2012 interstate shootout

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The 2012 interstate shootout was a spectacularly violent incident occurring on Interstate 20/59 near the 22nd Street exit in downtown Birmingham on November 30, 2012, involving the police security detail assigned to Mayor William Bell.

According to police sources, just before 8:00 PM, the mayor's official vehicle, a black Chevrolet Suburban, was traveling on 8th Avenue North to take Bell to his College Hills home following a YWCA Birmingham fundraiser at the Wine Loft.

While sitting at a stop light on the 300 block of 8th Avenue, at Little Five Points, a black Lincoln Town Car stopped at the light facing them caught the attention of the Mayor's guards. A passenger in that car was seen sitting up on the window sill, brandishing a handgun, which he then fired two or three times in the general direction of the Mayor's vehicle.

The officers reported the incident, along with a description of the suspect car, to dispatchers, then continued in the direction of the Mayor's residence. Meanwhile the Town Car U-turned and passed the Mayor's Suburban near 9th Avenue North at Arkadelphia Road. At this point the officers opted to begin following the suspect car at a safe distance, and proceeded to follow it onto I-59/20 eastbound. They witnessed a second burst of gunfire and remained in contact with police dispatch as well as responding patrol unit.

After a while, the Mayor's detail made the decision to activate the car's concealed light bars and sirens and attempt to get the suspect vehicle to pull over. The suspect car was seen maneuvering increasingly erratically before the driver lost control and crashed into the guard rail near the 22nd Street exit.

At this point, the Mayor's detail stopped their car, instructed the Mayor to keep down and out of sight, and approached the suspect vehicle with their service weapons drawn, shouting for the occupants to step out with their hands in the air. After the suspects began shooting from inside the car, the officers returned fire, wounding two suspects. Uniformed officers from the North Precinct arrived on the scene and blocked off all lanes of the interstate. Police below the elevated highway secured a bag of white powder and a handgun, believed to have been thrown from the scene above. No bystanders were harmed, and the injured suspects were taken to area hospitals for treatment.

The Alabama Bureau of Investigation opened an inquiry into the incident, assuming control of the investigation from Birmingham police. As of January 2013, no criminal charges have been filed related to the case.

In January 2013 Justin A. White, one of the individuals wounded in the shootout, filed a federal lawsuit claiming that officers fired at him without provocation and wrongfully placed him in custody. According to his filing, it was the Mayor's SUV that made a U-turn at Little Five Points in order to follow his vehicle into East Thomas, for no apparent reason.

In fear of his unknown pursuer, White claimed to have driven past his house (and past Bell's house), and to have gotten onto I-20/59 at Arkadelphia Road. He claims the Mayor's SUV only activated its lights and sirens at the 17th Street exit. Distracted, he claims to have swerved to avoid rear-ending another car, causing the crash into the guardrail.

White claims that after the collision, that officers with guns drawn approached his car, firing shots without provocation, injuring himself and a female passenger. Both were taken to a hospital and handcuffed to their beds until being released on December 2, with no charges filed. The lawsuit claims that White was the victim of harassment, assault and battery, and false imprisonment, and further claims that police prevented family members from visiting him in the hospital.

References

  • Robinson, Carol (December 1, 2012) "More details on wild interstate shooting involving Birmingham's mayor and his security detail." The Birmingham News
  • Faulk, Kent (January Man shot by Birmingham mayor's security team on Interstate 59/20 files federal lawsuit