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Opinion | Stephen Perkins didn’t have a chance

Perkins was shot to death by a police officer on Sept. 29th in his own front yard.

Stephen Perkins

My God. Stephen Perkins didn’t have a chance.

See and hear for yourself.

Perkins is the Decatur man who was killed by a police officer on Sept. 29th in his own front yard. He was shot to death in the early morning hours, when it was still so dark that Perkins needed a flashlight to see that a tow truck driver was trying to repossess his car.

Decatur police say they were there at the request of the driver, who apparently had tried to take the vehicle earlier but was threatened by Perkins. The grainy security footage, released by Perkins’ family, only plays for a few seconds. But it’s still obvious that the person who stepped out to confront the driver had mere seconds to figure out what was going on.

And it was during those seconds that police opened fire on that person, who is being identified as Perkins. Multiple shots were fired. Then it was over.

Perkins didn’t have a chance.

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Police say Perkins had a gun pointed at them. If that is true, it was a bad move by Perkins – especially if his motive was to stop a legitimate vehicle repossession attempt. 

But that still doesn’t justify what the police did. 

Springfield, Mass. Summer of 2021. Suspect Jose Montanez led police on a foot chase during which he repeatedly pointed his gun at police and members of the public. Montanez even allegedly fired his weapon a few times.

Two officers pursued Montanez on foot, but backed off when he turned and pointed his weapon at them. Several more officers arrived, and some of them noticed that he may have been out of ammunition. 

Maybe that’s why they didn’t shoot him. Or maybe not. The point is that they didn’t, and the officers were commended for their restraint by their superiors.

“The outcome of this call is a huge credit to all of the officers on scene who showed incredible and courageous restraint in this situation, and, due to their keen observation during a fast-moving incident, were able to avoid an officer-involved shooting,” Police Commissioner Cheryl Clapprood said in a statement according to the NBC television station in Boston. “The brazen actions of this suspect put in jeopardy the lives of our officers, several bystanders and himself and is an example of some of the most unpredictable, volatile and dangerous calls our officers respond to.”

Springfield’s Mayor agreed. “After reviewing this most chilling video, these officers showed tremendous restraint in not firing their weapons in this foot chase to subdue this violent offender, who was firing off his gun and pointing it at officers numerous times,” Mayor Domenic Sarno said. “Those officers and residents were put in harm’s way and a very traumatic situation – they could have been injured or, God forbid, killed. Is this what it is coming to?”

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Lavish praise from the mayor of a city and police commissioner … for restraint, and not shooting a suspect in cold blood. Even when being fired upon.

Imagine that, Huntsville mayor and police chief.

Back to Decatur. To his credit, Longtime Councilman Billy Jackson has called for the police chief to be fired and the officers who shot Perkins to be arrested. Good for him.

Meanwhile, people protesting the killing of Perkins are being arrested for alleged violations of law. Things like using curse words or stepping off a curb to retrieve a bullhorn.

My practice continues to be what my parents enforced during my childhood. I do my best not to curse in front of children. My chronological elders. My spiritual elders. Or on church property.

But in my old age – 60 years, y’all – I’ve concluded that there are some things worth cursing about. Things so innately profane that cursing is the only way to bear witness to the depth of their evil and depravity.

Killing an armed man in cold blood, in mere seconds, in his own front yard, in the middle of the night – without announcing a police presence in a timely fashion and giving him a chance to surrender his weapon peacefully – is one of those things.

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But if Jackson is the only one of Decatur’s leaders who knows that, what the hell is wrong with the rest of them?

David Person is a media personality and consultant who has been working in the Huntsville market since 1986 as a talk show host, columnist, and director/producer. David co-hosts the podcast Alabama Politics This Week.

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His name still needs to be cleared and his killer – or killers – held accountable.