MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A judge refused to grant immunity Thursday to a white Alabama police officer who said he was acting in self-defense when he fatally shot an unarmed black man in 2016.
Montgomery police officer Aaron Cody Smith will go on trial next month on murder charges for the death of 58-year-old Greg Gunn.
Montgomery Judge Greg Griffin made the decision to deny immunity after a hearing in which Smith described an escalating confrontation and what he said was his fear for his life because Gunn was “arming himself” with a painter’s pole, WSFA reported.
“I have to admit to you I didn’t find the officer’s testimony credible,” Griffin said. “I don’t feel you have met the burden of proof. This trial will proceed on August 13.”
The February 2016 shooting happened after Smith stopped Gunn as Gunn was walking through his neighborhood.
Smith testified he was “absolutely” in fear of his life when he made the decision to shoot, the station reported. He said Gunn swatted his hand away during a frisk and then ran from him. Smith said he first tried a stun gun and baton to control him. Smith said he pulled his weapon because he thought Gunn was arming himself with a six-foot (1.8-meter) painter’s pole from a front porch.
“He went from trying to get away from me — and everything I’ve tried to do to stop him is not working; taser is useless, baton is useless, telling him to get on the ground is completely useless — and now he’s arming himself, and I felt completely threatened on the front porch,” Smith testified according to the Montgomery Advertiser.
Gunn was shot five times.
Smith said he stopped Gunn, who was walking, because the patrol district had been “tore up” with burglaries and had been directed in pre-shift roll call meetings to “stop anyone and anything that moves in the district,” the Montgomery Advertiser reported.
Smith said he believed he did everything right, the newspaper reported.
“With how I’m being treated being in my district doing my job, it would have been a whole lot easier to turn on my music, text my girlfriend, stay in my car and never get out of the car in the first place,” Smith said, according to the newspaper. “I’d still be working, I’d still be on the street doing my job. But I chose to do my job at 3 in the morning with nobody looking over my shoulder and I’ve been railroaded for it.”