Madison Police justified in use of deadly force says DA, video evidence clearly shows gun
MADISON – “The evidence in this case is crystal clear,” Madison County District Attorney Robert Broussard said Friday morning. He was talking about the Oct. 27 use of deadly force by the Madison Police against a man they were called to investigate at Planet Fitness.
“The actions of the Madison Police Department were entirely justified,” Broussard said. “Because of the clear evidence of what happened that day, this case, as far as any criminal legal proceeding, is closed and this office will have no further involvement in this case.”
The DA’s office reviewed evidence this week from an investigation by the Madison County Sheriff’s Department into the officer-involved shooting death of Dana Fletcher, 39. Law enforcement authorities have been saying since the shooting, that Fletcher had a gun pointed at a police officer when he was shot. Video evidence released Friday morning backs up this statement and disputes accusations made by Fletcher’s family that he was unarmed at the time.
Over the course of the past few weeks since the shooting, speculation and accusations have grown against the police and the sheriff’s department account of what happened. That was fueled by Fletcher’s wife posting on Facebook that her husband was unarmed.
Activist Frank Matthews has led protests in Madison and Huntsville in support of Fletcher’s family while demanding evidence to back up what police say happened that Sunday afternoon. On Friday that evidence was released, backing up the findings of a recent investigation by the sheriff’s department, which was presented to the DA last week.
At Friday’s press conference at the District Attorney’s office, prosecutor Tim Gann ran through an overview of the evidence the DA’s office looked at and a time-line of the shooting. The evidence included videos and still photos from the police body cams and business surveillance videos.
Gann said a 911 was called into the Madison Police Department about a suspicious van parked outside Planet Fitness in Madison. The caller, a Planet Fitness employee, said the occupants were asking “weird questions” and taking photos of employees in Planet Fitness.
“Mr. Fletcher was going into businesses in Madison and taking pictures and videos of employees and asking real personal questions,” Gann said. “It was to the point that someone felt like they needed to call 911 and have it investigated.”
When the first officer arrived, Fletcher, his wife and child were sitting in the van at the parking lot of Planet Fitness.
“The officer made contact with Mr. Fletcher to explain why he was there, but immediately Mr. Fletcher became aggressive towards this officer,” Gann said. “The officer continued to try to speak with Mr. Fletcher but things went south pretty quick.”
During the course of the interaction between Fletcher and the officer, the investigation shows that Fletcher told the officer to shoot him several times, saying at one point, “Go ahead and shoot me player.” He also pointed to his own forehead and instructed the officer to shoot him in the third eye. “He does this 13 times, over and over again,” Gann said. “He also tells the officer, ‘You better shoot me if you are smart’.”
Gann said Fletcher then began threatening the officer. “He told the officer, ‘It’s over for you’.”
According to a time-line of events, the officer responded to Fletcher that the last thing he wants to do is shoot him. Fletcher replied, “That’s the first thing I want you do.” The officer then asked Fletcher if he is suicidal, and Fletcher responded, “Are you homicidal?”
“During the conversation back and forth, the officer is doing his best to try to deescalate the situation,” Gann said. “He is trying to calm Mr. Fletcher down and just gain some information, but Mr. Fletcher wasn’t having it. He continued to be belligerent.”
A second officer then arrived and went over to the drivers’ side of the van where Fletcher’s wife, Cherelle, was sitting. Gann said she quickly locked the van door and refused the officer’s orders to open the door and get out. That officer eventually knocks out the driver’s side window to get Mrs. Fletcher and their child out of harms way.
“The use of force police officers have utilized at this point is really proper,” Gann said. “They have been giving verbal commands and they start putting hands on Mr. Fletcher trying to extract him from the vehicle, but were not able to get him out. He was a strong man, a large man and an angry man.”
The police officers then went to less-than-lethal force, which included a k-9 and a taser, but they were mostly ineffective.
Fletcher did start to exit the vehicle as an officer was struggling to pull him out, however, in doing so Gann said he reached for a 40-caliber Taurus pistol, which can clearly be seen in the body cam photos.
Gann said the officer at the driver’s side door saw Fletcher grab the gun and started yelling, “Let go of the gun! Let go of the gun! He’s got a gun!” That officer then shots Fletcher with a taser, but that seemed to have no affect.
The other officer has both hands on Fletcher at that point still trying to drag him out of the van. Gann said Fletcher exits the van with a gun in his hand and swings it towards the officer, falling on top of him. He said the k-9 had attacked Fletcher’s lower leg, which helped to get him off his feet.
“Fletcher points the gun at the officer’s chest, also at his head,” Gann said. “The officer was able to get his gun out and fire four rounds at Mr. Fletcher.”
Gann said that Fletcher was shot twice in the head and once in the shoulder.
Business surveillance video presented at the press conference shows the officer was able to pull his gun as he fell back, pushed down by Fletcher’s fall. It also shows Fletcher extending his arm out with gun in hand in what appears to be an attempt to shot the police officer in the head. “The officer was able to get his shots off first,” Gann said.
Gann closed by saying, “This evidence is clear that the Madison Police was justified in using deadly force.”