HUNTSVILLE, Ala. — One day after video footage from a fatal encounter with an Army veteran was released by the Huntsville police department, a local civil rights group says they have a number of concerns surrounding the 2019 shooting death of Crystal Ragland.
The video captures officers being informed of Ragland’s mental health condition, ahead of their encounter with her.
“It’s an indictment of the culture of policing, the policies, the practices, and the training of Huntsville police officers,” said Rosa Parks Day Committee spokesperson David Person.
This is not the first time the committee has called for a change in police culture. In May the group asked Huntsville Police Chief Mark McMurray to step down after he showed support to William Darby, a former Huntsville officer convicted of murdering a man who was in mental crisis.
“The way that police officers engage with people who have mental disabilities or who are under duress is very problematic,” Person said. “I think this video showcases that, for example, the officers involved and granted they have a very tough job and they were in a tough situation not knowing exactly what they were walking into. But I think the training here is the problem.”
The Huntsville Police Department told News 19 that officers are trained for a number of mental health crises, PTSD is just one of them.
Person said if that’s the case, the officers involved should’ve had a different approach to Ragland.
“They go into this situation with a person that they know has worn a uniform as a military veteran, has PTSD, but they go in with their guns drawn, which is an act of escalation automatically,” he said. “In fact, Ms. Ragland even said, ‘why do you have your guns pointed at me?'”
Both officers involved in Ragland’s death were said to have acted within department policy. But Person says if her death was a result of the following policy, the community should not accept that policy.
“Why is it repeatedly, it seems, that in Huntsville people are engaging with police officers without pointing guns at them, without shooting at them, but they’re dying? But in other cities, they’re pointing guns at them, and they’re even shooting at them and all that happens to them, in some cases that have been documented, is they get arrested,” he said.
“There’s something wrong with the way business is being conducted here.”