Two new billboards have been put up in Montgomery to demand justice for the death of Stephen Perkins who was killed by police on Sept. 29 in Decatur.
The billboards were put up in collaboration between Standing in Power, a community organization in Decatur, and the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC). The billboards are placed at 1424 Madison Avenue west of Hopper and the I-65 Herron Street Exit in Montgomery.
Terrance Adkins, a co-founder of Standing in Power, said the goal of the billboards is to spread awareness and let those in power know, specifically the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA), that they’re serious about fighting for justice.
“We’re trying to expand the message farther than Decatur and farther than North Alabama and we felt like the Capitol of the state was the best place to do that,” Adkins said. “So we’re just trying to continue to spread awareness to make sure that everyone knows about what’s going on. And to also show ALEA, because the signs are pretty close to the ALEA office, that we’re watching what they’re doing.”
On Dec. 4 Mayor Tab Bowling is expected to announce his decision regarding how the officers involved in Perkins’ death will be disciplined.
Perkins was effectively ambushed by officers as security camera footage from surrounding homes captured the shooting. The police were allegedly called there for a vehicle repossession but never identified themselves nor knocked on Perkins’ door. Footage of the incident depicts officers hiding around Perkins’ house and at least one officer hiding across the street with no sign of police cars to be seen.
Perkins eventually came outside and in mere seconds, officers would shoot and kill the 39-year-old Black man. Since surveillance video of the footage was revealed the residents of Decatur have protested and continued to push changes to policing in the city.
On Nov. 17 Decatur’s Chief of Police Todd Pinion said an internal investigation found that the officers involved with Perkins’ killing violated department policy. However, Pinion clarified that disciplinary action taken would be up to Bowling.
“I found reason to believe that policies were violated,” Pinion said, “and the final report and findings were sent to the Legal Department and outside counsel late this afternoon to prepare the formal documents to move forward the discipline process. Under our merit system rules, a chief of police cannot issue discipline beyond written reprimands and it is my professional opinion that such discipline is warranted. The Mayor will conduct a review and make a final determination if discipline is warranted and to what extent.”
Residents in Decatur continue to demand transparency, accountability and change from the Decatur Police Department and city officials.
Michael Capps said during a Nov. 27 meeting that he felt God wanted justice for Perkins and that the actions of the officers amounted to premeditated murder in his eyes.
“About three months ago we didn’t have cameras at my house so I feel like God wants justice for Steve,” Capps said. “There wouldn’t have been an opportunity for those things to be seen if it wasn’t for those cameras. The truth is there. What happened, I’ve studied those things from one end to another. I know where everybody was at, what time, where they were at, what they were doing. I’ve heard crazy rumors about manslaughter charges but I’m like there’s no way anything can be considered other than premeditated.”
Capps added that whether Perkins had a gun or not police did not give him a window to respond before immediately shooting him.
Adrianna Tapscott, also a co-founder of Standing in Power, said the organization’s demands are for the officers involved in Perkins’ death to be terminated, arrested and prosecuted. Tapscott said she desires for the U.S. Department of Justice or FBI will get involved because she doesn’t trust ALEA and hopes one of those entities would investigate the entire Decatur police department.
“My desire is that the Department of Justice will come in and kind of intervene, because I don’t trust ALEA,” Tapscott said. “Or maybe the FBI will come in and not just intervene not just into [Perkins’] case but with the whole department.”
ALEA has been conducting an investigation into Perkins’ shooting death since being asked to by Pinion. Now, nearly two months later community members are skeptical about why the investigation is taking so long given the nature of the surveillance footage. Adkins believed the investigation was stalling because they were attempting to “cover it up.”
Tapscott and Adkins both told APR that the entire community, regardless of color, was motivated and have been closer than ever fighting for Perkins. Aneesah Lige, the third co-founder of Standing in Power, said they must work toward creating a future where everyone can “live without fear.”
“The death of Steve Perkins, allegedly at the hands of the Decatur Police Department, is an absolute tragedy that should never have occurred,” Lige stated. “His life was abruptly taken away, leaving a void that can never be filled. We must demand justice for Steve Perkins and hold those responsible accountable, ensuring that this type of violence is eradicated from our communities. Let us remember Steve as the victim of a broken legal system and work tirelessly to create a future where everyone is treated with dignity, respect, and the right to live without fear.”