Oxford police officers shot and killed a Tennessee man Wednesday who’d allegedly attempted to run them over during a chase, officials said.
Patrol cars from several agencies were at the scene this afternoon on Alabama 21 just north of Interstate 20, where an SUV sat crashed in a ditch, a white sheet covering the passenger-side door opening.
Heflin police Chief A.J. Benefield in a text message wrote that his agency had been alerted by Georgia authorities that an assault suspect had fled that state and was coming through Cleburne County. A Heflin officer spotted the suspect and attempted to stop him, Benefield wrote, but the suspect continued west on I-20 toward Oxford.
Oxford police Chief Bill Partridge said during a news conference after the incident that the Cleburne County Sheriff’s Office contacted Oxford police around 12:28 p.m. to inform them of the pursuit.
The suspect, Partridge said, exited the freeway at exit 185 in Oxford and drove into the Starbucks parking lot on Alabama 21.
“As he came around to the back of the parking lot he came to a stop,” Partridge said. “Officers were approaching his vehicle when witnesses say he gunned the vehicle and tried to run over officers. They opened fire on the suspect inside the vehicle.”
The suspect’s vehicle then travelled across Alabama 21 where it wrecked into a ditch on the other side of the road.
Partridge declined to name the man pending notification of his family that he’d been killed.
“We will release his name as soon as we can but that likely won’t be until tomorrow,” he said.
Heflin police said the man allegedly left his home in Knox County, Tenn., the location of Knoxville, with a loaded firearm, Partridge said.
“The subject suffers from PTSD and has made suicidal threats,” the chief said. “He has prior charges for assault, evading and resisting arrest. The subject also has warrants on file for aggravated assault on public officials and resisting arrest.”
The vehicle the suspect was in, a red Jeep, remained in a ditch just west of the southbound lanes of Alabama 21, across the highway from the Starbucks until it was placed on a wrecker around 3:30 p.m.
Center Director Mark Hopwood said by phone that the man’s body remained in the vehicle as it was removed from the scene.
“We escorted the wrecker to the police department so we could document bullet trajectories and injuries to the driver,” he said. “We don’t do that on the side of the road.”
Officers placed white sheets around the vehicle while staff from Jacksonville State University’s Center for Applied Forensics took photos around the vehicle and at Starbucks.
Officers from Oxford, Heflin and Piedmont were all on scene around 1 p.m. The Cleburne County Sheriff’s Office, Alabama State Troopers and Oxford Fire Department also responded to the incident.
“Unfortunately in our line of work sometimes we are forced to take an individual's life which is very regrettable,” Partridge said. “Sometimes people put us in that unfortunate situation.”
The investigation, Partridge said, was turned over to the Etowah County Sheriff’s Office to keep the investigation unbiased.
“We’re in the process of obtaining surveillance video now. Etowah County has already interviewed numerous individuals who actually saw the incident,” he said.
Partridge thanked all the agencies that responded to the incident.
“I want to say also that I appreciate all the outpouring of support I have received from law enforcement agencies across the state since leaving Montgomery this afternoon and returning here,” the chief said. “I want to thank our partners in law enforcement across this region for the job they did today assisting us in this matter.”
Partridge said he did not know if the incident in Oxford was related to another incident in Cherokee County on Wednesday afternoon in which another Tennessee man led officers on a pursuit and died of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound.
****OXPD is working an officer involved shooting at 21 and recreation Drive please avoid the area.****— Bill Partridge (@ChiefBPartridge) January 25, 2017