White officer charged with killing black man in Alabama
A white police officer in Alabama was charged with murder Wednesdy after the fatal shooting an African American man that activists say is the latest case of racially charged police brutality in the US.
Aaron Smith, a 23-year-old officer, was arrested and charged with murder,according to Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey, who said bail had been set at $150,000.
The shooting occurred last week in Montgomery, a city with a long and
fraught racial history dating back to the civil rights era of the 1960s, and even earlier.
Smith on Thursday tried to halt 59-year-old Gregory Gunn for what the
officer said was suspicious conduct. After an altercation broke out, Smith shot and killed Gunn, who was reportedly holding a stick, police said.
Bailey said during a press conference that authorities “have concluded
that probable cause does, in fact, exist to make an arrest in this case.”
However, he emphasized that the episode was an isolated incident and that “the arrest warrant secured against Officer Smith is in no way an indictment against the Montgomery Police Department.”
At the same press conference Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said that
people “must trust in our system of justice. That means that we will resist the urge to jump to conclusions or be creators of rumors or speculation.”
Gunn’s death has provoked demonstrations in Montgomery, where some say he was killed because he was black.
Police tactics and racism have been the subject of an intense national
debate since protests erupted in Ferguson, Missouri in summer 2014 over the shooting death of black teenager Michael Brown.
In the past 18 months, federal authorities have launched investigations into policing in several US cities where officers have been accused of racism.
The controversial issue also has come up at the Academy Awards and
Grammys, and on the US presidential campaign trail.