A witness to Thursday’s shooting on Interstate 85 said Airman Michael Davidson, the man reportedly shot by an Opelika police officer, was told twice to “get your hands up” before two shots were fired.
Samuel Thomas Sanders II, of Enterprise, was driving the tractor trailer Davidson sideswiped at about 7:15 p.m. Thursday.
“I saw it first hand. I was right there,” Sanders said. “…I saw (Davidson), his face. But I didn’t see his hands. … I’m guessing he had to have a gun, because (Officer Phillip Hancock) told him to get his hands up twice.
“The driver himself was probably about 15 feet from me, or maybe less,” Sanders continued. “The officer was probably about 15 feet or so from him.”
Before Davidson struck his truck, Sanders said, he saw “the commotion” caused by Davidson in front of him on the interstate.
“Apparently the driver was driving pretty erratically… when he struck my truck,” Sanders said.
Both vehicles pulled over to the shoulder of the road, and Sanders turned on his hazard lights.
“I’m thinking I was just dealing with a regular accident,” Sanders said. "As soon as I got to the back of the trailer, all I heard was ‘Get your hands up. Get your hands up.’… I threw my hands up thinking he was talking to me.”
Sanders heard two shots fired, and dropped to the ground before rolling under the trailer.
“It seemed like forever for me,” Sanders said. “I started thanking the Lord that I wasn’t shot myself.”
Sanders stayed under the trailer until another officer arrived. He said he could hear Davidson screaming on the ground.
Once the backup officer arrived, Sanders said the second officer aimed his gun at Davidson.
“They both basically had their guns drawn on the suspect on the ground,” he said.
Davidson was taken to East Alabama Medical Center by paramedics, and Sanders was taken to OPD for an interview with the Alabama Bureau of Investigation.
While he was waiting, Sanders said he overheard police had another witness who called OPD about Davidson driving erratically. Sanders speculated the call prompted Hancock to arrive on the scene.
“Apparently, something was going on with the driver,” Sanders said.
After questioning by ABI, Sanders had a three-hour drive home. He is still trying to make sense of the incident.
“I did speak with my wife to kind of keep in high spirits,” he said. “I was a little uneasy for a while. I try to make the best of it, thanking God I was alive.”
Davidson’s pastor, Mike Daniels of Landmark Baptist Church in Tyler, Texas, said the incident doesn’t make sense.
“People cannot believe it… that Michael got shot on the side of the highway by a police officer,” he said. “When you meet him, he’s the most unintimidating human being you’ve ever met in your life. ... He’s just an all-around American kid.”
Investigators are still holding Davidson’s car, clothes and personal items, which will be released once the ABI’s investigation is complete.
“They’re not going to find a gun. They’re not going to find contraband. They’re not going to find dope,” Daniels said. “There’s got to be a click here; something’s out of order.”
While Davidson has been moved out of ICU, Daniels said Davidson learned Monday he will most likely have to wear a colonoscopy pack for the rest of his life. It is unclear if he will be able to continue his Air Force duties.
“It’s a catastrophe for everybody involved. Nobody wins. Everybody loses. … This is a life-changing event for (Davidson),” Daniels said. “He’s in an acute state of depression right now.”
But Davidson’s father, Billy Davidson, said his son is feeling better even though he remains in a lot of pain.
“He’s lucky. We liked to have lost him, but the doctor did a great job,” Billy Davidson said. “In one way, it’s a blessing. We’ve got him here. We’ve still got a son.”
OPD has not filed charges against Michael Davidson. His parents said they have not gotten much information from OPD since the family arrived at 4 a.m. Saturday.
An Air Force attorney has been assigned to the case, Billy Davidson said.
“We’d like to find out what happened,” Billy Davidson said. “We’ve been lost since we got here.”
When contacted by the Opelika-Auburn News on Tuesday, Capt. Bruce DeLong of the OPD said the department had no additional update. Chief John McEachern said Monday evening that he hopes to hold a news conference either later this week or early next week to discuss additional information about the incident.