By Erica Thomas, managing editor
BIRMINGHAM — The Birmingham Police chief held a press conference on Tuesday, May 4, 2021, concerning an officer-involved shooting that happened on April 4, 2021.
Chief Patrick Smith said since he took the job as chief in Birmingham, he made it a priority to be transparent. Smith showed three videos of the shooting. One was from a Ring camera in the neighborhood and the other two were from body-worn cameras of officers responding to the scene.
“Before I go into the video, I first want to extend my condolences to the Ray family,” Smith said. “I know that this is a critical incident, a significant, emotional event for them and their family and we all extend our deepest condolences. But I think it’s important for the greater good of the community that we hear and see what happened.”
The incident happened on Sunday, April 4, 2021, around 10:50 p.m. An officer was responding to a domestic disturbance inside a vehicle that was traveling in North Birmingham.
Officers located the vehicle in the 300 block of 9th Avenue West and tried to conduct a traffic stop. After refusing to stop, the driver crashed into a fence in the 200 block of 9th Avenue West. Police said the driver exited the vehicle and confronted officers by firing a single shot.
In the first video shown Tuesday, you can see the pursuit with officers. You can also hear several gunshots.
“That one first round, we determined, came from that handgun that Mr. Ray had,” said Smith.
The officers retired fire, and you can hear several gunshots after the initial shot. The man, later identified as Desmon Montez Ray, 28, of Birmingham, was taken UAB Hospital where he died.
In the second video, you can see one officer running towards the suspect and yelling, “shots fired!” You also see the suspect on the ground, bleeding. A handgun was recovered from the scene. You can see the gun in the second body camera video that Smith provided Tuesday.
“The driver of the vehicle crashed the vehicle into the suspect and this is where the suspect took off,” said Smith.
During the encounter, the officer told the suspect not to reach for the gun. Smith said there was a delay in medical care because the suspect continued to move around and at one point raised his hand.
“As you noticed in the video, he kept moving around and moving around,” said Smith. “The officers would not approach themselves because one: they could not see the handgun, two: they didn’t know if they were being baited into a circumstance where other rounds would be fired, and three: they wanted to be sure that somebody else had eyes on the other side so that they were extremely clear that that gun was not being touched or in arm’s reach to whereas he was going to take another shot at them.”
There was also a woman inside of the car that officers had to check on during the ordeal. As soon as the suspect was secured, medics were called to the scene.
The State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) is investigating the shooting.
Smith said he released the video Tuesday and held the press conference because of false information that has been circulating in the community.
“As Chief of Police, I felt that it was extremely clear that we put out the most factual information that we could possibly put out,” Smith said.
Smith added that the goal of the police department is the preservation of life.