“We’re not here to fuss and fight,” said the Rev. Donald Gover, who acted as moderator at the meeting held at the Pell City Recreation Center on 19th Street. “We’re here to get an understanding of what happened.”
On the evening of Nov. 12, 2009, 41-year-old Barry Bush of Pell City was fatally shot in his home by Pell City police officer Vincent Warrington during the execution of a search warrant.
The shooting was investigated by the Alabama Bureau of Investigation. Etowah County Chief Deputy District Attorney Marcus Reid presented findings of the investigation to a St. Clair County grand jury after the St. Clair County District Attorney’s Office recused itself from the investigation in December, at the request of Bush’s family.
In April, the grand jury concluded there was not a criminal act involved in Bush’s deadly shooting.
About 50 residents attended Sunday’s meeting, many of whom were family and friends of Bush.
Some family members wore T-shirts with a picture of Bush on front.
“In loving memory,” the shirt read.
The shirts had Bush’s nickname, “Cheez,” on the back and the dates, “March 13, 1968-Nov. 12, 2009.”
People at Sunday’s meeting said a well-known man in their community was shot and killed by a police officer, and the community still doesn’t know why.
Tempers flared at times, and some residents questioned whether there are two types of justice, one for whites and one for blacks, in Pell City.
“How many blacks were chosen to be on this grand jury?” one woman asked. “There’s no justification for shooting someone in the mouth. How can someone look at this and say it’s a no bill?”
Mayor Bill Hereford said grand jury proceedings are secret to protect the innocent.
“You don’t know the facts the grand jury heard,” said Hereford, a former presiding circuit court judge for St. Clair County.
“If that had been a black officer who shot a white man in the mouth, we wouldn’t be here now,” said one man in the audience.
Organizers provided Hereford with a five page petition asking that the investigation into the shooting of Bush be reopened by the St. Clair County District Attorney’s Office.
“This is not the end of this case,” Hereford told the crowd. “There is a civil lawsuit filed by the Bush family.”
He said the civil trial should reveal details of the tragic incident.
“Barry was my friend,” Hereford said. “I hate his death like everyone else.”
The civil lawsuit claims Bush was unarmed at the time he was shot.
“At no time during any of the events at Mr. Bush’s home on Nov. 12, 2009, did Barry Bush have a weapon or otherwise pose a threat to anyone, including Officer Warrington,” the lawsuit filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Alabama Middle District alleges.
The city’s attorney claims the use of deadly force was justified.
“The city’s officers, employees, and agents (including Warrington) acted with actual and/or arguable probable cause to use the force they used,” Anniston attorney David Stubbs wrote in response, on behalf of Warrington and the city.
Linda Bush, one of the victim’s cousins, said she was displeased that only the mayor attended Sunday’s meeting.
“Where is our City Council?” she asked. “Where is our chief of police? This tells us what they think of us.”
Nicole Gover said she asked the mayor to inform the council and police chief about the meeting.
Hereford said during the meeting he did not inform his council of the meeting, and the police chief’s mother is seriously ill.
Hereford said Warrington is now back on duty with the Police Department after being “no billed” by the grand jury.
Hereford was asked if city officials will answer questions about what happened the evening of Nov. 12, 2009, if the civil case is settled out of court.
“That’s a good question,” Hereford said. “I wouldn’t answer that until the civil case is done.”
Nicole Gover, who helped organize the meeting and who is one of Bush’s cousins, said she walked away from the 2 hour meeting with more questions than answers.
“It’s not going to end here,” she said. “To me, this meeting today was useless. We got no answers.”
Police Chief Greg Turley said Monday Warrington wishes he could comment on the matter, but because of pending civil litigation he is unable to comment at this time because of department protocol.