Authorities in Birmingham recently announced that they have filed charges against a man 10 years after an off-duty police officer was shot to death at a local restaurant. Police will not say what led them to the accused. However, the 31-year-old man is currently serving time at the St. Clair Correctional Facility for unrelated charges.
The shooting took place in November 2002 at the Reno Chicken and Burgers restaurant. A worker at the restaurant was shot in the back during the incident. The off-duty police officer fired at the alleged gunman. However, he was shot several times in the chest when the gunman allegedly fought back.
The 31-year-old man who police say was responsible for the shooting was recently charged with capital murder and attempted murder.
According to one report, the accused pleaded guilty to theft and robbery charges in 2003. He was sentenced to four years in prison and five years of supervised probation. His probation, however, was revoked in 2009 when he did not report back to his probation officer for months at a time. He is not scheduled to be released from prison until 2025.
A Birmingham detective said this case was particularly important to them since one of their own was killed in the incident.
"We will pursue anyone who takes the life of a police officer," Birmingham Mayor William Bell said. "We will use any and all resources we have available."
While authorities believe they have solved this cold case, their investigation techniques may need to be questioned. In a case like this, authorities' desire to identify the shooter could have overshadowed their duty to follow proper procedure.
Although a police officer tragically lost his life, people cannot forget that even those charged with serious crimes have rights. A person remains innocent unless prosecutors can prove their guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
Source: The Birmingham News, "Updated: Birmingham police announce arrest in 2002 slaying of officer," Jeremy Gray, July 25, 2012