Opelika Police Chief: Officer followed policy in airman shooting - Alabamas13.com WVTM-TV Birmingham, AL

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Opelika Police Chief: Officer followed policy in airman shooting

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OPELIKA, Ala. - Opelika Police Chief John McEachern told the media in a news conference Friday morning that the officer used appropriate force in the March 6 shooting that hospitalized a United States Air Force Airman.

Officer Philip Hancock, who has since been placed on Administrative Leave with Pay for the shooting, was responding to a call about a wreckless driver on I-85 north, according to McEachern. When Hancock arrived on the scene, the driver of the vehicle, 20-year-old East Texas native Michael Davidson, was exiting his vehicle.

"It was at this point when the officer perceived what he believed to be a threat," said McEachern. "Officer Hancock then pulled his service weapon and fired two shots at the suspect...Officer Hancock acted accordingly within departmental guidelines and we fully support him."

McEachern wasn't able to comment on what the "perceived threat" was, because he says it would just be speculation. Davidson was hit with one of the shots, he was sent to the Intensive Care Unit at the East Alabama Medical Center. His father, Billy Davidson, told WRBL News 3 Tuesday his son had since been released and is in good condition, but suffered serious injuries to his stomach and colon.

During that interview, Billy Davidson told his son's side of the story. He said Michael was traveling from Texas to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, North Carolina when his vehicle side swiped another along Interstate 85. Michael was walking along the roadway to exchange information with the second driver when police asked him to raise his hands. His son complied and raised his hands but was carrying his wallet. As he turned to face the officer, he was shot.

McEachern told the media that investigators later found spice, or synthetic marijuana, in Davidson's vehicle. A weapon was not found on Davidson or in his vehicle.

Davidson's family was not reached for comment on Thursday.

"I would like to express my sincerest sympathies and condolences to Airman Michael Davidson and his entire family. On behalf of the entire Opelika Police Department, our thoughts and prayers are with him and we wish him a speedy recovery. I would also like to express the same sentiments to Officer Phillip Hancock and his family," said McEachern.

After the shooting last week, the investigation was immediately turned over to state authorities. The Alabama Bureau of Investigation often investigates police-involved shootings to avoid any local conflict of interest in an investigation involving a department's own officer. Sgt. Steve Jarrett of the Alabama Department of Public Safety said the ABI would not be providing any public information about the ongoing investigation. He would only say that state investigators will be sending their findings to the District Attorney's office once complete.

Police Chief McEachern says the District Attorney will present the case to a Lee County grand jury. He said the dash cam footage of the shooting would also be released as soon as the investigation is complete.

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