WARNING: This article contains video and written explanation of security footage that shows a fatal shooting. Viewer discretion is advised.
DECATUR, Ala. (WHNT) — It’s now been one month since Stephen Perkins, 39, was killed by Decatur police. In the 30 days following his death, there have been press releases, protests, press conferences, prayer and more.
As we continue to follow the investigation into Perkins’ death, News 19 has put together a recap of what we know and what has happened so far.
Shooting in Decatur leaves 39-year-old man dead
Perkins was killed by police in the early morning hours of Sept. 29 following an incident surrounding a vehicle repossession. The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency said Perkins pointed a weapon toward an officer, and the officer shot at him.
Perkins was taken to a nearby medical facility and died.
Per a Decatur Police Department policy, the officer was placed on administrative leave, and the ALEA began to investigate the incident.
Later that day, the Perkins family released a statement regarding the incident.
The statement, released by a representative of the Perkins family, called the loss “traumatizing” and encouraged the City of Decatur to be transparent when communicating with the family on the incident.
“The most respectful way for the City of Decatur, Alabama and Decatur Alabama Police Department to respond to this tragedy is with proactivity, and ultimately, transparency when communicating with the family and the Decatur City Community,” the release said.
The statement also said the family has not received any footage of the incident and asked for body camera footage to be released.
“The city retains body cameras which should have been in use during the incident,” the statement said. “The family is calling for the city to deliver the footage to the family. In the meantime, surveillance exists of the incident through home security cameras. The unjust excessive amount of force can be seen in the home surveillance footage.”
The family said Perkins was not known for aggressive behavior and described him as a “family-oriented young black man thriving for excellence.” The statement also noted the family had found no evidence that Perkin’s truck was being repossessed at the time of the incident.
“While there are a lot of rumors circulating, the family has found financial receipts proving Clay’s monthly payments were processed through his financing company and no evidence of Clay’s vehicle being in an active status of repossession, therefore indicating, the Towing Company and City of Decatur Police Department wrongfully appeared at Clay’s home,” the statement said.
The family ended their statement by demanding a thorough investigation of the encounter.
“In this memorandum, the family is demanding a thorough investigation of the encounter held at Clay’s home on the morning of 29 September 2023,” the statement said. “We are calling actions of justice to be served. We are calling for the removal of officers who entered Clay’s home the morning of the event, removal of officers using excessive force, and answers of justice from the city. We do not call for administrative leave of officers involved also known as a ‘free vacation.’”
You can read the full statement here.
In October, News 19 obtained Ring Doorbell footage of the shooting and events that led up to Perkins’ death.
We reviewed the videos and are showing portions of them to help further the public understanding of that night.
Disclaimer: The video was modified for broadcast time purposes, including when the tow truck arrives and leaves the Perkins home. News 19 has included a partial transcript of the audio in the videos. We only transcribed portions we could hear clearly to avoid misinterpretation. The video is graphic, and viewer discretion is advised. A written explanation is below if you would prefer to not watch the video.
The video is from a neighbor’s camera across the street, one house to the left of Perkins’ home on Ryan Drive in Decatur. None of the videos feature time stamps. But the neighbor who provided the video estimates that from the time the first police car moved down the street until the shooting about 12 minutes elapsed.
In the video, we see three people, who turn out to be Decatur police officers, enter Stephen Perkins’ neighborhood walking through neighbors’ yards toward his house. It takes them about 90 seconds to reach the side of Perkins’ home. The video was sped up during the walk for time purposes.
News 19 zoomed out the video next, so viewers could see the full layout of the neighborhood. Eventually, the video shows the small group of officers stopping at the side of Perkins’ home.
Two of the officers walk down the next-door neighbor’s driveway – one crossing the street. The other officer returns to the side of Perkins’ house. That appears to leave two officers on the darkened side of Perkins’ home.
News 19 then shows a second clip from the same camera. It is unclear exactly how much time passes between the end of the first clip and the tow truck apparently on a repossession effort, arriving in the second clip.
It appears that as the tow truck driver hitches up Perkins’ pickup truck — Perkins walks outside. The video shows a light moving in the front yard, apparently carried by Perkins.
He yells at the driver, “Hey, put my truck down.”
Shouts of “Hey, hey,” can be heard as officers emerge from the spot around the corner of Perkins’ home, running around the truck behind him.
They begin yelling, “Police. Get on the ground.”
