Birmingham police officials on Tuesday released three different videos that captured the fatal Easter Sunday shooting of a man following a pursuit on the city’s north side.
Desmon Montez Ray Jr, 28, was fatally shot in the north Birmingham alley just before 11 p.m. on April 4.
The city’s 911 dispatchers that night received a call about a domestic dispute taking place inside a vehicle.
Officers responding to the call spotted the vehicle in the 200 block of Ninth Avenue West and tried to stop it, but the driver – later identified as Ray – refused to stop, police said.
Police pursued the vehicle until it crashed into a chain link fence in the 200 block of Ninth Avenue West.
Birmingham Police Chief Patrick Smith said Ray then exited the vehicle, confronted the officers and fired one round in the officers’ direction. Officers returned fire, at least eight shots, and Ray was struck, police said.
Smith said he decided to release the videos because of misinformation being circulated in the community.
The department, Smith said, needed to “put out the most factual information to make sure the community knows we’re going to operate above board and we’re going to be extremely clear in our delivery and we’re going to show exactly what occurred that night.”
“Let me be clear, there’s not a member of this department who wants to take anyone’s life. Our goal is preservation of life, and we want to be respectful to everyone,’’ Smith said. “We extend our condolences to the Ray family, but we have to make sure that we’re putting out the information that is necessary and relevant for the greater good of our community.”
Ray’s family has raised concerns about the shooting. They also held an emotional vigil for him.
The family last week was shown the video.
One of their attorneys, Richard Rice, said Tuesday it was tough for Ray’s parents to watch. Rice said while police maintain the first shot was fired by Ray, there is not visual proof to back that up. Also, Rice said, Ray was shot in the back, which indicates he was retreating when he was killed.
Smith released footage from a Ring doorbell camera, as well as the footage from the body-worn cameras of the first two officers on the scene, one of them the driver and the other a passenger. There was no dash cam video of the incident. Both officers are Black, as was Ray.
“Our goal is to be as transparent as we possibly can,’’ the chief said. “I feel it is critically important that we get information out there for the greater good of the community. It’s crucial to show the community what actually occurred, the involvement of our officers and the lengths we go through.”
The footage from the Ring doorbell showed a portion of the pursuit and provided audio of the first shot fired, which Smith said police determined came from Ray’s gun. Then, 2.6 seconds later, one of the officers returned fire.
The officers’ body-worn camera footage showed “the mindset of the officer,’’ Smith said, “It shows this was a true emergency.”
On those videos, you can hear and see the pursuit and then hear one of the officers say over the police radio, “He wrecked out.” Moments later, there is a single gunshot, and the officer says, “Oh, hey, shot…” and can’t finish his sentence before the return fire takes place. “Shots fired. Shots fired. 10-33 (police code for officer needs all possible assistance). We’ve got one down. Show your hands. Show your hands.”
Police can be heard telling others in the area to move back while they are still trying to determine what’s happening with the suspect. Ray, wearing a white t-shirt and blue jeans, is on the ground face down but still moving. The officers repeatedly yell, “Don’t move. Show your hands. Don’t reach for that gun. He’s hit. We hit him.”
“The officers are telling him not to move. You will see several times he continues move,’’ the chief said. “At one point, he lifts his body and raises his hand.”
An officer is heard saying, “he fired one round at us.” They continually report that Ray is still armed, and still moving.
“When they exited their vehicle is when the first round was fired at our officers. The officers were uncertain as to the condition of the person inside the vehicle,’’ Smith said. “They didn’t know if Mr. Ray was firing to shoot the young lady, if he was trying to shoot our officers or trying to shoot someone else in the community. This officer had someone cover him while he went back to check on the well being still inside the vehicle.”
The only delay in getting Ray medical treatment, the chief said, was because the scene was still not secure for officers to approach Ray or for Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service medics to be brought in. Ray, Smith said, kept moving and was still possibly armed and officers could not get close to him out of concern that they were being baited so they could be shot at again.
Eventually, officers were able to get close enough to see the gun near the wounded Ray. “The gun’s right there,” one officer said. “Hang on, I’m going to cuff him.”
Smith said, and the video showed, a handgun within arm’s reach of Ray. Officers recovered one shell casing believed to have been fired from Ray’s gun.
Ray was taken to UAB Hospital where he was pronounced dead at 12:34 a.m. on April 5.
Desmon Montez Ray (Contributed)
“Initially when officers responded to the scene, the officers were of the mindset that he was firing at them. Also, they wanted to check on the well-being of the individual inside the car,’’ Smith said. “They wanted to make sure that everyone who could have been hit by that gunfire at that time was taken care of.”
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s State Bureau of Investigation is the lead agency in the probe. SBI investigators have not yet presented their case to the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office.
The officer who fired the fatal shot was initially placed on administrative leave but has been returned to work in a new assignment.
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