Mayor fires 3 officers in fatal shooting of Alabama man during truck repossession

Three Decatur, Alabama, police officers have been fired and a fourth has been suspended following the fatal shooting of a man as his truck was being repossessed in September, the city’s mayor said Thursday.

Police fatally shot Steve Perkins, 39, outside his home early Sept. 29, as a tow company attempted to repossess his truck, officials said. Video showed police yelling “get on the ground” almost immediately before they opened fire.

Three officers were fired, and a fourth who was “involved to a lesser degree” was suspended, Mayor Tab Bowling said at a news conference.

A still from a doorbell camera the night Steve Perkins was shot on Sept. 29, 2023, in Decatur, Ala.
A still image from a doorbell camera on Sept. 29, the night Steve Perkins was shot, in Decatur, Ala.Courtesy Brenton Lipscomb

“It is now incumbent on us as a city, as people who love Decatur, to work to move forward — and to work to ensure that this tragedy is not forgotten or ignored,” Bowling said.

Decatur police said that the tow company called them around 1:30 a.m. and that a tow driver said they had tried to repossess a truck but that they fled after they were confronted by someone with a gun.

Officers and the tow driver then went to Perkins’ home, and Perkins emerged with a handgun, police said.

One officer fired a weapon, police have said.

The officers’ names weren’t released. The officers have a chance to appeal, Bowling said.

A spokesman for Perkins’ family has said that from the neighbors’ security video that they saw, “it looked like an ambush of him not even knowing who was in his yard.” It is a dark neighborhood, and no police cars were visible, spokesperson Brenton Lipscomb has said.

Perkins’ family said in a statement that the truck payments were up to date, so the truck shouldn’t have been towed.

Decatur Police Chief Todd Pinion said he and Bowling shared the news of the termination of the officers with Perkins’ family before the announcement.

Pinion said last month that he believes police policies were violated in the deadly encounter.

“I have expressed my sorrow personally to the family of Mr. Perkins as well as publicly in prior messages, but I reiterate that sentiment here,” Pinion said in a statement Thursday.

Bowling said he “listened intently” to the officers at their individual determination hearings this week before he made his decision.

The Alabama Law Enforcement Agency is conducting a criminal investigation.

Bowling said that there would be a “top-to-bottom review” of police policies and how information is shared with the public and that he will bring in an outside expert to assist in the effort.