A former Montgomery police officer was sentenced to 14 years in prison Wednesday for fatally shooting an unarmed black man in 2016. Initially charged with murder, his conviction was reduced to manslaughter and was found guilty by a Dale County jury in November.
According to the Montgomery Advertiser, Aaron Cody Smith, 26, shot Gregory Gunn, 58, seven times during a consensual stop in west Montgomery. Gunn, who was just a few feet away from his house which he shared with his mother was also tased and punched in an avoidable confrontation, prosecutors accused Smith of escalating.
Smith’s defense argued that he found himself in a dangerous neighborhood and as such, feared for his life. The defense also claimed Gunn was armed with a paint pole he took from a neighbor’s porch during their encounter.
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Smith, who was on paid administrative leave during the trial resigned from the Montgomery Police Department after the verdict.
Gunn’s siblings took up the stand during the sentencing and paid tribute to their brother while also calling Smith out for his actions.
“I’ve never seen anyone who gets to kill someone and later walk in and resign. You did what you intended to do. You killed my brother. You hung him. You were the prosecutor, the judge, and jury,” his brother, Kenneth Gunn said, according to WSFA.
His sister, Kimberly Gunn, also emotionally opened up about her brother’s impact in her life.
“My brother meant a lot to me,” she said, the Montgomery Advertiser reports. “He showed me that a single mother with no education could be something. He helped me make all the right decisions in life, because there were times I wanted to give up. I wanted to take the easy way out. He said I could do it. He made a difference in my life.”
Smith also apologized to the victim’s family via a statement he read.
“There are no good words at today’s hearing where both sides will be satisfied. Not only has this been a roller coaster for myself but for the Gunn family as well. I know an apology is not good enough for you all, but I truly am sorry for your loss,” he said.
“I struggle with having to take a life seconds after the shots were fired and I still struggle today. It’s not easy on me and please don’t think I was able to just move on like it never happened. It’s on my mind always.”
After the sentencing, Montgomery County District Attorney Daryl Bailey told WSFA though they were expecting Smith to receive the maximum 20-year sentence they requested, they are still contempt.
“We have worked tirelessly, many hours in making sure that the Gunn family received justice. And I think today, they received that justice by seeing him being escorted back to a jail cell,” Bailey said, adding that Smith’s actions that night were intentional.
“This was an officer who purposefully did not turn on his body cam, did not turn on his car camera and went out there with the reason, with the intent of harassing a citizen that night in hopes that he could make a statistic,” he said.
Smith’s defense attorney, Mickey McDermott, revealed they are going to appeal the verdict. He also added they are seeking a bond that will allow their client to be out of prison during the appeal hearing, WSFA reports.