Just 22 hours after 18-year-old Michael Moore was killed by a Mobile police officer, officials from several law enforcement agencies held a press conference to discuss how ongoing investigations by the Mobile Police Department’s internal affairs unit and FBI would proceed.
Moore died Monday evening from gunshot wounds sustained during a “confrontation” with an officer that stemmed from a traffic violation.
The shooting and news of his death sparked outrage, with some calling the teen’s death an “assassination.” When reporters asked Mobile Police Chief James Barber if he felt the shooting was justified, he said it was “too premature to make that determination.”
“What we’re offering is the evidence that we know exists, because we know there’s been a lot of misinformation that’s gone out,” Barber said. “We have met with family members of Mike Moore. We wanted to give them every opportunity to ask any question or express any concerns that they had.”
According the Barber, authorities have gathered evidence from the scene and “extensively interviewed” nine witnesses, including a motorist who passed by at the time of the shooting and two passengers from the stolen 1999 Lexus LS400 Moore was driving when he was pulled over.
The cause of stop, according to Baber, was an abrupt turn into oncoming traffic. Based on statements from passengers, Moore told the officer he did not have a driver’s license on his person, but provided an identify that proved to be false.
According an incident report filed June 11, the car Moore was driving had been reported stolen, which Barber said Moore indicated to the passengers in his car while the officer was running his information in the patrol car.“What we know occurred in talking to the witnesses, is that Moore indicated the car was stolen and gained access to a Smith & Wesson .40 caliber semi-automatic pistol that was concealed between the driver’s seat and the console,” Barber said. “That pistol was then removed and placed into the waistband of the driver’s clothing.”
Next, Barber said Moore complied with the officer’s orders to step out of the vehicle, but did so with the handgun still in his waistline — something he said was confirmed by the passengers of the vehicle, a passer by and the officer.
Barber added the officer instructed Moore to “keep his hands away from his weapon,” but opened fire when “the driver tried to gain access” to it.
“There were three shots fired. At that point, the driver does go down, but then attempts a second time to gain access to the weapon, at which time a fourth shot was fired,” Barber said. “We do not believe any more than four rounds were fired, which was in dispute. Only three of those actually impacted the body of Michael Moore.”Barber said the officer had already drawn his gun when Moore attempted to reach for the weapon in his waistband, and added that he never actually obtained the gun before being shot. He also confirmed claims that Moore had been handcuffed immediately after the shooting, which he said was “standard procedure.”
Barber said the officer’s name was still not being released due to the ongoing internal affairs investigation, but said that it would be made public at a later date. However, he confirmed that the officer in question was not wearing a body camera at the time of the shooting.
In March 2015, the city of Mobile put $480,775 down on a $1.9 million contract to outfit all MPD officers with body cameras, tasers and data storage devices. Yet, Barber said the officer in question — a four-year veteran — did not have his at the time of the incident because he was on his way into work when he witnessed the traffic offense and initiated the stop.
“There is body camera video from responding officers, but there is not body camera video from the officer involved in the shooting,” Barber said. “He had not made it to the precinct where those devices are kept at a docking station to be updated and recharged.”
Because the MPD’s body cameras are high mounted, Barber said the patrol unit was also lacking a dash camera, adding that the officer was alone at the time of the shooting and all footage would have been captured afterwards.
Investigations, possible charges
Barber said the MPD’s internal affairs unit would continue its ongoing investigation into the shooting, but that the FBI would also be conducting a parallel investigation with assistance from the Civil Rights Division of United States Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama.
Deborah Tillman, who is Mobile County’s Chief Assistant District Attorney, she had already met with Moore’s family, and expressed her condolences for their loss.
“I assured them that once this investigation is completed and turned over to the district attorney’s office, we will conduct a thorough and fair investigation,” Tillman said. “It will be a search for the truth, it will be based on facts and on law, and we will turn this information over to a grand jury, which will consist of 18 citizens from Mobile County, who will ultimately make the decision in this case.”
On the federal side, U.S. Attorney Kenyen Brown said the FBI would “conduct a thorough and independent investigation” into the shooting and into whether Moore’s civil rights were violated — something he said was standard in any police shooting.He also asked that the community remain calm and “give the police and the FBI the opportunity to thoroughly investigate” the matter before rushing to judgment — as has been seen in similar cases of officer-involved shootings across the country.
“I think there’s always a concern about what has happened nationally,” Brown said. “We’ve started growing initiatives and programs to try and educate the public — particularly our youth — about encounters with law enforcement, and it’s unfortunate that we’ve had an encounter here.”
Brown declined to comment on his thoughts about the details, saying he would “let the facts take us where the take us.” However, but said “it’s important to note that law enforcement cares about the community” in Mobile.
Correction: When Moore’s death was first confirmed by Mobile Police he was identified as an 18-year-old. According to Mobile Metro Jail records, Moore turned 19 June 9.