Federal and state investigators are continuing to look into the death of Michael Moore, a 19-year-old from Mobile who was shot and killed by a Mobile Police officer on June 13.
As the facts are being gathered, thousands are expressing anger over the situation on social media and some have already taken to the streets to protest a shooting some say shouldn’t have occurred.
On Monday, according to police, an unnamed officer discharged his weapon four times during a “confrontation” with Moore after discovering the 1999 Lexus he was driving had been reported stolen. Mobile Police Chief James Barber said three of those shots struck Moore, who was treated at the University of South Alabama Medical Center but ultimately died from his injuries.Less than 24 hours after the incident, law enforcement officials from the Mobile Police Department, the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office briefed members of the press on the resulting internal affairs investigation by the MPD and an independent civil rights investigation by the FBI.
Almost simultaneously, a group of “concerned citizens” were marching from Figures Park to the scene where Moore was shot — some chanting and others holding signs referencing police brutality.
Back at the press conference, Barber said witnesses saw Moore exiting the vehicle with a Smith & Wesson .40 caliber handgun tucked into the back of his waistline. He said the officer noticed the weapon and drew his service pistol. He then warned Moore to keep his hands away from his weapon but opened fire when Moore made attempts to access it, according to officer’s statements to investigators.
Updated: On Wednesday afternoon a public information officer for the MPD released a photograph of the Smith and Wesson handgun said to be recovered from the scene. According to the release, investigators “discovered the handgun Moore was found in possession of had been reported stolen the previous night.”
However, some who claim to have seen the shooting first hand disagree with the MPD’s account of what happened.
Willie Westbrook, who lives near where the incident occurred, described what he saw at the intersection of Stanton Road and Wagner Street in early press reports and in cell phone videos that have since been shared hundreds of times on social media.
Based on Facebook statistics, there were around 37,000 people discussing Moore’s death on Wednesday afternoon, and Westbrook said he’s one of several who don’t believe the situation unfolded the way the MPD described it.
Though he chose to keep his comments brief, Westbrook told Lagniappe he had already given statements to MPD investigators as well as the FBI.
“I can tell you that what the chief said on TV was a lie,” Westbrook said. “He said the officer said he shot him three times standing up, but I believe forensic science will show that wasn’t true. He shot him three times while he was already on the ground, dead.”
In videos posted online the day after Moore’s death, Westbrook claims he never saw a gun, and instead told residents gathered in Toulminville the only thing he saw Moore doing was “holding up his pants” and “holding a cell phone.”
At the press briefing, Barber said officers had recovered a cell phone on the scene and confirmed reports of Moore holding the phone when he exited the vehicle. However, Barber said it was when Moore bent down to place his cell phone on the ground that the officer noticed the weapon in his waistline, causing the incident to escalate.
Barber has previously said his officers “extensively interviewed” nine witnesses, including a motorist who passed by at the time of the shooting and two passengers who were in the car with Moore at the time he was pulled over.
Other than Barber’s verbal statements and an incident report related to the stolen Lexus, authorities have released little information about the shooting.
Jail records show Moore was involved in a brush with the law in January leading to his arrest on charges of “giving a false name to an officer, resisting arrest and failure to obey. However, MPD Public Affairs Officer Charlette Solis said the MPD “can’t release the incident report at this time, per Chief Barber,” because it’s being considered as part of the investigation.
Others have criticized the amount of time it took EMTs to respond to the scene, with some claiming it was nearly 20 minutes after Moore was shot before he was transferred to a hospital that was less than a mile away.
When asked Tuesday, Barber said the department was still collecting data and couldn’t confirm how long it took Mobile Fire-Rescue personnel to arrive on the scene. He also said investigators were still working at the time to trace the origins of the gun recovered from the scene.
Missing from the evidence collected is something that could possibly clear up some of the conflicting reports — footage from the officer’s body camera. Though the city of Mobile has already spent millions of dollars on body cameras for its personnel, Barber said the officer in question was not wearing one at the time of the shooting.
According to Barber, that’s because he was on his way into work at the MPD’s third precinct when he initially pulled Moore over for making an improper left turn. When asked if that meant he was off duty, Solis said, “the officer was performing his duty as an officer once he made the traffic stop, and actually became on duty at that point.”
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.
It looks like you are opening this page from the Facebook App. This article needs to be opened in the browser.
iOS: Tap the three dots in the top right, then tap on "Open in Safari".
Android: Tap the Settings icon (it looks like three horizontal lines), then tap App Settings, then toggle the "Open links externally" setting to On (it should turn from gray to blue).