After months of investigation, a grand jury has determined Mobile police officer Harold Hurst will not face criminal charges for his use of deadly force in a June 13 shooting that resulted in the death of 19-year-old Michael Moore.
However, with strict laws protecting the secrecy of grand jury proceedings, many have been left with questions about what information was presented to the 17 Mobile County residents who deemed Hurst’s actions justifiable.At a press conference Nov. 1, District Attorney Ashley Rich said jurors heard 40 hours of testimony and reviewed evidence collected in four separate investigations conducted by the Mobile Police Department’s Internal Affairs unit, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Justice and the Mobile County District Attorney’s office.
Moore was shot and killed after being pulled over by Hurst, who was reporting for his regular shift at the MPD’s third predict on the evening of June 13. According to the police department, Moore was driving a vehicle that had been reported stolen earlier in the week.
After a brief verbal interaction, Moore exited the vehicle, which is when Hurst claims he saw Moore reach for a gun in the waistband of his shorts — prompting him to use deadly force.
However, witnesses near the scene have repeatedly claimed they never saw Moore reach for a weapon, and further, there’s even been some dispute in witness reports to the media about whether Moore had a weapon at all.
Some of that ambiguity was fueled by “a mistake” MPD Chief James Barber said occurred during the initial response to the scene on Stanton Road.
While police initially said a gun had been recovered “in Moore’s possession,” Barber later clarified that it was recovered from Moore’s body after he had been transported to the hospital.
Adding to the speculation was the fact that — despite a recent push to equip MPD officers with body cameras — Hurst was not wearing a body camera at the time of the incident because he had not yet reported to his assigned predict to begin his shift.
Barber has maintained since June that the investigation into Hurst’s actions would boil down to “the critical few seconds” before Moore was shot.
Ultimately, the grand jury’s report concluded Hurst “had a right to protect himself and a duty to neutralize the threat to innocent civilians in this populated neighborhood” and criminal charges were “not warranted.”
“I hope the public understands that every effort was exhausted in this case to uncover every fact and every bit of evidence that was out there,” Rich said. “The fact that the FBI offered $10,000 for any video evidence, the fact that there have been thousands of hours put into this case by four different agencies in conducting their own independent investigation tells you the magnitude of time and attention this case has received.”
Though she acknowledged there would undoubtedly be criticism over the lack of transparency into the grand jury process, Rich said she remains bound by state law and cannot release any details about the about the proceedings other than the date and time which they occurred.
“It’s a difficult position to be in, but when I was elected to be the district attorney, I took an oath that I would follow the law of the state of Alabama,” Rich said. “What’s most important is that it was 17 members of our community that made this decision, and they did so with the utmost professionalism and the utmost attention to detail.”
Rich’s announcement marked the first official confirmation that MPD has concluded its own investigation into Moore’s death, but an independent civil rights investigation launched by the Department of Justice is still being conducted by federal authorities.While some who have backed Hurst are claiming a victory following grand jury’s decision, others are “holding out hope” that more information will come out of the DOJ’s finding — including whether any of the MPD policies and procedures need to change.
“I heard [Rich] talking about police officers making decisions in tense situations and how the officer wanted to protect the community, but from all of the witnesses we’ve heard from, there was not a tense situation that was occurring for him to use such force,” State Sen. Vivian Figures told reporters Tuesday afternoon. “I also didn’t hear the district attorney mention anything about the policies and procedures of the MPD and whether those were followed.”
Figures, who represents Alabama Senate District 33, is a member of a group of legislators, city council members and local religious leaders in the black community know as the “The Leaders of Truth and Justice.”
Since the MPD’s investigation began, the group has aimed to make sure “the truth comes out” about Moore’s death. While Figures did not question the grand jury’s decision, she expressed concern about how little the public could know about the way it was reached.
“The district attorney has to follow the law, and I’ll give that to her, but we as legislators may need to look at this again,” Figures said. “The people need to have confidence that everything truly was presented and taken into consideration.”
State Rep. Barbara Drummond, another member of the Leaders of Truth and Justice, pointed out that some significant changes have occurred in the wake of Moore’s death — including the Police Citizens Community Relations Advisory Council the city of Mobile established in September.
“The Leaders for Truth and Justice are still calling upon this community to be very peaceable and respectful until this process plays out,” Drummond said. “We respect the grand jury’s findings, but we do want more transparency — especially in a case that is so crucial and toxic to our community right now.”
Moore’s family released a statement Tuesday afternoon saying they were “extremely disappointed with the grand jury’s decision” and would be bringing a civil lawsuit against the city of Mobile and its police department.
The family questioned many aspects of the shooting, including the recovery of the gun that was said to be found on Moore’s body — going on to accuse the MPD of participating in “a subsequent cover-up” of Hurst’s “crime.”
The statement also referenced the “racially insensitive and inflammatory remarks” Barber recently made about Moore’s death on social media — comments he was ultimately compelled to remove and apologize for.
Editor’s note: Due to time restrictions, the printed edition of this report featured in the Nov. 3 issue of Lagniappe does not include the statement from Moore’s family, which can be read below in its entirety:
“We are extremely disappointed with the grand jury decision concerning the shooting death of 18 year old Michael Moore. Multiple objective eye witnesses swore that Michael Moore never reached for a gun as the shooter claimed.
Mobile Police Chief Barber informed Michael Moore’s mother on the night of the shooting that her son was not armed when he was shot by Harold Hurst.
Michael Moore’s medical records show that the gun was not found on his body taken from scene, in the ambulance, or even in the hospital while he was treated, chest cavity cut open and given transfusions.
Only after he was dead and in the presence of a police detective who strangely showed up at the hospital, was a gun preposterously claimed to be discovered on this young man’s body clothed in only shorts and a tee shirt.
Even the former captain of the Mobile Police Department publicly admitted it is uncommon for a law enforcement officer to be inside the emergency room while the medical staff is treating a patient and was “baffled” that the claimed gun was not recovered at the scene or that the medical staff did not discover the supposed gun until after Moore was deceased.
The family of the Michael Moore calls upon the Department of Justice to hold the Mobile Police accountable for this crime and its subsequent cover-up. The family has been informed that the Department of Justice federal civil rights investigation remains ongoing.
The family also intends to bring a civil rights lawsuit for these violations of the United States Constitution as a result of the wrongful shooting of Michael Moore and condemns the racially insensitive and inflammatory remarks that were recently made by the Police Chief and his wife.”
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