A woman was shot by police officers serving an arrest warrant in Wilmer Dec. 19, but she was not the raid’s intended target — a man who happened to already be in jail.
Law enforcement officials have since identified the shooting victim as 19-year-old Ann Marie Rylee, who lives at the home on 11223 Old Moffett Road with her fiancé, Christopher McLeod. The warrant was for McLeod’s uncle, Nicholas McLeod, who the family maintains hasn’t lived there for a long time.
Police have since confirmed Nicholas McLeod was actually already in custody at Mobile Metro Jail when the raids started that morning and had been for several hours. Public records indicate he’d been picked up around 3 p.m. the day before for “possessing precursor chemicals” and a traffic violation.
The Mobile County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO) organized the raid as part of a massive “narcotics roundup” that targeted dozens of previously identified suspects. A multi-agency Fugitive Task Force that included U.S. Marshals, Baldwin County Sheriff’s deputies and Homeland Security personnel.
Sheriff Sam Cochran said the confusion about Nicholas McLeod’s location occurred because, unbeknownst to the investigators who built a case against him through undercover narcotics purchases “months ago,” Nicholas McLeod had since gone into a court-ordered rehab program. He was returned to jail Dec. 18.
“When they returned him to the jail, corrections officers entered his name into the system and it showed the two active warrants they were trying to serve him. So, they just served him at the jail,” Cochran said. “Then the investigators failed to reverify all of the warrants the morning of the raids.”
After issuing one arrest warrant earlier in the morning, officers and a group, which included a Lagniappe reporter, arrived at Rylee and Christopher McLeod’s house shortly after 6:20 a.m. Upon exiting their vehicles, officers immediately confronted and detained Christopher McLeod and his roommate in the driveway.
Christopher McLeod later told reporters they were taking out the trash and leaving for work as police arrived.
After both men were detained, officers attempted to enter the home through a side door beneath a garage when they encountered Rylee, though reporters on the scene could not see inside the home. Cochran wasn’t present during the shooting, but he said investigators suggest Rylee refused to put down a shotgun she was holding when confronted by police inside of her home.
“They were ordering her to put down the weapon and she wouldn’t, and I think she even told them she wouldn’t,” Cochran told Lagniappe. “Then, according to the officers’ statements, she turned the weapon toward one of the Marshals and that’s when they opened fire on her.”
In an interview, Christopher McLeod said he didn’t know if his fiancé had a gun, but said she “might have grabbed a shotgun” they kept in the living room if she thought someone was breaking into the house. At the time of the shooting, he and his roommate were detained by police outside of the house in the driveway.
From the street in front of the house, officers were heard saying “gun” and then giving someone inside verbal instructions to “drop the gun” multiple times before two members of the task force opened fire. Some of those commands were captured in video taken by WPMI NBC 15 photojournalist Jeremiah Cain.
During the brief encounter, Rylee sustained multiple gunshot wounds. She was transported to University Hospital for treatment, and her family has reported she’s had surgery and is now “stable.” They’re also maintaining she was wrongfully shot by police in her own home.
“Let me make this clear to everyone, she is a VICTIM, not a suspect,” Rylee’s sister, Alisha Rogers, wrote on Facebook. “My sister is so fortunate to be alive. She won’t be speaking to anyone without an attorney but there is an investigation against law enforcement that were involved. This was a major error in judgment on their part. I’m just grateful my sister will live to see her 20th birthday tomorrow.”
Christopher McLeod and his roommate were detained for several hours while police proceeded with their investigation, but, so far, neither Rylee nor Christopher McLeod have been charged with any criminal offense. An initial review of Mobile County court and jail records also showed no prior criminal history, either.
While MCSO organized the raid and built the cases on the intended targets, none of its officers or deputies were involved in the shooting. While they haven’t been formally identified, it appeared on the scene the shots were fired by officers working with the U.S. Marshals’ Fugitive Task Force but employed by the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations, respectively.
Because of the various agencies involved, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA) and the State Bureau of Investigation were called in to investigate the shooting. So far, those investigators have yet to release any formal information about the shooting, which will likely be presented to a Mobile County grand jury to determine whether the shooting was justified under the circumstances.
The shooting and investigation into how it occurred also derailed part of MCSO’s planned operation for the officers in that group, many of whom had to give statements to ALEA personnel. The ordeal took about five hours, and that particular team had to forgo executing around 10 additional arrest warrants.
The “narcotics roundup” operation targeted at least 48 individuals — 24 on felony warrants and 25 for misdemeanors. In all, the effort led to the apprehension of 18 of those suspects, though six other individuals who were not specific targets of the raids were also arrested throughout the course of the day.
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