Gunshots can be heard within seven seconds of Perkins walking outside. The video shows shots rang out four seconds after Perkins yelled at the tow truck driver.
After more than 15 rounds are fired, officers can be seen running from different directions near Perkins’ house.
An officer can be heard yelling, “That’s the gun, that’s the gun.”
Less than four minutes after Perkins is shot, the tow truck driver drives away with Perkins’ truck.
Decatur Police Chief releases statement on shooting
Decatur Police Chief Todd Pinion released a statement regarding the shooting death of Perkins:
“There has been discussion publicly concerning demands to have the DPD release body cam video of the incident,” the chief stated. “Legislation enacted earlier this year, governs the release of body camera footage. Pursuant to that legislation, the ‘Custodial Law Enforcement Agency’ is the entity to decide when, how, and what to disclose. Because ALEA is conducting the investigation, they are the Custodial Law Enforcement Agency and they maintain all evidence in the case to include body camera videos.”
Pinion noted it would be “improper and irresponsible” for him to comment on evidence in the case and he cannot legally release any of the evidence in the case. The ALEA and Morgan County District Attorney’s Office will determine if the case will be presented to a grand jury at the end of the investigation. Pinion mentioned until that time, the DPD cannot comment on the investigation.
The chief wrote he recognizes that many members of the community are mourning Perkins’ loss and addressed a protest that took place at Decatur City Hall on Sunday.
“There was a peaceful demonstration at city hall yesterday and I completely respect the public’s right to peacefully protest,” Pinion stated. “Please understand that I am in a difficult position of trying to juggle the public’s demands for transparency and adhering to the rules of criminal procedure while not jeopardizing the integrity of the investigation.”
He mentioned he has full confidence the ALEA will conduct a thorough and impartial investigation and asked the community for patience until that investigation is complete.
Decatur mayor speaks on shooting death of Stephen Perkins
Decatur’s Mayor Tab Bowling addressed the Sept. 29 shooting death of Stephen Perkins.
In Bowling’s statement, he stated, “At the invitation of some of our mutual friends, Sherry and I visited with the family over the weekend to personally share our condolences.”
My name is Tab Bowling, and I am mayor of the City of Decatur, and I am reaching out to you because I’m grieving with the rest of our community following the police-involved shooting of Stephen Clay Perkins. My heart is with Steve’s family and loved ones as they grieve the loss of his life. At the invitation of some of our mutual friends, Sherry and I visited with the family over the weekend to personally share our condolences. While the grief in the home is beyond belief, there was certainly hospitality and kindness, but the family understandably was laser-focused on one thing – and that’s answers to why Steve lost his life. And at this time, I do not have the answers. The investigation into this tragedy is being handled externally by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency – that’s ALEA – and I and the City of Decatur are deeply committed to the release of information as soon as it is released by the appropriate agencies in compliance with applicable laws. I will be attending Thursday night’s vigil, to join our community in honoring Steve’s life. I did not know Steve, but from all that I’ve read and heard about Steve, he was a special man that I would have liked to have known. I ask that you keep Steve’s family, and our community, in your prayers as this continues to unfold. Thank you.Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling
On Oct. 4, the Perkins family retained a national civil rights lawyer.
Lee Merritt is a lawyer with experience in civil rights litigation, and the Perkins family has retained him in an effort to ‘seek justice and accountability’ for Stephen’s death.
“The Perkins family seeks justice and accountability for the untimely death of their loved one, who was shot seven times by Decatur police officers despite never posing a threat to law enforcement. Steve Perkins, a responsible gun owner and property owner, was merely protecting his property when this unfortunate incident occurred. The family firmly believes that the use of excessive force by the Decatur police officers was unwarranted and unjustifiable. They have chosen to engage the services of Lee Merritt to ensure that their pursuit of justice is thorough, transparent, and effective.”Office of Lee Merritt
Merritt stated he will be working with the family, “to uncover the truth surrounding the circumstances of the shooting and seek justice through all available legal avenues.” He added they “are committed to ensuring that this incident is thoroughly investigated, and that any systemic issues within the Decatur Police Department are addressed and rectified.”
Towing company claims it was wrongfully linked to shooting
That same day, News 19 reported a story about a towing company in Decatur that says it is being connected to the incident, but it wasn’t the one involved.
