BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — UPDATE: Birmingham mayor William Bell and police chief A.C. Roper Friday morning held a press conference to address the operation in Pratt City. Read more here.
ORIGINAL: Neighbors from the Central Pratt Neighborhood say they’ve lost sleep over an incident on Tuesday afternoon that involved the Birmingham Police Department’s Violence Reduction Initiative.
They, along with the Birmingham chapter of Black Lives Matter, reached out to CBS 42 after experiencing what they are calling, “an incident of police terrorism that involved SWAT, police officers in riot gear, the removal of elderly from their home, and an arrest.”
Cynthia Smith said she was at her sister’s home when Birmingham police officers showed up at the door with a search warrant.
“They put guns in our faces and told us to get on the floor,” she said, “and I told them my sister had three strokes and she really couldn’t get on the floor because her leg was really hurting her that day. He said, he didn’t care, ‘get on the floor’.”
Smith said they were looking for drugs and weapons. They took her nephew into custody just outside of the home. Smith also claimed–they didn’t find anything inside.
The suspect’s mother said that her son had recently been released from prison after serving time for drug charges. However, she claimed that he had never been charged with a violent crime. She — and many others couldn’t understand–what they considered to be–an excessive response for a non-violent person. She also did not believe that he had been charged with anything since being taken into custody–but had been placed on a 48 hour hold.
The president of the Central Pratt Neighborhood Association, Eric Hall, said the incident prevented him from being able to get to his home. He said he was also deeply troubled and concerned about the treatment that Smith and her sister allegedly endured.
“There were tanks that were present,” he described. “There were machine guns. There were seniors that were pulled from their homes.”
Several neighbors shared photos of the police scene with CBS 42. Machine guns are not visible in the images, however, a number of police vehicles including a SWAT truck, and multiple officers in camouflage are shown.
“I have addressed my concerns with the Mayor’s office, as well as our city counselor and the police chief,” said Hall.
Black Lives Matter members told CBS 42 that they had concerns about the VRI from the beginning, but that they had been involved in the planning process–as recently as November.
“If the implementation looks like this,” said Martez Files with the Birmingham Chapter of Black Lives Matter, “if it looks like what happened here, then I do not support the Violence Reduction Initiative, and I feel like it needs to be abolished.”
CBS 42 reached out to the Birmingham Police Department. We were told that they would not be making a formal comment about the incident at this time.
However, we also spoke with the West Precinct, which responds to the Pratt City area. The captain told us they had only heard positive feedback from the community about the incident on Tuesday. They said they had not received any calls of complaints as of this afternoon.
Photo provided by Martez Files