COLBERT COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) — On October 1, 2021, the lives of several people in the Shoals were changed when a shooting broke out behind Southgate Mall between authorities and the alleged suspect, Brian Lansing Martin.
It’s been one year since the day when Sheffield Police Sergeant Nick Risner was shot and killed in the line of duty. Lieutenant Max Dotson was also injured. Risner’s K9, Wiske was with him at the time but was not injured.
Martin, the accused shooter, was sentenced in 2013 to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter. He was arrested in 2011 for killing his father over an owed debt in Tuscumbia. He was released from prison in May 2016 after only serving three years of his sentence, according to police.
At 1:44 p.m. on Friday, October 1, dispatchers told officers that someone had called 911 saying a person had fallen from a moving vehicle on Avalon Avenue in Muscle Shoals. The caller quickly clarified that the body was pushed from the vehicle.
Once officers arrived on the scene, they confirmed that the victim, later identified as William Mealback, Jr., had a traumatic head injury. They called for an air evac unit, but after realizing he was dead, it was canceled.
Then, the search for a killer began.
Dispatchers told officers to be on the lookout for a gray Ford F-150 in the area of Avalon Avenue. Shortly after, 911 got a tip that the truck may have been involved in a hit and run on Woodward Avenue. Officers from Sheffield quickly spotted the truck and began the chase.
The driver led them on a chase from Sheffield city limits back to Muscle Shoals. According to the radio traffic, the driver turned left off Montgomery Avenue onto Avalon Avenue. He eventually turned off Avalon Avenue into a parking lot near the Ruby Tuesday’s restaurant. Officers attempted a maneuver to bring the truck to a stop.
Officers trapped the suspect’s vehicle behind the mall in order to keep him from getting close to the nearby Walmart, and Martin began shooting.
At 2:26 p.m., Sheffield Police Lieutenant Max Dotson can be heard saying: “Shots fired! I’ve been hit! I’ve been hit!”
Dispatch called for Muscle Shoals Rescue and two air evac units. Initially, they were only aware of the one officer shot.
A few minutes later, an officer on the scene shared the news. He relays that a second officer, who would later be identified as Sgt. Risner had been shot and was “down.” Martin was also described as “down”.
An air evac unit transported Risner to Huntsville Hospital for surgery. He died at 9:52 the next morning, Saturday, October 2.
While the events that spanned just a few hours would end Sgt. Risner’s time on Earth, his legacy will live on forever.
Sheffield Police Chief Ricky Terry released a statement thanking the community and everyone who prayed for Sgt. Risner, his family, and the Sheffield Police Department. Terry said Risner died a hero and saved even more lives by being an organ donor.
Following his death, Governor Kay Ivey signed the Nick Risner Act into law. The bill, sponsored by Representative Phillip Pettus, prevents convicts who use a deadly weapon to kill someone from being released early under Alabama’s “Good Time” law. The law allows eligible prisoners to be able to shorten their prison sentences through “good time served.”
Prosecutors have requested Martin undergo a mental exam prior to his trial, due to the fact he pleaded not guilty by reason of mental disease or defect.