OPELIKA, Ala. — Opelika Police Chief John McEachern III stated during a Friday morning conference that early evidence suggests Officer Phillip Hancock used appropriate force when he shot a 20-year-old airman.
On March 6, Hancock responded near mile marker 63 on Interstate 85 after receiving reports of an erratic driver in a silver GMC Envoy, McEachern said. When he arrived, he saw the Envoy pulled over, along with an 18-wheeler and several other vehicles.
When the driver of the Envoy, Michael Darrett Davidson, stepped out of his vehicle, the officer gave verbal commands for the airman to place his hands over his head.
"It was at this point that the officer perceived what he believed to be a threat," McEachern said. "Officer Hancock then pulled his service weapon and fired two shots at the suspect."
One shot hit Davidson, causing serious injuries to his stomach and colon, according to prior reports. He was transported immediately to East Alabama Medical Center, where he remains.
"I would like to express my sincerest sympathies and condolences to Airman Michael Davidson and his entire family," McEachern said. "On behalf of the entire Opelika Police Department, our thoughts and prayers are with him and we wish him a speedy recovery. I would also like to express the same sentiments to Officer Phillip Hancock and his family."
According to statements made by Davidson's father, the Beckville Texas airman was driving toward Seymour Johnson Air Force Base in Goldsboro, N.C. He clipped the 18-wheeler with his mirror, which instigated the stop. In previous statements to reporters, Davidson's father said his son was holding a wallet in his right hand when the shots were fired.
McEachern would not say what instigated Hancock's use of force, saying it would be "speculation" at this time.
"Based on the facts and circumstances I'm aware of, Officer Hancock acted accordingly within departmental guidelines and we fully support him," he said.
Investigators later located several packages of what appeared to be "spice," or synthetic marijuana, in Davidson's vehicle. A partially rolled cigarette was also located. McEachern declined to say whether the substances were located within reach of Davidson.
Hancock, a seven-year veteran with the department, has been placed on administrative leave with pay while the Alabama Bureau of Investigations probes the case. Hancock has not been involved in any prior shootings, and is well-commended by the department, McEachern said.
"Nothing will be withheld and every shred of evidence has been turned over to ABI," he said. "I would also urge everyone in attendance today to not rush to any conclusions, and to let the investigation take its course with respect to the evidence."
McEachern said video recorded from the vehicle's dashboard camera footage will be released to the public at the conclusion of the investigation.
"We have experienced a tragic incident which has affected numerous people,' he said. "We can only hope and pray that we never have to experience it again."