A routine traffic stop culminating in an officer-involved shooting in the Tillman’s Corner area Tuesday night was highlighted by the suspect essentially running on foot in a large circle and two others in the vehicle claiming to be victims of a robbery, according to Mobile Police Chief Lawrence Battiste.
A patrol officer initiated a traffic stop on the vehicle on U.S. Highway 90 near the eastbound Interstate 10 onramp Tuesday, at about 7:44 p.m. The suspect, 37-year-old passenger Edward Bittner, then jumped out of the vehicle. The officer gave chase and proceeded to use a stun gun to stop Bittner, but the white male was able to overcome its effects, Battiste said.
Bittner had warrants for robbery and breaking and entering of vehicles, Battiste reported at a news conference today.
Battiste said the officer noticed Bittner was wielding an eight-inch knife from tip to hilt. The officer on scene then called for backup.
When the assisting officer arrived, Battiste said, Bittner came close enough to allow him to use his stun gun. Again, Battiste said, Bittner was able to overcome the shock. At that point, Battiste said, the assisting officer, who thought Bittner was charging him, fired two shots from his service weapon. The officers provided medical assistance to Bittner until paramedics arrived, but Bittner was pronounced dead at the scene.
Battiste said Bittner was struck in his side and in his left back. Although the second shot hit Bittner in the back, Battiste said it’s possible that when he was hit in the side his body contorted and resulted in the shot to the back.
An internal investigation is ongoing. The case will also be presented to Mobile County District Attorney Ashley Rich’s office. The involved officer is on administrative leave, according to a police statement.
The initial responding officer made the traffic stop due to a missing headlight, improper lane change and another infraction Battiste didn’t mention. When the officer exited his vehicle, passengers in the stopped vehicle claimed they had been robbed, Battiste said, before Bittner exited the vehicle. Battiste said he wasn’t sure what the robbery accusation was in reference to.
Bittner was a passenger in the vehicle along with one other passenger and a driver, Battiste said. In all the vehicle consisted of two men and a woman, he said.
Battiste also added that Bittner basically took a lap around the area near the onramp while officers were in pursuit on foot. He said the suspect ran a total of about 440 yards in a circle.
In an email to Mayor Sandy Stimpson, Councilman Fred Richardson, who is chairman of the public safety committee and Stimpson’s challenger in a mayoral campaign this year, asked that the body camera footage of the incident be released to members of the police citizens community relations advisory council.
“I speculate that there will be much community controversy arising from this shooting incident in days to come,” Richardson wrote.
In the email, Richardson also asked to know if both officers involved had body cameras on. During the press conference, Battiste said the initial officer had a body camera, but the assisting officer, who fired the shots, did not. Battiste explained the white male officer who fired the shots usually takes on a supervisory role within the department, so he doesn’t typically wear a body camera.
While “very clear” footage of the incident is allegedly available, Battiste said, it will not be released at this time because it could potentially be grand jury evidence.
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