Alabama jury convicts officer of manslaughter in shooting

FILE - In this March 24, 2016, file photo, Montgomery Police Officer Aaron Smith, left, arrives for a hearing at the Montgomery County Courthouse in Montgomery, Ala. Lawyers gave opening statements Tuesday, Nov. 19, 2019, in the murder trial of Smith, an Alabama police officer charged with killing an unarmed man. Montgomery police Officer Aaron Cody Smith is charged in the 2016 shooting death of 58-year-old Gregory Gunn.

OZARK, Ala. (AP) — A white Alabama police officer charged with murder in the shooting of a black man initially told an investigator he fired after the man swung a pole at him before later saying he wasn’t sure what happened, jurors heard Wednesday.

Prosecutors played jurors a recording of a statement made by Montgomery police Officer Aaron Cody Smith hours after the killing of Greg Gunn, 58.

Smith stopped Gunn, who was walking through his neighborhood in the pre-dawn hours, and attempted to frisk him moments before the shooting occurred, authorities have said.

The Montgomery Advertiser reports Smith initially told an investigator that Gunn swung a painting pole at him after a short pursuit.

The investigator asked Smith if he was “in fear for your life” when Gunn swung the pole, which missed Smith.

“I was afraid I was going to get hit in the head,” Smith said. Gunn was shot five times outside a neighbor’s home.

Smith changed his story during questioning five days later, according to video and audio played for jurors. In that session, Smith was no longer sure whether Gunn had swung the paint pole at him before he fired.

Prosecutors contend Smith’s story changed over time, leading to a murder charge. Deputy District Attorney Ben McGough told jurors in an opening statement that Smith was “nothing more than a bully with a badge.”

Defense attorney Mickey McDermott portrayed Gunn as being on cocaine and presenting a threat to Smith.

“This young man had to make a decision in microseconds,” McDermott told jurors earlier.

The shooting happened in February 2016. The trial is being held in the south Alabama town of Ozark after a judge moved it out of Montgomery.

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