A white police officer who killed an unarmed Black man he racially profiled was found guilty of manslaughter on Friday, according to a new report. Aaron Cody Smith was found guilty by an Alabama jury that returned a unanimous decision one day after it began deliberating in the case that centered on the killing of Greg Gunn in 2016.
Smith, who was an officer with the Montgomery Police Department, had been charged with murder.
CBS News reported that “Smith shot Gunn, 58, when he was walking home late at night in Montgomery, Alabama. Smith stopped Gunn for a stop-and-frisk, according to the AP. During the stop, Gunn allegedly fled from Smith, and the defense said Gunn grabbed a painter’s poll from a nearby porch.”
There was no bodycam or other video footage.
The conviction of Smith, 26, was the latest in a recent string guilty verdicts against white police officers who killed unarmed Black people.
Smith claimed self defense in the shooting because, he said, Gunn actually attacked him with a metal pole, an unproven assertion the prosecutor took exception with, according to AL.com.
“How in the world do you think he’s picking up this paint roller and doing all this swinging and all this threatening, and still holding his baseball hat in his hand?” District Attorney Daryl Bailey asked jurors rhetorically before deliberations began Thursday.
Smith’s testimony seemed embellished at best, according to reports.
“I had to stop him,” Smith testified when he took the stand. “If he’s brave enough to kill a uniformed police officer — if he takes me out he’s got access to all my weapons on my belt, a running police Tahoe down the street with an AR-15 (semi-automatic rifle) inside.”
Smith’s conviction came about two months after former Dallas Police Officer Amber Guyger was found guilty of murdering Botham Shem Jean in his own home last year. Like Smith, she also claimed she was defending herself — against a man who was sitting on his couch eating ice cream when she illegally entered his home after purportedly confusing his apartment for her own. Guyger shot him twice in the chest within seconds of entering his apartment.
Just weeks after that verdict, a police officer in nearby Fort Worth shot and killed Atatiana Jefferson, a 28-year-old Black woman, through a window in her home.
Smith’s guilty verdict may have provided some solace for those looking to see him convicted, but as shown by recent events, the unfortunate trend of police killing unarmed Black people has shown no signs of slowing.