Most of the people arrested during protests in Huntsville last summer, police fired squirrels and rubber bullets at people in a courtroom, who were never convicted of any crimes.
And although most cases end with abandonment charges or acquittal, at least two men continue to fight their crimes.
A man named Patrick McCool is facing his chaotic behavior. The judge, instead of the judge, is asking her to make a final determination on the crime committed by her on the night of June 3, when she returned to the police where she was paralyzed.
“They have to let him go, they have to,” said Huntsville lawyer, 53-year-old father and lifelong Huntsville resident, who has worked as a city lifeguard and swimming instructor for two decades.
As protests around George Floyd’s death engulfed the country, it took the city nearly 14 months to settle the cases of about two dozen people arrested on the night of June 1 and 20, 2020.
Most in Huntsville have been charged with disorderly conduct, misconduct and failing to disperse after police ordered the group to go home. Two men have been arrested on misdemeanor gun charges.
More than half were found not guilty or their charges were dismissed, including attending AL.com court hearings, reviewing documents, interviewing lawyers and talking to people in custody.
But the McCool case continues. While charging the documents, Huntsville police allege that McCool was involved in “quarrelsome or violent, noisy or threatening behavior” when he threw it in the direction of officers in an attempt to inconvenience and alert the public.
Gardner told AL.com that McCool was not targeting the police, but instead trying to protect the vulnerable people in the group from chemicals.
McCool told AL.com this week that after he threw the canister out of the way, an officer shot him in the leg with a rubber bullet because police were throwing tear gas and pepper spray and flash bangs.
McCool is fighting his sentence because law enforcement of the tactics used in the protests is characteristic of a militarized police force that exacerbates the situation rather than communicate with the public.
“For me, it’s about protecting me, but it’s also about setting some priorities,” he said. “It cost me, but in the long run everything will be worth it.”
A city court judge found McCool guilty and ordered him to pay more than $ 400 in fines, fees and court costs, records show. McCool hopes the judge will look at the case differently.
As protests spread across the country, hundreds gathered at the Huntsville Downtown, marched through the streets and spoke out against racial injustice and police violence.
On June 1 and June 3, protesters were ordered to go home before covering the square in the clouds of ash and pepper spray. On June 3, after protesters were ordered to leave for about an hour, insurgents threw flash bang grenades and rubber bullets, snipers peered from the court rooftops, and state helicopters jumped.
But the scene was chaotic, the timing of the event permit was vague, and police said they did not act that night in response to violence but to avoid the possibility of rioting or looting seen in other cities during the summer.
“That whole thing is a big bunch of nonsense,” Gardner said of the police response to the protests in Huntsville. “It wasn’t called out completely. It was just a day for the police to try all their new things.
A report prepared by the Huntsville Police Civil Advisory Committee found that in some cases city police violated policy or did not act professionally during the protests, officers were not properly trained or prepared to protest, and some of the department’s investigative techniques were questionable.
[Read more: 10 takeaways from the inquiry into Huntsville’s racial justice protests and arrests]
In response to the outrage of local protesters, alleging that police used excessive force and violated their First Amendment rights, the City Council spent more than $ 655,000 on lawyers to help the committee, a group of 10 volunteers, review the actions taken by police during the protests.
Gardner also dismissed McCool’s allegations, dismissing other chaotic behavior charges filed against the protesters.
In city court, prosecutors dismissed 13 cases, but half a dozen others pleaded guilty. The jury found three men guilty. A man was acquitted at trial for failing to disperse the charge because the video showed him getting out of his car as he tried to leave.
Assistant city attorney Blair Dawkins told AL.com that prosecutors dismissed cases in which the arrested individuals had no criminal records or prior arrests. Those defendants signed release forms agreeing not to sue the city.
Two cases were played in District Court at the Madison County Courthouse in Huntsville. A jury found Owen Eason guilty of bringing a firearm to a June 1 show. The woman admitted the same charge for bringing Wun to the June 3 protest.
Carrying a firearm in protest in Alabama is illegal. At the 15-minute hearing, Eason’s lawyers questioned whether the protest, which had been scheduled for the night of his arrest, had already ended.
Madison County District Judge Patty Demos found Eason guilty. The judge sentenced him to two years and $ 350 in fines and fees and court costs. She was sentenced to 90 days in jail, until he successfully completed his probation.
Eagle, like McCool, continues to contest his conviction. He is out of custody on $ 1,500 bail while he is being prosecuted.
Eason told AL.com this week that although he moved to Los Angeles within 15 months of his arrest, he plans to continue fighting his sentence. He wants the jury to decide if he is guilty.
“I’d love to take this to trial,” Eason said. “I’m happily flying back and forth.”