After waiting 72 hours for a “de-stressing period,” Mobile Police have identified Officer Harry Hurst as the policeman who shot and killed 19-year-old Michael Moore on June 13 after an altercation that stemmed from a routine traffic stop.
Hurst has worked with the MPD for four and half years and in the Third Precinct for three of those years. According to Mobile Police Chief James Barber, Hurst “may have had some minor misconduct violations,” but has never been involved in any previous shootings or received complaints about any misuse of force.Hurst pulled Moore over at the intersection of Stanton Road and Wagner Street shortly after 6 p.m. on Monday evening. From there, Hurst discovered the 1999 Lexus Moore was driving had been reported stolen three days earlier.
That’s where the statements police have given and the ones from those said to be eyewitnesses start to differ. According to Barber, witnesses in the car saw Moore exit the vehicle with a handgun in the waistline of the basketball shorts he was wearing.
Witnesses on the street, some of whom also spoke with state and federal investigators, say they never saw a gun.
On Tuesday, Barber said Hurst noticed the gun, gave Moore verbal instructions to keep his hands away from it and then ultimately opened fire after he tried to “gain access to it.”
However, Barber said the only witness statements corroborating Moore’s attempt to use the gun were made by Hurst — a claim contradicted by eyewitnesses who say they were on the other side of the street at the time of the shooting.
Willie Westbrook was one of those witnesses, who told Lagniappe he never saw a gun and never saw officers retrieve one from the scene either. On Thursday, Barber confirmed that the gun was indeed never recovered from the scene.
“The gun was recovered with the body of Michael Moore at the ER room by emergency medical personnel. Yes, protocol is to recover it at the scene, but it wasn’t recovered at the scene,” Barber said. “It was transported with Michael Moore to the ER.”Videos posted minutes after Moore was shot have been shared across social media. In one of the most widely distributed videos, at least six officers are shown securing the scene, with four attending to Moore, who Hurst had handcuffed after the shooting.
“The protocol is obviously to recover any evidence or weapons at the scene, not to transport them from the scene, but you’re dealing with a very dynamic situation that is changing very frequently,” Barber said when asked how the gun managed to leave the area. “You’ve got one officer waiting on backup and still dealing with three individuals as well as other individuals that are across the street. So, what you’ve got is a situation that is very active.”
A photograph of the gun in question — a Smith and Wesson S40VE semi-automatic handgun — was released by the MPD two days after the shooting. Based on documents police provided later, the gun was reported stolen from a residence on Thornhill Drive on the morning Moore was shot.
The new information about how and where the gun was recovered caused at least one of Moore’s relatives some concern. The family has been represented in the media mostly through Moore’s cousin, D.J. Larry, who said he had a hard time accepting the news when the family met with police before Thursday’s press conference.
“How, after you shoot someone and [a gun] is your threat, is it left there?,” Larry asked. “We don’t know how many people touched that body, and it made it to the hospital. What we were told is that they were working on the patient and then later found the weapon.”
On Thursday, Police said the gun is believed to be connected to five vehicle burglaries police say were tied to the stolen Lexus Moore was driving when he was pulled over. According to Barber, a search of the vehicle revealed items reported or believed to have been stolen between Sunday, June 12 and the early hours of Monday, June 13.
According to police, the items recovered in the Lexus tied to the string of burglaries included a safe containing a small amount of foreign currency and various financial documents, an Exxon Mobil gas card, iPhone chargers, a University of South Alabama visor, a can of Axe body spray and a container of chewing gum.
Barber said there are no plans to charge Moore’s passengers with any crime related to those vehicular burglaries. However, those items were displayed during the press conference because Barber said there had been previous “dispute over whether or not the evidence we said existed actually existed.”
With the name of the officer who shot Moore finally revealed, Barber discussed Hurst and his family, who he said are “suffering immensely as well.”
“I do want to say that while we continue to offer condolences to Michael Moore’s family, there are two families that are suffering as a result of the incident that happened,” Barber said. “There’s the Moore family, who we spend a lot of time talking about and I understand why, but the family of the officer involved is affected, too. Again, this is the first time he’s ever been involved in a situation like this.”
Barber also spoke briefly about the tension that has built as a result of Moore’s death and said Hurst’s safety was considered when preparing to release his identity to the public on Thursday.“In the environment we live in in this country today, I think everybody should be very cognizant of the different threats that we face, and there has been some threatening activity and rhetoric,” Barber said. “So yes, we are always concerned, and we do take it very seriously.”
After taking the media’s questions, Barber addressed the response Moore’s death garnered on social media and, in some cases, in the streets of Mobile. He described it as a “challenging time” for law enforcement officers and said events across the country have called into question the trust between law enforcement and the communities they police.
“We in law enforcement need to learn to see what it’s like to be a law-abiding citizen in a high-crime neighborhood that is under the scrutiny of the police, and we need to understand what that person sees when they see a police car coming down the road,” Barber said. “But, we, as a country and a community, also need to see what the police see. You need to see what we see through the windshields of our cars as we patrol these beats in high-crime areas, and what we see inside the crime scene tape.”
“When we learn to see each other, and truly see each other, new understanding will begin, and new understanding can bring facts instead of myths. It will bring truth instead of untruths, and when that new thinking beings, we — together as a country — can begin to heal,” he added.
According to Barber, Mobile NAACP President Ronald Ali was allowed to attend Moore’s autopsy in “the spirit of transparency.” Barber also acknowledged that there had been racial tension because of the races of the officer and Moore.
Ali himself recently issued a statement addressing the accounts of the shooting that have filled social media and the news, saying some were “traumatized” and “outraged.”
“Some of our members may feel the need to do something now based on these reports,” Ali wrote. “However, I urge our members and our fellow citizens to consider that we must get all the facts so that we can respond appropriately once the reports are in.”
The Mobile chapter of the NAACP has scheduled a community meeting about Moore’s shooting at 6 p.m., June 17, at Canaan Baptist Church in Mobile.
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