next few seconds.
“Officers on scene ordered the homeowner to drop his weapon, which he refused to do. It was at this time the homeowner turned the gun towards one of the Officers on scene. The Officer discharged his duty weapon, striking the subject.”
Those comments were contained in an initial press statement sent out by Decatur PD. It went to all media outlets, and it appears in stories from local media up to CNN and other national outlets.
But here’s the thing: It’s complete and utter BS.
That’s not an opinion.
Watch the videos and listen to the audio. A couple of seconds after Perkins yells for the tow truck driver to put the truck down, there is a shout that comes from the area behind Perkins’ truck. It sounds an awful lot like, “Hey! Police!”
And immediately, shots were fired at Perkins. Eighteen of them in all, by my count.
In various media reports since, neighbors around Perkins’ home have shown where bullets struck their homes. One guy said he had six bullet holes in his house.
Perkins’ family said he was struck seven times. He died later that night.
But the quick shots from officers, and the BS press statement, aren’t the only issues with this.
According to police, Perkins had already threatened the tow truck driver earlier that night, when he showed up around 12:20 a.m. Perkins’ family maintains that the repo was improper and that Perkins was up to date on his payments.
Regardless, the tow company made contact with police and asked for assistance, allegedly claiming that Perkins threatened him with a gun.
But on the video, you can see that the driver has been on the scene for at least a couple of minutes. Cops, you can later see on the video, are all over the neighborhood around Perkins’ home – behind his truck, down the street, in the yard across the street.
But what you can’t see are cop cars. There are none in front of Perkins’ home. There are no cops visible to Perkins when he exits his home. There are no police cars with lights flashing out front, or anywhere visible.
Remember, this is allegedly a call to police about a tow truck driver being threatened by a man with a gun. Surely, the protocol for responding to such a call isn’t hiding around the suspect’s house.
And even more surely, the proper police protocol for encountering a man who is carrying a firearm in his own frontyard, in this open-carry state, isn’t to shoot him dead without even announcing your presence.
The whole thing stinks.
Police and Decatur officials aren’t talking yet, aside from the complete work of fiction that they released in the immediate hours after the shooting. Once the security camera footage from neighbors started to drop, they suddenly remembered that they needed to wait on the investigation to run its course first.
And, look, maybe there’s an explanation that none of us know about. Maybe there’s a good excuse for officers basically surrounding Perkins’ home but never making it known that they were there. Maybe there’s a reason so many cops were on the scene of a repo. Maybe there’s a reasonable explanation for the announcement of “POLICE” to be accompanied almost simulataneously with gun fire.
Because if there aren’t good explanations for those things, it’s going to be an even bigger problem.