According to the owner of “All Star Towing and Recovery,” located in Decatur, it has been unjustly receiving a lot of the blame. Through social media, community members have been saying an “All Star” towing company is responsible. However, there is more than one towing company in Decatur with that name. The other company is named “All Star Recovery.”
Given the companies’ similar names, there have been some mix-ups over the years, but when it is something as serious as this, the owner of All Star Towing and Recovery, Heath Compton wants to set the record straight.
“I want to share my condolences with the family of Mr. Perkins, and we want to let everybody know that we were in no way involved,” Compton said.
All Star Towing and Recovery is located on Central Circle, and All Star Recovery is located on Poole Valley Road.
“For years, however long they have been in business here, we’ve been mixed up for that long. … I get phone calls every day, sometimes 10-15 calls a day, from people looking for them because they don’t have any contact information on Google,” Compton said.
Compton said he’s just dealt with it over the years, but now he has to draw the line.
“The lady called me, and she said ‘I need a tow,’ and then she says ‘Never mind, y’all are the ones that got that boy killed,’ and hung up the phone,” Compton said. “She never gave me a chance to explain the situation. Now that this has happened, I have to draw the line. This is too much. … We have to do something.”
The company has met with associates of Stephen Perkins who showed up at its door, but Compton said the meeting ended positively once they realized they were at the wrong place.
All Star Towing and Recovery said it’s been around for years before All Star Recovery and has no plans to change its name.
Civil rights attorney Lee Merritt confirms the Perkins family had a meeting with Morgan County District Attorney Scott Anderson.
Later that night, loved ones and supporters from the Decatur community and beyond held a vigil for Perkins.
Hundreds of people gathered with flashlights in hand outside the police department and city hall to remember Perkins.
Dozens could be seen with shirts and signs reading “Justice for Steve” as they came together in support of his family with the community also joining together in prayer. Perkins leaves behind a large family that includes his wife and two daughters who were in attendance for the vigil.
Kami Whorton, who lived just down the road from Perkins, said she never imagined an incident like this would occur in her community.
“I think it’s just important for us to show our love of support and unity for this family and lift them up and let them know that as a community we love them and we’re praying for them for justice for his life,” Whorton said. “It’s very disheartening that this happened so locally. I never thought this would happen here in Decatur, Alabama.”
The community said it wants accountability and transparency in the investigation and is asking for law enforcement to act swiftly. Some in Decatur said they would continue to protest on behalf of the Perkins family with the intent to keep the incident in the public spotlight.
They added that they will not allow this situation to go away until they feel the incident has been handled in a transparent manner and justice is served.
Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling calls a press conference regarding the shooting death of Stephen Perkins.
Community members holds a day of prayer for the situation.
Dozens banded together in prayer after what many said has been a difficult last week for their city. Some said no matter their differences, coming together at a time like this is vital.
Hundreds of people packed the grounds of the city hall for prayer.
Pastors like Samuel King of St. Stephens Primitive Baptist Church offered prayers as Decatur moved through what he called a difficult time period.
“We decided that we have to come out in front and pray and talk to the people allow them to at least see that we are praying for justice to be done,” King said.
After the prayer gathering concluded, people continued to protest calling on law enforcement to arrest all of the officers involved in the incident.
Decatur councilman calls for police chief’s resignation, firing of officer involved in Perkins’s death
Protesters calling for “Justice for Perkins” addressed the Decatur City Council during its regular work session.
That meeting ended with a six-minute statement from a longtime council member, District 1’s Billy Jackson, who is calling for the officers involved in Perkins’ death to be fired and for the police chief to resign or be terminated.
Jackson took time to convey the pain he was experiencing, and the actions he believed should be taken. He said his family and the Perkins family “go back long before” he was born and that he knew Stephen his whole life. He said he had candid conversations with many people who are calling for justice for Perkins.
“I’ve spoken with many people that are in this room tonight,” Jackson said. “I spoke with them today and we had lots of conversations. I spoke with them candidly and they spoke with me candidly.”
Jackson told those in attendance at the meeting that his intention on Monday night was to call for the resignation or termination of Decatur Police Chief Todd Pinion. He said he doesn’t have anything against the chief, but he believes all policies and procedures that are in place “stop with the chief.”
