Two officers are on administrative leave from the Mobile Police Department after shooting and killing a man they claim was attempting to harm a female passenger as they were suspended upside down in an overturned vehicle.
On the evening of Dec. 10, officers responded to a single-vehicle accident on Interstate 10 near the exit to Dauphin Island Parkway. On the scene, police observed a red Isuzu Rodeo, which had had left the roadway and collided with a concrete barrier before overturning.
Mobile Police Chief Lawrence Battiste said the officers were anticipating an accident with injuries and “had no idea what they were walking into.” According to Battiste, they arrived to find a violent domestic dispute occurring between the occupants of the upside-down car.
“As they approached the vehicle, they heard a female saying ‘he’s trying to kill me, he’s trying to kill me,’ and observed that female was the passenger,” Battiste said. “They also observed a male subject making furtive actions as though he was trying to stab the female passenger.”
Police have since identified the driver as Ira Crawford, 26, and the female passenger as 28-year-old Jaicola Seales. The two were “boyfriend and girlfriend,” according to Battiste, who also said witnesses reported hearing Crawford threaten Seales after the accident.
In MPD’s only press conference since the shooting, Battiste told reporters Crawford was shot once by each of the responding officers after he “repeatedly refused commands” to drop the “edged weapon” he was allegedly holding while making violent advances toward Seales.
Both motorists were transported to area hospitals. Crawford died as a result of his injuries, while Seales was treated and released. At this point, it’s unclear what Seales’ injuries were and whether they were sustained in the accident or inflicted by Crawford.
Initial news reports from the scene suggested Seales might have been “stabbed in the neck with a fork,” but while Battiste did confirm that a “folding knife” and a fork were recovered from the scene, he declined to offer any specifics about Seales’ injuries.
As of Monday, Battiste said he didn’t know whether there was a history of domestic violence between between the couple, though a review of local court documents revealed no charges that would indicate such a history.
Battiste said it was unclear if a physical altercation on the roadway might have preceded the crash, though he did suggest the crash was severe.
“You would think, based off the impact, that the accident itself would have been enough to thwart any type of additional violence that may have occurred between Ms. Seals and Mr. Crawford,” he added.
The department has since identified the involved officers as Matthew Towey and Daniel Marlin, MPD officers for 10 months and two years, respectively. According to Battiste, neither has a record of disciplinary issues with MPD.
According to Battiste, MPD had already launched administrative and criminal investigations into the shooting. Towey and Marlin have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of those investigations.
The Mobile County District Attorney’s office will be responsible for reviewing the facts of the department’s criminal investigation and will also be tasked with making a final determination as to whether there is sufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against Towey or Marlin.
In line with MPD’s protocols for handling an officer-involved shooting, Battiste said the FBI’s Mobile Field Division and U.S. Attorney Richard Moore’s office had been briefed on the incident, though he gave no indication that a federal investigation was being conducted.
“It’s unfortunate, but sometimes — in the type of business that we do — in order to save a life, we may have to take a life,” Battiste said. “In this particular case, we were forced to take a life in an attempt to save someone’s.”
(Photo | Mobile Police Department) MPD officers Matthew Towey (left) and Daniel Marlin were placed on administrative leave after the shooting death of a man who was allegedly assaulting his girlfriend.