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Official City Response to Grand Jury Report

Official City Response to Grand Jury Report

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Published by WTVM News Leader 9
When Officer Phillip Hancock shot and wounded Michael Davidson in the line of duty a specific protocol was followed to investigate and review the case. This protocol was designed to insure that a professional, thorough and impartial investigation was conducted.
When Officer Phillip Hancock shot and wounded Michael Davidson in the line of duty a specific protocol was followed to investigate and review the case. This protocol was designed to insure that a professional, thorough and impartial investigation was conducted.

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Published by: WTVM News Leader 9 on May 12, 2014
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May 12, 2014

When Officer Phillip Hancock shot and wounded Michael Davidson in the line of duty a specific
protocol was followed to investigate and review the case. This protocol was designed to insure that a
professional, thorough and impartial investigation was conducted.
Immediately after the shooting occurred, it was reported to the Alabama Bureau of Investigation
(ABI) and the Lee County District Attorney. The criminal investigation was conducted by the ABI,
which has the best resources for this type of investigation. The ABI investigated the case by thoroughly
processing the crime scene and collecting evidence, interviewing all witnesses, testing the firearm used
by Officer Hancock and reviewing all relevant audio and video tapes. Throughout the investigation the
ABI received full cooperation from all Opelika police officers. After the investigation was completed,
the case file was referred to the Lee County District Attorney. Thereafter, the case was presented to the
Lee County Grand Jury.
The Grand Jury plays an important role in the criminal process. A Grand Jury can issue an
indictment charging the officer criminally, or return a “no true bill”. To indict, at least twelve (12)
grand jurors must find probable cause that the officer committed the charged crime.
As there is generally no dispute that Officer Hancock intended to shoot at Mr. Davidson, the
determination of whether the conduct was criminal is primarily a question of legal justification. A
police officer is justified in using deadly physical force upon another person when he believes it is
reasonably necessary to defend himself or a third party from what he reasonably believes to be the use or
imminent use of deadly physical force. Therefore, the question presented in most officer-involved

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shooting cases is whether, at the instant the officer fired the shot that wounded the person, the officer
believed, and in fact believed, that he or another person, was in imminent danger of deadly physical
force.
The great majority of officer-involved shootings throughout the country ultimately result from
what is commonly called the “split-second decision” to shoot. The split-second decision is generally
made to stop a real or perceived threat of aggressive behavior of the citizen. It is the split-second
timeframe which typically defines the focus of the criminal review. It is a decision that does not provide
the luxury of bright line determination. Police officers are not mind readers. They react quickly to
evolving circumstances that confront them.
Officers must have the discretion to use deadly force when appropriate. This awesome
responsibility sets law enforcement apart from every other profession. The results of a split-second
decision can affect entire police departments, families and communities for many years. Officers who
put on a gun and badge every day risk their lives to protect the community and their service is vital to
keeping the public safe. A police officer may go through his or her entire career without ever drawing
his or her weapon, but when the choice is made to employ a weapon, it is usually a split-second
decision.
Last week, a grand jury was impaneled to determine whether criminal charges should be brought.
The grand jury decided that there was insufficient evidence to charge Officer Phillip Hancock with a
crime. Thus, Phillip Hancock will not face criminal charges in connection with the shooting of Michael
Davidson. We believe his decision to use deadly force was reasonable and legally justified under the
facts and circumstances of this case.
The Grand Jury has spoken and we respect the decision. We appreciate that not everyone may
agree with the decision of the grand jury. We encourage anyone who wishes to express their feelings to
do so respectfully.
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Under state law, police officers can use deadly force against an unarmed suspect if the officer
believes the suspect could cause serious bodily harm to the officer or another person. There is no
requirement that one has to be armed for an officer to use deadly force. If an officer has a reasonable
belief that his life, or someone else’s life is in danger, that decision cannot be questioned later by
Monday morning quarterbacking.
Officer-involved shooting cases always present the difficult issue of balancing the rights of the
involved parties and the integrity of the investigation with the public’s right to know and the media’s
need to report the news. The Opelika Police Department is severely restricted in releasing facts before
the investigation is concluded. It is our desire to have the public know the full and true facts of the case
at the earliest opportunity, but we are required by law, ethics and the need to insure the integrity of the
investigation to only do so at the appropriate time. With the grand jury’s work concluded, we will work
with the ABI to release all investigative reports, audio and video tapes as soon as is practicable.
Because the ABI conducted the investigation in this case, all investigative materials are in the
hands of the ABI. As these materials are made available to the Opelika Police Department, we will
make arrangements to release the same to the public and the media.
JOHN McEACHERN
CHIEF OF POLICE
334-705-5200



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