A white officer who killed a 58-year-old black man in Montgomery, Alabama, last week was arrested and charged with murder Wednesday.
Protesters had for days called for the arrest of Officer Aaron Smith, a 23-year-old who has been on the force for four years. Montgomery Police Chief Ernest Finley had initially defended Smith’s actions after he shot Gregory Gunn on February 25. Gunn was walking the street at 3 a.m. when Smith stopped him, Finley said, because he looked “suspicious.” Gunn then ran from Smith, he said, and threatened him with a weapon. That weapons appears to have been a retractable painter’s pole—though there are doubts about that, as well.
On Wednesday afternoon, Daryl Bailey, the Montgomery County district attorney, held a news conference to say the state, which had assumed control of the investigation, had found enough evidence against Smith to bring murder charges against him. Smith was arrested, and freed on bond. A grand jury will decide whether to indict him.
The Mobile Heights neighborhood where Gunn lived, Mickey McDermott, Smith’s attorney, told the Montgomery Advertiser, is a police-designated “red district” with a high crime rate. McDermott painted Smith as an eager officer who took the shift when others wouldn’t.