Family Questions Why DPS Officer Had to Shoot and Kill 16-Year-Old Alexander Wilson
Alexander Wilson's family wants to know why the 16-year-old had to die after a DPS officer stopped him while driving a stolen vehicle.
On Thursday, more than 30 people marched at the Capitol and demanded answers. They swarmed the normally quiet hallways wearing shirts that read, "Fuck the Police." When they returned outside and a DPS officer parked next to their demonstration, they surrounded the car and put their signs in front of, and on top of, the squad car.
The family disagrees what happened that night as it's recorded in a report by police, which is four paragraphs summing up a few moments, and succession of rapid decisions that ended with the boy's death.
Around 9:30 p.m. Sunday, April 7, a DPS officer near 27th Avenue and Camelback Road ran the license of a Chevrolet Tahoe and the plates came back stolen. The officer, whose name is being withheld, followed Wilson and his passenger, Will Brown, 18. Normally DPS patrols highways, but the officer tailed the two for eight blocks until Wilson steered the SUV into a Chevron gas station and parked.
On this, the police report, Wilson's family, and Brown, the surviving passenger, are in agreement. But what happens after is where the stories diverge.
Wilson had a warrant out for armed robbery. But family members talk about a kid looking to turn his life around. There was no alcohol, drugs or weapons found in the car, police say, and a toxicology report won't be out for weeks to decide if Wilson had anything in his system.
Brown says Wilson picked him up in the Tahoe and told him it belonged to a friend. As the two headed west on Camelback, they noticed the DPS officer following them and so Wilson made a left turn to see if the officer would follow. Brown says the officer never turned on his lights or siren. Brown remembers that Wilson parked the car between a gas pump and a curb, which had a big blue clothes donation drop off depository in the center next to the road. The officer parked behind the two and got out of his vehicle.
It was less than a minute between when they stopped and when Wilson died, Brown says. Maybe only long enough for Wilson to put the car in park, think for a few moments, and say, "I'm feelin' to smash, I'm feelin' to smash, I'm feelin' to smash." (The police report says Brown told investigators that Wilson said he was going to "slam it." The only reason this is odd, is if Wilson wanted to "slam" the DPS vehicle he would have to hit the squad car in reverse, and then pull forward to escape on the road. Brown says "feelin' to smash" means to get the hell out of here.)
Brown says the windows on the vehicle had a pretty good tint, and they never rolled them down and never heard any commands from the officer. The next thing the two noticed was the flashlight on the bottom of the officer's AR15 rifle beaming into the driver's side window. Brown says the officer stood to the side of the vehicle, using the metal blue clothes depository box as cover.
|Blue bin Brown says the DPS officer used for cover.|
The box is several feet from where Brown says they would have been parked, and if the officer was using it as cover and never moved from the side of it like Brown says, then the officer would have been facing perpendicular to the car the entire time and in seemingly no apparent danger of being run over.
It was soon after they noticed the officer's light, Brown says, that Wilson tried to put the car into drive and take off. But Wilson accidentally geared it into neutral and the engine revved. A loud bang sounded, the window broke, and the car popped into drive and took off with Wilson now dead, and Brown grabbing at the steering wheel to control it.
Brown bailed from the car and ran from the scene. But he later turned himself in and police interrogated and released him.
The police report sent to media differed in a few respects. After he parked behind the Tahoe, the police report recounts Wilson's final moments like this:
"The Officer then positioned himself towards the front of the suspect's vehicle, in the exit of the gas station parking lot; in order to see the occupants and to give them verbal commands, until his back-up could arrive. The driver of the stolen vehicle did not comply and revved the vehicle's engine before putting it into gear ... The vehicle drove at the officer, who fired one time."
Wilson's family wonders why, if he wore a handgun, the officer needed to pull out his assault rife. Phoenix PD is handling the investigation, and Sergeant Trent Crump says a felony stop with a stolen vehicle is a common scenario in which an officer might decide to pull an AR15.
At the protest Wilson's cousin sent a message to be passed to Governor Brewer, saying they just want a fair investigation of the incident. "You all act like just because he didn't have a badge it's ok for him to be dead," Donald Greer says. "He's just a child."