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Ala. LEO shot multiple times, suspect dead in downtown shootout

A second officer fell and suffered injuries

By Carol Robinson and Howard Koplowitz
Alabama Media Group, Birmingham

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — A Birmingham police officer was shot multiple times Wednesday evening, and the suspect was shot to death by officers, after a downtown convenience store robbery.

It all began about 6:30 p.m. when North Precinct officers were dispatched to a report of a robbery in progress at the Family Supermarket, a mom-n-pop store on 23rd Street North downtown.

Birmingham Police Chief Patrick Smith said as officers arrived, they noticed the suspect leaving the store. They encountered him and attempted to stop him. The suspect then pulled out a handgun and opened fire.

Officer Cullen Stafford was shot. Fellow officers loaded him into a police cruiser and rushed him to UAB Hospital’s Trauma Center. “He’s been struck multiple times,’’ Smith said, “and in surgery.”

Smith said they won’t know a condition until he is out of surgery.

Multiple officers responded to his call for help over the police radio, and once they arrived, the suspect further engaged them in gunfire. Multiple rounds were fired at him and the suspect was killed.

Smith said the suspect fired from multiple locations in that area, but the final burst of gunfire took place near a parking deck in the 500 block of 25th Street. He died in bushes close to the deck.

A second officer fell and suffered minor injuries. “His condition as far as I know is very good,” Smith said.

Police blocked off a wide perimeter downtown and said the streets in that area would likely be closed for at least six hours. The chief estimated the crime scene includes five city blocks.

“He fired from multiple locations, so we have many crime scenes within a very large crime scene because of the number of times the suspect fired at our officers,’’ he said.

He praised the work of officers getting the wounded officer to the hospital. “The faster you get him there the better opportunity the surgeons and medical staff have to support the injured,” he said.

The shooting comes six months after the shooting death of Birmingham police Sgt. Wytasha Carter, who also was killed in downtown Birmingham. Officer Lucas Allums was seriously wounded in that shooting.

Wednesday night’s shooting is not the first line of duty injury for Stafford, a veteran officer who turns 36 on Thursday.

Stafford and officer Winston Hunt were seriously injured on June 30, 2017 when fleeing homicide suspects barreled into their patrol cruiser.

Hunt at the time was still on the training car after just graduating from the Birmingham Police Academy on March 17. Stafford had been honored earlier that year by supervisors for his work as a field training officer, and for his devotion to responding to Shot Spotter calls.

Officers working the homicide scene spotted the possible suspect vehicle. They confirmed that it was in fact the suspects and a pursuit began. Another patrol car was waiting at the intersection of 18th and Grant, Sgt. Bryan Shelton said. The suspects’ vehicle made its way to that area and collided with the patrol car sitting at 18th and Grant. The two officers were T-boned by a suspect fleeing the deadly shooting.

“This incident,’' said Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper, “is an unfortunate reminder of the selfless sacrifice and inherent risks of this profession.’'

“It’s very difficult for everyone, but this is a very tough job,’’ Smith said Wednesday night. “We have officers who are here who we’ve provided a lot of training to, a lot of support. We’re going to continue support them throughout this process, just like we did throughout the time we lost Sgt. Carter.”

“I’m very confident our officers will do very well,’’ he said, “it’s just a matter of having the appropriate training and support behind you.”

“The Birmingham Police Department is out here working for you,’’ the chief said. “We’re going to do everything we can to make this city safe. Our officers are dedicated, and you can see just in the sheer actions that we’re not taking this for granted. Birmingham is going to be a much better place in the future.”

©2019 Alabama Media Group, Birmingham