Stories vary after shooting

Published 10:46pm Saturday, December 14, 2013

With rumors circling and accusations flying following an officer involved shooting earlier this month, Selma Chief of Police William Riley is standing behind previous comments he made that the officers involved acted responsibly and performed as they had been trained.

On Wednesday, Dec. 4., officers from the Selma Police Department responded to a disturbance call at a fast food restaurant on Broad Street.

Upon arriving, officers located the man who had been the reason for the disturbance call, 73-year-old Ananais Shaw, nearby in an abandoned building at the corner of Washington Street and Griffin Avenue.

Riley spoke with the Times-Journal the night of the shooting and said that Shaw had produced a hatchet and turned and rushed one of the officers, at which point one of the three officers fired their weapon, striking and killing Shaw.

Lawanda Sims was sitting on the front porch of her mother-in-law’s house on Griffin Avenue, and said she believes Shaw had turned not in a threatening manner, but rather to simply walk away from the police officers after they had located him.

“They had finally cornered him off,” Sims said. “When he figured he couldn’t go that way anymore, he partially stopped, I guess to see if he could go that way, to see which way he could get out. When he did that, I don’t know if the cop was nervous, or scared or what, figuring he was going to come over that way, and he shot him. Before I knew it was just ‘pow.’”

Sims’ mother-in-law, Gean Ford, was on the porch with her and said she doesn’t recall Shaw raising or waving the hatchet in a threatening manor as Riley describes.

“He had it in his hand but he never tried to raise it to attack them or nothing,” Ford said. “He just shot him.”

Another witness, Nathan Poellnitz, had been at the Church’s Chicken for lunch with a co-worker when the initial disturbance call was made from the restaurant, and said he watched Shaw carrying the hatchet in the moments before his death, but did not feel the man had done anything to warrant the fatal reaction from the officer.

“He had the hatchet in his hand,” Poellnitz said. “He may have been in the process of trying to bring it up, but has far as having that hatchet up, no sir, he did not. I’m not lying, I know what I seen and that was an unnecessary killing. That 73-year-old man had no reason to be dead. Deadly force was not justified.”

In response to witness statements that conflict with his department’s official statement, Riley said this week that he has no doubt in his officers’ performance because the officer who fired the fatal shot was wearing a vidmic, a video recording device he says filmed the incident.

“We’ve heard claims that say he got shot in the back, that officers that were not even there had shot him,” Riley said. “Some say all he did was turn around and officers shot him. We know that’s false. Some say he didn’t say a word to the officer, we know that’s false. And how do we know that’s false? We have the video.”

The video of the incident is now in possession of the Alabama Bureau of Investigation as they have taken control of the investigation since an officer was involved in the shooting.

Riley said he had heard several accounts that varied greatly from his initial statements and from what he has seen in the video, and he said when the final results of the ABI investigation are shown to a grand jury, he believes the video from the officer’s camera will reveal the truth of what happened.

“We’re very fortunate to have vidmic and we always tell our officers when you get out of your vehicle have your vidmic on because situations can go bad very quickly and we want to get the information,” Riley said. “We’re not trying to hide nothing, we’re not trying to deny nothing, we’re going to put the facts where they are and we stand by what we said.”

Riley said he would implore anyone who was witness to the shooting to file an official statement with ABI, citing the organization hopes to hear every voice while conducting a thorough investigation.

“They want to talk to everybody possible, go over the evidence and uncover everything including what the witnesses said,” Riley said. “What the officers said, what the video said, what the audio said.”

Riley said although his officers train extensively for situations like this, that doesn’t make the outcome of the incident that led to Shaw’s death any easier.

“We’re sad to see any loss of any life,” Riley said. “But, however, in police work these things will happen. It’s unfortunate they do, but sometimes these things will happen.”

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