Ethics questions are abundant in the case of a Tennessee man gunned down by those who are charged with protecting and serving the community. Authorities were summoned to quell an incident between Alonzo Heyward, 32, and three other men; all were supposedly wrestling in the street over a gun. Officers arrived to find the man ranting about killing himself while wielding a high-powered .44 Magnum rifle. After that point, the story takes a spin, as the version given by Chattanooga police and others at the scene differ, with several tidbits being left out of the official version given by authorities.
After hours of ignoring pleas given by a friend, Hayward found himself alone, staring down the barrel several guns wielded by six overzealous police officers. The result: Alonzo Heyward was cut down in a hail of police gunfire. 59 rounds were fired; 43 hit their mark.
Hit in his chest, face, arms, hands, legs, buttocks and groin, police justified their actions by labeling Heyward as a danger to the others while threatening the lives of six law officers. The case was ruled “suicide by cop.” In the aftermath, Civil Rights leaders and family of the victim are speaking out on the response initiated by local authorities, with the NAACP heading their main line of defense.
“We have a large concern about the amount of shots fired,” said the president of Chattanooga’s branch of the NAACP, Valoria Armstrong.
Police accounts as well as a video from the dashboard of a patrol car show that the shots were fried in three volleys with all being within thirty seconds. Some officers fired until their clips were empty, reloaded and resumed firing, while others were careful not to waste too much ammo. All six officers involved were white and all used .45-caliber police issued pistols.
Heyward’s girlfriend, Amanda Counts, and his neighbor bore witness to the massacre. They said that he was lying on the porch, on top of the rifle, when officers started firing. “Before the first shot was fired he was down,” Counts said. “Not one time did he threaten anyone.” The two also said that Heyward could be heard asking, “Why are you shooting me?” during the first intermission between the trilogy of police firing sessions.
An investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is currently underway, with federal and local authorities awaiting the results before they make any decisions in its regard. Chattanooga police officers get two to four hours of training annually on dealing with people who are mentally ill or under the influence of drugs or narcotics.
Freeman Cooper, Chief of Police in Chattanooga is standing by his men, remarking to local radio station WGOW that the simultaneous shooting by all officers involved shows that they acted in the proper manner. “We are saying that our people did what we trained them to do.”
The six officers involved in the shooting had between three and six years on the force. A diagram of where Heyward was hit at is below.