BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (CN) — A police officer honored with a medal after shooting a robbery suspect lied about events leading up to the incident and a dash-cam video will prove it, the wounded man claims in court.
In a federal lawsuit, Aubrey Williams claims he was walking home from a convenience store with a friend at about 2 a.m. on April 24, 2014 when they were stopped by two Birmingham, Ala. police officers.
The officer/defendants Daniel Aguirre and Richard Haluska said they were looking for a robbery suspect, but Williams says the person the police were looking for was at least six inches shorter and 70 pounds lighter than either he or his friend Devon Brown.
The only similarity was the fact that they are all black males, the complaint says.
Williams claims the men were stopped in an alley by the officers and were "aggressively" told to stop and turn around.
Brown was "roughly handled" by Haluska before Aguirre shot him with a Taser, the complaint says.
Williams says he watched all of this happening and once the officers had subdued his friend, Aguirre ordered him to get on the ground.
William says he complied, but as he was getting on the ground, he told the officers he had a gun in the white plastic bag he was carrying, the complaint states.
The lawsuit says Aguirre approached Williams, saw the gun in the bag, stood erect and shot plaintiff twice in the back.
It also claims Williams never had his hand on the gun. that he was no threat to the officers, and that he was in a compliant position on his all-fours at the time.
The officers radioed that shots had been fired and Williams was taken to the hospital for emergency surgery, the complaint says.
He stayed in the hospital for two months and needed multiple surgeries for life-threatening injuries, including lacerated internal organs, fractured bones, occluded arteries and injuries to his diaphragm.
During this time, Williams says, defendant officers "agreed to a false narrative of the events leading up to the shooting", claiming that plaintiff "held a gun in his hand and pointed it at Haluska, and that in fear for his partner's life, Aguirre warned Aubrey to drop his weapon. Aguirre also falsely reported that Aubrey aimed his gun at Aguirre and Aguirre shot Aubrey twice in self-defense."
Based on the false statements made by the officers, plaintiff was charged with two counts of attempted murder and jailed on a bond of $250,000 for each count when he was released from the hospital.
The complaint states there is a major flaw in this version of events because although Aguirre did not activate the video recorder until after the shooting, the dash-cam in the police vehicle had actually recorded the shooting. Therefore, Williams says the narrative given by defendants is an "utter falsehood and lie and is completely contradicted by the video evidence of what actually occurred."
Police supervisors and members of the Birmingham Police Department's Internal Affairs Department, who are also named defendants in the lawsuit, conducted an investigation and although they knew what was on the video, they conspired to support the officers' false narrative of the events and supported false charges brought against Williams, the complaint says.
Williams says defendants not only supported the false version of events, they held up Aguirre as a hero and recommended him for the Combat Cross Medal, the Alabama Legislature's Medal of Honor for Law Enforcement.
A legislative committee also published a resolution honoring the officer saying, "Officer Aguirre epitomizes the quality of those who serve and protect and he is truly deserving of this distinguished medal of honor for law enforcement," the complaint says.
However, when Birmingham-based newspaper The Birmingham News and its web site al.com received the dash-cam video, the article cast light on the false narrative given by defendants and the video clearly shows that plaintiff did not point a gun at either officer, the complaint says.
Williams says although Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper is quoted in the article as saying "We'll do a thorough review and take appropriate action" and he rescinded the medal given to Aguirre, neither Roper or any of the individual or supervisory defendants have taken any action to undo the conspiracy or to undo the false attempted murder charges against Williams.
The plaintiff says this is an example of a "code of silence" within the Birmingham Police Department to cover up officers' unconstitutional conduct and use of force against citizens.
According to the complaint, Williams spent 16 months in jail before his bond was reduced and he is now under house arrest at his mother's home where he is required to wear an electronic monitor at all times.
He is currently scheduled to go on trial next month.
Williams seeks damages on claims of false arrest, illegal stop and seizure, unreasonable use of force, conspiracy, failure to disclose evidence, negligent supervision, and assault and battery.
Williams is represented by Alan Lasseter of Shuttlesworh Lasseter in Birmingham.
Representatives of the defendants could not immediately be reached for comment.
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