MADISON COUNTY, Ala. — Dana Fletcher reached for a gun and pointed it at Madison Police officers before they shot and killed him, the Madison County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday.
The sheriff’s office has been handling the investigation into the shooting of Fletcher, 39, since it happened in the parking lot of the Planet Fitness of Highway 72, Oct. 27.
Fletcher's wife has said repeatedly that he was not armed in the confrontation with police. But the sheriff's office said he did have a weapon when police shot him. During a press conference, Thursday Madison County Sheriff Kevin Turner said a gun was recovered from Fletcher's hand following the fatal encounter.
Police were first called to the gym parking lot around 4:40 p.m. when a caller said Fletcher and a woman had been in the gym taking pictures and asking "inappropriate questions."
"I'm not aware of the details of the questions. That would be something the investigators have put in their supplement report. That I do not have in my statement," said Sheriff Kevin Turner.
Police said they found Fletcher in the passenger seat of the van. His wife was sitting in the driver's seat, and an 8-year-old child was in the van as well, they said. They were uncooperative with police, investigators said.
"It was sort of a standoff at that point," explained Sheriff Turner.
According to the sheriff's office, Fletcher reached between the van's seats toward a gun. The woman and child were pulled out of the van, according to investigators, and Fletcher refused to get out. Officers struggled with Fletcher to get the gun out of his hand and get him out of the van, they said, and used a police dog and a Taser to try and disarm him without resorting to lethal force.
Fletcher stepped out of the van, pointed the gun at police and two officers fired, according to the sheriff's office.
"He didn't just point at an officer," Madison County Chief Deputy Stacy Bates said. "He extended his arm out with the gun pointed directly toward an officer. That's when it turned into a deadly force situation. None of the shots were fired until he had a weapon fully pointed and his arm extended at the police officer."
Turner said the gun held by Fletcher and another gun found in the van were both registered to Fletcher's wife, who the sheriff described as the "driver of the van."
Bates asked the public to trust that the sheriff's office had conducted a thorough investigation.
The information from the sheriff's office investigation was turned over to the Madison County District Attorney's Office, Turner said. Investigators viewed body camera footage during the investigation, he said, but that and other evidence would not be released to the public.
Turner also said the choice to release any of the video would be up to the Madison Police Department because the video belongs to them.
"It's not our job to release their property," he said.
Frank James Matthews III, The President of Birmingham based Outcast Voters League says the sheriff shouldn't have to list out Madison PD's narrative.
"Stop speaking for the video. Show the citizens the video!" said said Matthews III.
Matthews is planning a protest next Monday in front of Madison Mayor Paul Finley's home. A time won't be announced for tactical reasons.
"If you don't want us outside of your house, Monday, release the video. Release the phone call," said Matthews III.
The city of Madison released a statement Thursday after the news conference thanking the sheriff's office for its investigation.
"The City will await the results of the Madison County District Attorney’s review and stands ready to support them with any additional information they may need," the city's statement read. "Once the District Attorney has concluded its review, the City will provide a statement to our community.”
Madison County District Attorney Robert Broussard told WHNT News 19 his office had the sheriff’s office investigation and all evidence except information from the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences.
“We will conduct a thorough review when all evidence is in, as we do in every case,” Broussard said.
Birmingham attorney Benjamin Crump, who said he has been retained by Fletcher's family, released a statement calling the Thursday afternoon news conference "an empty and meaningless act" and calling for the body camera footage to be released.
"Madison police made many assertions, but neglected to provide anything substantiating their claims - including any mention of bodycam footage," Crump's statement read. "We intend to conduct a full investigation into the events of the tragic day when Dana Fletcher was shot to death by Madison police. As we pursue the details that law enforcement refuses to provide, we continue to demand transparency, accountability, and answers that go beyond 'just trust us.'"