HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - An Incident Review Board has released its findings after examining the actions of the officers involved in a shooting on Green Meadow Road that happened on September 20.
Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray confirmed the review found that the officers involved acted in accordance with the law and department policies in the shooting death of Haraesheo Rice. He said the board had complete information and reviewed it objectively.
"After reviewing all the facts of this incident, the incident review board found that the officers involved in this incident acted within the laws of the state of Alabama, and the policies and procedures of the Huntsville Police Department," said Chief McMurray.
All officers involved have returned to duty. They returned last week after a separate Internal Affairs review.
The Incident Review Board consisted of representatives from the District Attorney’s Office, The City Legal Department, members of the Citizens Police Advisory Council, and Huntsville Police Department personnel. It convened yesterday, said McMurray.
It's all about an incident on September 20, when officers responded to the area of Creighton Avenue between Sturbridge Drive and Gardenside Drive for a shots fired call. They say multiple people called 911 at various times to report criminal activity they since traced to Rice.
Police say they then found the suspect, 31-year-old Haraesheo Rice, near Green Meadow Road, still armed. When officers arrived at 10:05 PM, they say they saw Rice run across the street. As he stood over the body of someone police say he had shot in the head previously, they engaged each other.
"Officers demand him to drop his weapon several times. Instead, Haraesheo Rice points the weapon he had in his hand at officers," noted McMurray.
Four officers fired at Rice for a total of six seconds, killing him.
Police later identified the other victim, 47-year-old Keith Ricks, who was discovered dead at the scene with a gunshot wound to the head. One other person, police said, had called 911 after being shot by Rice five times.
This case has been hard on the victims in many ways. Police say some of the families and victims involved fear for their safety.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with all those affected by the tragic event that night," McMurray explained.
But Rice's family is also grieving. In the weeks following the shooting, Rice's family and friends protested for answers, against police brutality, and for mental health awareness.
During the news conference, Chief McMurray said the public was owed a complete explanation. He went over a timeline of events that occurred leading up to and including the officer-involved shooting.
Police say starting at 9:33 that night, Haraesheo Rice went on a spree committing crimes including multiple home invasions, physical assault, shooting at a vehicle multiple times, shooting someone multiple times and killing them, and shooting someone in the head.
Officers were forced to shoot Rice at 10:05 p.m. because they say he wouldn't lower his weapon. Police said Wednesday that the gun he used was determined to be stolen from the Bessemer area.
Chief McMurray said that the investigators pieced together the timeline following multiple 911 calls, video, and witness statements. The events that transpired, they determined, took place within the span of less than thirty minutes.
"Our job is to protect our citizens. We can't do that unless we protect our officers," said Lt. Stacy Bates. "When they are put in a situation like that, they have to let their training and their equipment kick in. And I will say, the Chief would like me to say, that all the equipment and the training we received in the last two years paid huge dividends on this night. When our officers responded, they were able not only to protect themselves but they were able to prevent any other citizens that night from being injured or killed. Who knows what could have happened if the officers hadn't responded the way they did and hadn't had the training and equipment available to them."
McMurray added that Haraesheo Rice had 246 HPD documented involvements with HPD throughout his life including aggravated assault, assault of a police officer, resisting arrest, carrying a concealed weapon, and cocaine possession.
Haraesheo Rice's family tells us the man they knew was not a killer, although he faced mental illness for part of his life.
"Haraesheo had his days. He had his days. But as far as a gun wise? That has never been Haraesheo," said his brother, Lopez Rice.
However, Huntsville Police say one of their previous run-ins with him included gun charges.
The Rice family does not believe Huntsville Police have been communicating with them very well in this case.
"They have not reached out to me. I've done all the reaching out. I've left messages for the detective that's handling the case and he has not called me back," said Terry Rice, Haraesheo's mother.
The family tells WHNT News 19 they do not believe the police department's version of events the night Haraesheo died, and they are calling for the body cameras and dashboard camera video to be released for their review.
"We are going to continue to protest. We are going to do whatever we have to do by any means necessary to get the answers that we need," said Terry Rice.
That includes getting the body camera video, which they think will reveal more than they say police are telling.
"I want proof of every incident they are saying happened," commented Terry Rice.
Officers said the department had communicated to the Rices about how the Rice family can go through with the process of viewing the video. Officers said the Rice family had not yet gone through that process, which involves the Huntsville city attorney. In the press conference, Lt. Stacy Bates said the department did not release the video publicly because of its sensitive nature, privacy laws, and other factors including that many victims in the case are still alive.
Terry Rice said they will contact the Huntsville city attorney "first thing, tomorrow." They also have a family attorney involved.
Haraesheo's mother said it is surprising to her that with so many times they encountered Haraesheo, police were not aware he had mental illness or able to calm him down when they encountered him the night he died.
"I want to know if they dealt with him before. Because if they dealt with him, they knew that he had a mental illness," she said.
"If everything is going how they said it went, then why not show the body cams?" asked Lopez Rice. "We want to see if they gave him a chance. That's what we want to know."
Below we have posted the entire video where police outline the events the night Haraesheo Rice died: