The family of a 20-year-old Airman who was reportedly shot by an Opelika police officer Thursday evening is searching for answers about the incident.
Billy Davidson said his son, Michael Darrett Davidson, 20, of Beckville, Texas, was shot in the stomach Thursday evening by Officer Phillip Hancock of the OPD. The incident occurred on Interstate 85, just past exit 62. Hancock, a seven-year veteran of the department, has been placed on administrative leave pending investigation of the case by the Alabama Bureau of Investigation.
Billy Davidson said his son suffered serious injuries to his stomach and colon, and was moved from the ICU at East Alabama Medical Center Monday afternoon. While Michael has been able to talk with his family, Billy said his son may never fully recover from his injuries.
“As a result he’s probably out of the Air Force,” Billy said.
Chief John McEachern of the Opelika Police Department said the incident is still under investigation by the ABI, but he hopes to have a press conference by early next week to discuss the incident.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to answer more questions then,” he said Monday evening. “Our prayers are with the victim and his family, without a doubt.”
According to Billy, his son was on his way to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base near Goldsboro, N.C. when the incident occurred. Michael reportedly was driving erratically on I-85. Billy said that was because his son was tired after driving several hundred miles.
According to a traffic crash report from the OPD, Michael was traveling north on I-85 in a 2004 GMC Envoy and was attempting to move from the outside lane to the inside lane when he struck an 18-wheeler with the driver’s side mirror.
Billy said his son exited the vehicle and went to check on the driver of the 18-wheeler.
“He said he didn’t get that far,” Billy said. “…When (he was walking) to the truck, he said he heard something but couldn’t tell what it was. There was a lot of noise, but (he) could see the reflection of the lights off the truck - the police lights. Then he did what I told him to do. I told my boys if you see police lights (to) stop, put your hands up and turn around.”
Billy said Michael held his arms up, with only a wallet in one of his hands.
Then, according to what Michael told his father, “The next thing I know I was on the ground. … That’s when they shot me. I didn’t realize he shot me. I didn’t know what happened. It was so fast. They couldn’t have been there three or four seconds when I was shot.”
There are differing stories about what happened next. Billy said it was a while before his son received assistance, as law enforcement immediately began to check his vehicle. McEachern said officers and paramedics responded “as quickly as possible”, and even discussed sending an emergency medical helicopter to assist.
Billy said his son nearly bled to death due to his injuries. However, the family did not learn of the incident until just after 11 a.m. Friday when they were contacted by the ABI – approximately 16 hours after the incident.
“Did you have a son named Michael Davidson?” Billy said he was asked by the investigator who contacted him. “I told him, ‘I hope I have a son named Michael Davidson.”
McEachern said since the ABI is investigating the case, it was in charge of notifying the family. The chief did meet with Billy on Sunday.
McEachern confirmed that Hancock’s in-car camera was on during the incident. The camera automatically operates when the blue lights and sirens are activated.
“That’s protection for the officers and every one,” McEachern said.
Billy said his son told him he was not armed and did not have alcohol or drugs in the vehicle – only a Red Bull and a Dr. Pepper to help keep him awake.
McEachern said officers recovered a wallet at the scene, but investigators are still awaiting toxicology results from the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences. That could take several weeks, according to McEachern.
As of Monday evening, there were no pending charges against Davidson.
The Opelika-Auburn News will publish additional information on this story as it becomes available.