The office of Mayor Sandy Stimpson is looking into an allegation that Mobile Police Chief James Barber “unlawfully pulled a gun” on a theft suspect earlier this week after receiving correspondence from Councilman Fred Richardson reporting the incident.
Richardson, who represents Mobile’s first district, alerted Stimpson’s office after receiving a message from “a constituent” making the allegation of the purported incident.Stimpson’s office released a press statement confirming it was “looking into the details,” saying it “takes these allegations very seriously.” So far, calls to the mayor’s office and the Mobile Police Department have gone unreturned, though Public Affairs Officer Charlette Solis did confirm the department would be issuing a statement in response to the allegation.
Reached by phone, Richardson said he didn’t have any additional information on the circumstances other than the identity of the complainant, which an assistant in his office identified as Kenneth Padgett.
“I’m not trying to drift off into something that is none of my business,” he added.When reached by phone, Padgett admitted he was in the process of stealing his third load of refrigerators and stoves from abandoned apartments at the Roger Williams housing project when he was allegedly confronted by Barber.
A report from the June 21 incident shows Padgett was arrested by officer Michael Goodson.
Despite that, Padgett claims it was Barber — who as chief would not normally respond to active crime scenes — who confronted him along with another officer. According to Padgett, Barber walked up to him and told him to “be still” before drawing his service weapon.
Barber then handcuffed him before Padgett was arrested for theft, according to his statements to Lagniappe.
“He didn’t have to do that,” Padgett said. “He could’ve asked me to put my hands up, and I would’ve done it. That’s the most scared I’ve ever been in my life. It scared the hell out of me.”
Again, Padgett said he was in the process of taking “refrigerators and stoves” from the apartments when the police showed up — a statement that is corroborated in the arrest report and Mobile County Jail logs.
“What I did, I know was wrong,” he said. “I was just trying to feed my family.”
According to jail logs, this is not Padgett’s first brush with the MPD either. In addition to his latest arrest for third-degree burglary, Padgett’s criminal record includes previous charges for receiving stolen property, marijuana possession, harassment and criminal mischief.
The allegation comes a little more than a week into the investigation of the shooting of Michael Moore, a 19-year-old who was killed by an MPD officer earlier this month. As Chief, Barber has taken point on all public and media disclosures related to the investigation since it began.
Padgett did mention Moore’s shooting, but only to cite that MPD officer Harold Hurst wasn’t wearing a body camera at the time of the incident. On Thursday, Padgett claimed Barber was also not wearing a recording device when he was arrested this week.
Lagniappe will have more information on this issue as it’s released from city officials.
Update: On Thursday afternoon, Richardson released a statement clarifying his officer was not responsible for information about Padgett’s allegation being released to the media — pointing instead to Stimpson’s office.
“I passed it on to the Mayor and his office and urged them to look into the incident,” Richardson wrote. “Upon receiving the information I sent him, the Mayor’s office shared it with the media. I had hoped that we would be able to get to the bottom of it very quickly by the appropriate authorities simply getting the body camera video of the incident, and I still do.”
After the allegation was first reported, Barber released a scathing response though the department’s public affairs office. You can read the statement below:
“I am as perplexed as I am dismayed that I even have to deviate from my schedule to respond to such nonsense. The serious business concerning the safety of this city is my priority and I will not cancel the meetings scheduled this afternoon to entertain this ridiculous allegation.”
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