HUNTSVILLE, Ala.- We’ve been staying on top of the officer-involved shooting involving University of Alabama at Huntsville police almost two weeks ago.
A UAH police officer tried to pull over a vehicle on campus, chased that vehicle to downtown Huntsville, then shot the driver after they say the suspect tried to hit them with his car.
On March 22, the day of the shooting, we filed an open records request with UAH. We wanted to know their rules regarding both on- and off-campus chases. We were denied that request six days later.
While it may seem like an issue of transparency, UAH did give us a reason for denial of their police policies: public safety.
“Now more than ever you have policies you really don’t want the public to know about, because you wouldn’t want someone to abuse that in some way,” says Huntsville attorney Mark McDaniel.
McDaniel says it’s typical for information to be withheld while there is an ongoing investigation, like this officer-involved shooting.
“Anything that’s in court right now, it’s more than likely that the prosecutors in the case are saying ‘don’t release any information right now because we have a pending attempted murder charge on this defendant,'” he said.
McDaniel says media does have the option to file an action in court when open records are denied.
“And ask for the judge to order them to give that information and then it would be up to a judge.”
Any high-speed chase at any time is a risk to the public, but officers are protected by certain laws.
“While UAH might not release a policy, I can tell you what the law is,” McDaniel said. “The law is that the police officers have a right if a person is violating the law, they have a right to pursue that person.”
McDaniel says all the remaining questions will be answered publicly if the case ends up in trial.
“Did the UAH police officers comply with the rules and regulations?”
The driver, 31-year-old Clifford Gilberto Landers, faces several charges from the incident, including attempted murder. Names of the officers involved have not been released.