“Anisa asked who is going to call for Chief Pinion’s termination or separation from the city. The mayor said ‘No, we weren’t going to do that.’ My intention today, and to be quite frank, I didn’t want a big audience here tonight, and that’s not my choice. I didn’t want a big audience here because I did not want anyone to think I was doing something or saying something to show out. And, when Devin said that I had not spoken, I had decided that I was going to wait until the end.
I came here tonight with the intention of asking for separation with Chief Pinion. I was going to ask for either his resignation or termination. I don’t have anything against chief. I don’t, chief. I like chief. But the fact very simply is that all policies and procedures that are in place stop with the chief. If the council does not implement a policy for a department, then the mayor has the opportunity to do that. If the mayor does not do that, then the chief or department head can do that.”District 1 Decatur City Council Member Billy Jackson
He went on to say he believes they need to make changes within the police department, and he thinks the officers involved in Perkins’s death should be terminated and arrested.
“I do think that our department has failed. And I think that our citizens whether it was a Black citizen or a white citizen or any other citizen in our community should not have been treated this way,” Jackson said. “This was an injustice in my opinion, and I think that justice will play out. I have a firm belief that justice will play off. But I think those door cams had a lot to do with justice playing out.”
Jackson said it all goes back to policies and procedures, specifically, which ones allowed the police officers to respond to Perkin’s home before 2 a.m. for something that could have been handled in a week or ten days.
“I’m not a police officer, but it’s pretty clear for me that this should not have happened … .” Jackson said. “I don’t know of any procedure that would have allowed us to go out there at that particular time in aid of or assisting a tow truck driver at that particular time when all we had to do was turn on the lights and knock on the door. But the thing is if a police officer is outside my house and all the lights are on, blue lights are flashing everywhere, I’m not coming out with a gun. I’m just not. To me, that’s suicide.”
As for Pinion, he responded to the calls for his resignation or termination saying “I was appointed Chief of Police by this council in May 2022, and I intend to continue to lead and serve this community and our department.”
Decatur Police Chief apologizes for misinformation in statement on shooting.
Pinion apologized that “inaccurate information” was shared in the initial rush to release information to the public. Initial information shared with the public from the Decatur Police Department indicated that Perkins was ordered to “drop his weapon” before officers shot him.
“We now know the officer identified themselves as ‘police’ and ordered Mr. Perkins to ‘get on the ground’ prior to the officer firing rather than ordering him to drop the weapon at that time as we initially reported the morning of the shooting,” Pinion stated. “That means that we also erred in stating Mr. Perkins ‘refused’ to drop his firearm prior to the shooting. I apologize for the inaccurate description of the encounter in our initial statement, and we have already taken steps to improve our public information-sharing process.”
Finishing off his statement, Chief Pinion said that the department has welcomed the exercising of First Amendment rights and facilitated prior protests without arrest but did arrest nine people during protests over the weekend for obstructing traffic on main roadways as well as disorderly conduct language in public.
Alabama NAACP President Bernard Simelton calls for a change to the state’s use of deadly force policies.
Simelton said the cameras capturing just how the shooting happened do not lie while describing Perkins as a target. Simelton is demanding that the police revise its deadly force training and policy as it relates to using the right judgment versus quick judgment.
“They pulled those triggers and shot eighteen bullets with seven of them striking the individual. And the question becomes ‘Was that necessary?’” Simelton asked.
Simelton added now more than ever additional training should be enforced before more situations of deadly force occur.
“Before you can do anything, shots are fired, and we know the result of this shooting,” Simelton said. “The rest of that story of what happened is beyond tragic because Perkins didn’t have a chance to respond.”
Simelton added the NAACP is describing the officers’ actions as unacceptable. While calling for protests to continue, he’s also calling for justice.
Brent Lipscomb, who represents the Perkins Family, said the ALEA is supposed to share the body cam video with the Perkins’ legal team the following day.
ALEA says ‘process not yet completed’ after Perkins family expected bodycam release
A representative of the Perkins said the family expected authorities to share the body camera video from the night Stephen Perkins was shot, but officials said the family’s request must go through a process.
“ALEA has a process by which an individual who is the subject of a law enforcement recording, or that individual’s personal representative, may request disclosure of body camera or dash camera video evidence. That process has not yet been completed in this instance,” a spokesperson for ALEA stated.
‘We respect that right’: Decatur mayor comments after protests at his house
The Decatur mayor made a comment after protests calling for justice in the death of Stephen Perkins continued Thursday, including outside his own home.
