Luis, who asked us not to use his last name, had just gotten off work one Friday night late last year. He and his family were making dinner outside at their trailer park in Pinson.
“We were heating up the food, a few tacos, when two African-American men arrived with assault weapons,” Luis says. “They threw us to the ground. I have it all on video. My wife was pregnant. They threw her on the ground. No one could do anything.”
It was payday at work and Luis had about $1,200 in cash on him. The men robbed him and fled. Luis was one of several residents who recently shared their stories at a forum at the Hispanic Interest Coalition of Alabama. The event was organized in response to a recent surge in robberies targeting the Hispanic community in Birmingham.
Police officials from Birmingham and Jefferson County were also in attendance. They say there is a pattern to these crimes, which are often armed robberies that take place on the weekend in trailer parks. They say criminals may target Hispanic residents because they are more likely to have cash on hand and they are less likely to call the police. A law enforcement officer at the meeting asked residents not to be afraid. Read more.
Violence is the newest strategic focus for the Jefferson County Department of Health. During Tuesday’s annual State of Health in Jefferson County address, Dr. Mark Wilson said the department added the issue in response to increasing rates of homicide.
“It (violence) isn’t something that our health department has devoted resources to in the past,” Wilson said, “but it is clearly a public health problem.” Read more.
With the help of a federal grant program, the Jefferson County District Attorney’s office has begun to chip away at the county’s massive backlog of untested sexual assault kits.
About 175 of the county’s more than 3,800 untested kits have been tested as of this month, with officials prioritizing cases that may lead to the capture of serial offenders. They also are taking steps to make sure that such a backlog never happens again, even once the federal grant runs out.
In 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance awarded the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office with a $1.5 million Sexual Assault Kit Initiative grant. The grant would pay for an inventory to be taken of the county’s backlog, as well as to establish a database of the kits and to “develop a common language and protocol for addressing sexual assault countywide,” said Danny Carr, who was then serving as the county’s district attorney pro tem.
The inventory was finished in September 2017 and found that, out of a total of 4,999 kits in Jefferson County, 3,876 had not been submitted for testing — close to 78 percent. Now, law enforcement officials face the challenge of whittling down that backlog without neglecting new cases — and of changing the mindset that led to the backlog in the first place. Read more.
Officials still have not released the name of the police officer who shot and killed a 21-year-old black man Thanksgiving night at the Riverchase Galleria mall in Hoover. A report from the Alabama attorney general’s office Tuesday cleared the officer of any criminal wrongdoing when he shot Emantic “EJ” Bradford Jr. He thought Bradford was the gunman in an active shooter situation.
Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato said at a press conference Tuesday withholding the officer’s identity is about fairness.
“Just as any other private citizen that is investigated and found not to have committed a crime their name is not released,” Brocato says. “That’s the same procedure that we will follow with this officer.” Read more.
Danny Carr didn’t stammer as he provided closing thoughts to a gathering Thursday night in downtown Birmingham. The Jefferson County district attorney was making a point to reduce the deaths of young African-American men and boys.
“We need to continue to engage, engage, engage,” he began. “Be involved, involved, involved.”
More than 200 persons – the vast majority black men – assembled at The Parthenon, the meeting place of the Omicron Lambda graduate chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity. The gathering was a frank conversation with members of law enforcement and persons involved in criminal justice. Read more.
Reactions to the attorney general’s decision not to press a case against the Hoover police officer who shot Emantic “E.J.” Bradford Jr. on Thanksgiving night continued Wednesday.
Hoover Mayor Frank Brocato said in press conference that the city will give its full support to the officer, who has not been officially named, if civil suits are filed in the case. City information officer Melanie Posey said the city had deemed the findings of the report thorough and complete. Read more.
In a new report released Tuesday, the Alabama Attorney General’s Office says the officer who shot and killed Emantic Bradford Jr. Thanksgiving night was justified. Read more.
Rhiannon Reese of Crisis Center Birmingham says she doesn’t want to play the blame game about sexual assault kits not submitted for analysis to Alabama’s forensic lab.
The clinical director and rape response coordinator of Crisis Center Birmingham was reacting to an inventory that shows that the Birmingham Police Department handled about 87 percent of the sexual assault kits provided by Jefferson County women since 1985 but not passed on for forensic analysis. The inventory was conducted by the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative of the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office.
“I don’t want to say, ‘Well, this is so and so’s fault,’” Reese said. “I know that the people that are doing the investigations right now are not the people that were there, like in the ’80s and ’90s, or even the early 2000s. They weren’t the ones who let this happen.”
The Sexual Assault Kit Initiative points a questioning finger at the Birmingham Police Department.
An inventory of 3,944 sexual assault kits provided to Birmingham police found that 3,391 were not submitted for testing. That’s nearly 86 percent of the kits provided to Birmingham police found in that inventory.
The inventory of rape kits for all the law enforcement jurisdictions in Jefferson County found 3,876 of 4,999 were not submitted to be analyzed by the forensics agency. Read more.