A judge Tuesday ruled there is enough probable cause for a grand jury to consider whether Marco Perez should be indicted for the murder of slain Mobile Police Officer Sean Tuder.
Tuder was shot and killed Jan. 20 in the parking lot of the Peach Place Apartment Complex in West Mobile. Perez had been on the run from an unrelated warrant in the days leading up to the incident, and police contend the fugitive shot Tuder as the officer tried to take him into custody.
Mobile County Circuit Judge Ben Brooks was specially appointed to oversee the district court portion of Perez’ charges for continuity, and Tuesday, he determined the state of Alabama met the burden of probable cause, based upon the testimony of homicide detective Jermaine Rogers.
The case will now be bound over to a Mobile County grand jury, which will consider whether to indict Perez on capital murder charges in circuit court. According to Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich, that process could take anywhere from six to nine months.
In the meantime, new details about the case will likely be rare because Brooks has already issued a gag order restraining prosecutors, investigators and Perez’ defense attorneys from speaking publicly about the case other than to discuss procedural aspects of the judicial process.
Brooks said he made that decision and others out of an ‘abundance of caution’ because that case is so sensitive and has been widely covered in the media. From the bench, he told both parties that he expected the case to be handled professionally and fairly by everyone involved.
“I intend to see a fair and just trial for the defendant, the state and for the victim,” he said. “I expect everyone involved in this case to handle themselves as professionals and to ensure that this defendant is treated no worse or no better than any other person accused of a crime.”
Rogers testimony, most of which was based on security camera footage and witnesses statements, did provide some previously unknown details about Tuder’s final hours.
According to Rogers, Tuder was at home on Sunday, Jan. 20, when a confidential informant notified him Perez had been spotted at the Peach Place Inn. He said Tuder, a member of a patrol unit that focuses on gangs, had been “very active” in the ongoing hunt for Perez.
On the bench, Rogers said the CI was talking to Tuder and Perez over Snapchat that day, but Perez was unaware an officer had been contacted. The CI had instead told Perez her uncle was coming to pick her up at the apartment complex.
Rogers said she had informed Tuder what Perez was wearing and that he was armed.
According to Rogers, Tuder took his 2017 silver Volkswagen to the scene and was wearing jeans, a black t-shirt with an American flag and a black jacket. He said Tuder had his officer’s badge and his service weapon on his belt line at the time as well.
The complex has five surveillance cameras police have extracted footage from, and while they captured the moments leading up to the fatal confrontation and some of what followed, Rogers testified the actual shooting happened outside of the cameras’ fields of vision.
Based on Rogers’ recollection of the footage, Tuder arrived at the apartment complex and immediately got out of his vehicle pointing his weapon at Perez. Because there is no audio, Rogers was unable to say whether Tuder identified himself as an officer. He testified that Tuder appeared to be giving commands, though.
Rogers said, at least initially, Perez appears to put his hands up. Tuder is then seen approaching him, and at some point holsters his service weapon. Perez and Tuder then get into what Rogers described as “a tussle” on camera before Perez is seen backing away, out of the frame.
According to Rogers, there’s a 46-second period where the altercation moves off camera, though other camera angles captured bystanders during this time. He said he believes the people in the video, roughly eight or so by his estimation, are then seen reacting to gunshots being fired.
However, Rogers also said none of those individuals – some who were seen talking to Perez prior to the shooting — have been identified or interviewed by police so far.
Perez can be seen on another camera retrieving his hat from near Tuder’s car and running into the woodline behind the apartment complex, Rogers said. Four shell casings were recovered at the scene — one of which was unfired and none which came from Tuder’s service weapon.
Allegedly, Perez told the officers who apprehended him: “I messed up. I messed up.” Rogers said he also complained about being tased, though it was unclear by whom in the testimony Tuesday.
During cross-examination, the defense raised questions about whether Tuder was considered “on-duty” the day he was killed, and also whether Perez knew he was a police officer at the time of the shooting. Police have previously maintained that Tuder identified himself upon arrival that day.
According to Rogers, three cell phones were recovered at the scene. Investigators have also subpoenaed Snapchat to obtain records of the conversations the CI had with Perez and Tuder.
While the CI has agreed to testify at trial and before a grand jury, at this point, it’s still unclear whether Snapchat will be able to produce records of those deleted conversations.
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