Madison County District Attorney’s Office finds fatal Huntsville police shooting was justified

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. - The Madison County District Attorney's Office agrees with a Huntsville shooting review board in finding that the use of deadly force during a police encounter with an Army veteran suffering from PTSD was justified.

On Friday, a police review board determined the officers involved in the shooting acted within department policy.

Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard told WHNT News 19 Monday that the evidence supports the board's finding.

"The investigator with the Huntsville Police Department met with us and laid out the case," Broussard said. "He showed us the evidence, including the body cams. It was clearly a justified shooting on the part of HPD. There will be no action on our part with respect to presentment to a grand jury, because it was clearly justified."

The fatal incident came after a call from the Stadium Apartments where Ragland lived.  Police said they responded to a call of a woman waving a gun and making threats at Stadium Apartments. The woman, 32-year-old Crystal Ragland, served 17 months in the Iraq war and suffered from PTSD. That call proved to be a fatal and tragic collision.

Huntsville Police Department spokesman Lt. Michael Johnson said the encounter with Ragland is something no officer looks forward to, but it's the job.

"That's why we're here," said Johnson. "The citizens called and we responded. Everybody was placed in fear. They wanted the police to deal with it and we did our best."

Investigators said when police arrived, Ragland emerged from the back door of her apartment, with a gun in her pocket. Johnson said she didn't heed the officer's pleas.

"She had her hand on the weapon and was pulling it out. As it was coming up to be pointed at the officers, that's when the officers fired," Johnson said.

After the shooting, police discovered it wasn't an actual gun.

"A weapon that looks just like a gun that fires bullets, just like the weapons we carry, but in fact does not," Johnson said. "In this case, it was a weapon that actually had a CO2 cartridge in it and fired pellets."

After her Army service in Iraq, Ragland spent time in a Kansas Army facility that helps wounded and ill soldiers transition to civilian life or continued Army service.

A VA doctor told WHNT News 19 that PTSD creates a broken alarm system in people, resulting in seeing threats where they don't exist.

"To learn later that the weapon that this individual was going to use is extremely perplexing," Johnson said.  "Why would you want to point a weapon at an armed police officer telling you not to do so?"

Johnson said the Huntsville Police Department deals with a number of PTSD sufferers.

"We have probably hundreds of successes, if not thousands of successes every year," he said. "As we've said before, suicide type calls, all successful, many of them armed situations. Unfortunately, this one situation did not go so well."

Johnson also spoke on behalf of HPD, addressing Ragland's family, saying they are sorry this occurred with their loved one. He said officers are often called to situations that have escalated and he urged friends and families to do what they can to help those who may be suffering from mental distress.

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