Tab Bowling said protesters also made a stop at his home in Historic Decatur.
“Yes, we had protesters at our house on Wednesday and Thursday evening,” he said. “Everyone has a constitutional right to protest peacefully and to speak their mind. We respect that right. The City of Decatur will continue to work through the legal and judicial process to fully investigate Steve Perkins’ death, and I’ll continue to push for that process to move as quickly as possible.”
A News 19 crew on the scene said protesters also returned to city hall.
According to video on social media, protests appear to have begun on the Hudson Memorial Bridge in Decatur stopping southbound traffic on the bridge for a short time.
Decatur Police obtains warrants for Hudson Memorial Bridge protesters
The Decatur Police Department said in a Facebook post that it has positively identified individuals involved and is issuing arrest warrants for disorderly conduct. “We are in the process of attempting to notify those individuals so arrangements can be made for them to turn themselves in if they choose to do so,” DPD said in the post.
Under Alabama law, disorderly conduct is a Class C misdemeanor, with a sentence that can include up to three months in jail and a maximum $500 fine.
The Decatur Police Department declined to say how many arrest warrants are being issued.
In the Facebook post, the department stated it has made a specific effort to give protestors the space necessary to exercise their constitutional rights without interference. The DPD stated, however, there have been situations where it has been necessary to make arrests to ensure the safety of both the protestors and those citizens and motorists who are not involved.
“As we have previously stated publicly, we will continue to enforce the law and arrests should be expected when certain actions of violators include vandalism, violence or impeding roadways that could impact providing basic public safety services to the rest of the community,” DPD stated.
The DPD also declined to say if any emergency vehicles were impeded by the protest. The DPD called the protest on the bridge a hazardous situation for motorists and emergency vehicles attempting to cross the bridge to come into and through Decatur.
To read the full post, click here.
Accused ‘Justice for Stephen Perkins’ bridge protestors turn themselves in
Decatur city officials hold a press conference following recent protests, announce hiring of legal team
Decatur Mayor Tab Bowling said the decision to bring in an independent legal counsel was to allow for a thorough internal investigation into the officers involved during the night Perkins was killed. He said the intent behind this was to avoid any conflicts of interest and to help ensure an impartial investigation could be conducted.
The independent legal counsel is being led by Huntsville attorney Robert Lockwood. Lockwood said he will oversee the investigation into whether or not the officers involved in the Perkins shooting should face disciplinary action from the department.
“My mission has been made abundantly clear to me be diligent, be prompt, be fair,” Lockwood said. “As I sit here today early in the process, I can’t give you a specific date by which it’s going to be complete.”
Decatur Police Chief Todd Pinion said the internal investigation that’s ongoing is separate from the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency’s review of the case.
Once the internal investigation is completed, Lockwood’s legal team will begin their work.
The chief said he understood the people of Decatur are hurting over the incident, and he asked the public to remain patient as the investigation into the shooting continues.
“We recognize the community’s and our own desire for a speedy investigation, but this must not sacrifice the integrity of the administrative investigation as well,” Pinion said.
In reference to the mistake made in the initial press release on behalf of the department, the chief said he’s working to ensure a situation like that never happens again.
“Sometimes in an effort to rush some things, we’re wrong, and I had to take that back, and I want to make sure that we’re thorough and have a complete and thorough investigation on this,” Pinion said. “Yes, we want to be speedy throughout all this, but we want to make sure we have it right.”
City leaders said they could not provide a definitive timeline for when the investigation will be completed. They’re asking for the public to remain patient as the investigation continues.
ALEA denies Perkins family request for body cam footage
The ALEA denied the request by the family of Stephen Perkins for police body camera footage from the night he was fatally shot by Decatur police officers.
ALEA Director Chris Inabinett sent the denial in a letter to an attorney representing the Perkins family.
In the letter, Inabinett cited Alabama law that allows them to “choose not to disclose the recording if the disclosure would affect an ongoing active law enforcement investigation or prosecution.”
Inabinett did not say how the investigation would be affected by showing the video to Perkins family representatives.
Sunday marks one month since Stephen Perkins was killed in an officer-involved shooting. As of Sunday, protests and calls for justice continue throughout the Decatur community. Meanwhile, the ALEA is continuing to investigate the shooting.
News 19 will continue to provide coverage of the situation as it continues. To read all of News 19’s previous and future coverage of the Perkins shooting, click here.