Police Frustrated by Assault Victims Declining to File Charges

Northeast Alabama
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MARSHALL COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) -- Not having a suspect in a violent crime is frustrating for police, but so is knowing the identity of an attacker and not being able to arrest them.

Boaz Police Chief Terry Davis said officers recently investigated an assault at a gas station, where a man was pulled out of a vehicle, punched nearly 20 times, and stomped on as he lay unconscious on the ground.

"The guy was admitted to the hospital, and of course we arrested the suspect for disorderly conduct or public intoxication, some minor charge," Davis said.

The victim received initial treatment at Marshall Medical Center South in Boaz, but Davis said his injuries were so severe he had to go to Huntsville Hospital.

Police got surveillance video and several investigators worked the case for two days, but then the victim decided he didn't want to file felony charges against his attacker.

"That's strictly up to the victim and things like that, but you put a lot of time putting working into a case.  You get the video surveillance from the store," Davis said.

"It's frustrating for us, putting the time in working the case...our standpoint is we use man hours investigating it, going to the call to start with, investigating it, getting all our facts together, getting ready to help the victim file the charges and then he didn't want to."

Even though they had clear video evidence of the person that beat the man, officers can't make an arrest if the victim doesn't want to prosecute.  "Under the law if an officer sees a crime occur in his or her presence they can effect an arrest right there," Davis said.

There is one exception under Alabama law, and that involves domestic violence cases.

"Whether we see it happen or not if we've got probable cause that a crime occurred under a domestic situation then we've got the right under the state statute to file charges ourself whether or not they want to prosecute," Davis said.

He said he would have filed charges if he were the victim, to ensure it didn't happen again, but while he was frustrated law enforcement couldn't punish the culprit, his biggest frustration were all the people involved on a case that would not go through the courts.

Davis estimated three officers responded to the gas station, along with a medical team from the fire department, a city ambulance to go to the Boaz hospital, and then a Marshall Medical Center ambulance to transport the man to Huntsville Hospital.

There were at least as many first responders Wednesday at a Guntersville apartment complex  after an emergency call about a stabbing, but police said nothing will come of it.

The victim received medical attention but did not want to go to a hospital or file charges.

Guntersville investigators said there is nothing more they could do but it would be a waste of time and resources to try to work a case when a victim didn't want help.  One detective said there will always be more cases and more victims, and their focus will go to those.

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