Another murder of a young black man by a white cop, this time in Montgomery, Alabama, has led to the officer involved being charged with murder, something that simply would not have happened even a few years ago.
Officer Aaron C. Smith, 23, was arrested Wednesday, and his bond was set at $150,000, Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey said during a Wednesday afternoon press conference.
"SBI and I agreed at the beginning of this investigation that this case would be treated as any other case," Bailey said. "We agreed that if there were probable cause that a crime had been committed then an arrest would be made. After meeting extensively with SBI agents, we have concluded that probable cause exists to make an arrest in this case."
He said the arrest isn't an indictment, and the investigation remains ongoing.
Smith, a Montgomery police officer since 2012, was released on bond shortly after being booked into the Montgomery County Detention Facility on Wednesday afternoon.
Gunn was fatally shot on Feb. 25 at around 3:20 a.m. in the 3200 block of McElvey Street in the west Montgomery neighborhood of Mobile Heights.
Last week, Montgomery Police Chief Ernest Finley said the incident began after an officer stopped to talk to a "suspicious" person, later identified as Gunn, and an altercation ensued. It was initially reported Gunn was armed with a painting pole or stick.
It's unclear now why Gunn was deemed suspicious, or if he was really armed with a stick.
Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said today that termination proceedings have begun against Smith.
For an Alabama prosecutor to move this quickly to arrest a police officer on charges of murder means there has to be pretty hefty evidence against Smith for Gunn's shooting. The state police were called in to investigate and they could have easily covered for Smith and the case would have just been one more dead black man on the streets.
But it's not. And the difference seems to be the body camera.
Strange said he had asked the State Bureau of Investigation to expedite the investigation into the shooting.
"We cooperated fully (with the SBI investigation)," Strange said during today's press conference. "We will continue to cooperate fully as it moves forward."
He said Montgomery police didn't investigate the shooting. The scene was isolated, and the investigation immediately handed over to the State Bureau of Investigation.
No details of the case, including what may or may not be on the officer's body camera were released to Strange, Finley or Montgomery Department of Public Safety Director Chris Murphy, Strange said.
"This is a time of grief for the Gunn family as they prepare to lay a loved one to rest," Strange added later. "It is also a challenging time for MPD ...."
Strange said hopes to speak with Gunn's mother and to offer his condolences.
Gunn was supposedly armed with a stick or painting pole when he was killed. I'm betting that the body camera shows pretty clearly that Gunn wasn't armed and wasn't threatening Office Smith at all. There's no way a white police officer in Alabama is charged with murder of a black life after just one week since the shooting without overwhelming evidence, and that evidence almost certainly has to be the body camera footage.
I'll be keeping an eye on this case. Black lives matter, folks.