DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) — Hundreds in the Decatur community are still searching for answers after the death of 39-year-old Stephen Perkins, who was shot by police in front of his home on September 29th.
The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency says Perkins had a gun with a light on top of it and pointed it at officers during a vehicle repossession incident. Community members argue that much remains unclear about Perkins’ death.
With the news of Perkins’ death, questions persist about what happened and why the encounter escalated into a fatal shooting. That also raises questions about gun rights in Alabama and the state’s Stand Your Ground law.
It remains unclear if the law applies to this case given how little information has been released by authorities.
Huntsville attorney Marcus Helstowski, who is not affiliated with the case, provided a general description of a resident’s rights under Alabama’s Stand Your Ground law:
“In the state of Alabama, a person has the right to defend themselves. A person has the right to use reasonable force to defend themselves if they reasonably believe that someone is going to hurt them,” he said.
“In Alabama when you’re in your home, you are the king of your own castle,” Helstowski explained. “If somebody is trying to break into your home, burglarize your home, you have the right to use deadly force at that point in time. When you’re outside of your home, you kind of go back to the other standard: what would the reasonable person walking down the street believe? If you’re being attacked, if somebody’s wielding a hatchet or a baseball bat or pointing a gun at you? Sure you have the right to defend yourself. You might have to answer to a jury at some point in time as to whether or not they believe that you had the right to defend yourself. But the law is clear and you do.”
ALEA says it is continuing to investigate Perkins’ death. His family said the encounter was not necessary.
The Decatur Police Department (DPD) said the situation began when a tow truck driver attempted to repossess a vehicle at Perkins’ home. DPD said Perkins pulled a gun on the tow truck driver, who left. Police then say officers met with the tow truck driver and returned to Perkins’s home with him.
Perkins’s family has said his vehicle payments had been made and that the tow truck driver was at the wrong home that night. Videos posted online from neighbors’ home security cameras, appear to show Perkins walking onto his driveway carrying a light, with no officers visible.
In the videos, Perkins briefly yells at the driver. Next, you see an officer then run out from the side of Perkins’s home, behind Perkins, yelling, ‘Police!’ and ‘Get on the ground!’ The clips also appear to show the officer began shooting four seconds after Perkins yelled at the tow truck driver.
ALEA maintains Perkins had a gun with a light on it in his yard, pointed it at police and then officers shot him.
News 19 is not showing the videos because we don’t have the owner’s permission to show them.
The officer involved in the shooting, who has not been identified, was placed on leave following the incident, according to DPD.