A black teenager was gunned down by an Alabama cop during a traffic stop—and now the FBI is seeking footage of the deadly encounter, as the victim’s family demands the police officer face criminal charges.
The Mobile Police Department claims Michael Moore, 18, was driving a stolen vehicle when he and two pals were pulled over on June 13. Moore allegedly reached for a weapon tucked in his waistband, prompting Officer Harry Hurst to shoot him.
But at least one witness told The Daily Beast he never saw a weapon on Moore, even as EMTs turned his lifeless body over and onto a gurney.
Moore’s family fears that Officer Hurst, who is white, fatally blasted Moore while his hands were up.
They’re baffled by Mobile Police Chief James Barber’s admission that officers never recovered a gun at the scene—a fact Barber chalked up to a “mistake in protocol.” (Medical staff allegedly retrieved a pistol on Moore’s body after he was transported to the hospital.)
Mario Williams, an attorney for Moore’s family, says the weapon is just one part of conflicting information coming from police.
“Alabama is an open carry state,” Williams told The Daily Beast. “Merely getting out of a car, with a gun or not, is not a death sentence. Every witness in this case—except for the officer—has said this man had his hands up and was not reaching for a weapon.
“[Hurst] shot him while he was standing up and defenseless,” the lawyer added. “He also shot him on the ground while he was almost dead.”
At a press conference Monday, Mobile activists including Rev. Patrick Munnerlyn called for Officer Hurst to face criminal charges in Moore’s death.
“It’s just like Ferguson, it’s just like Trayvon Martin, it’s just like Freddie Gray,” said Munnerlyn, referring to other high-profile deaths of black teens and men. “There just isn’t the national outrage.”
DJ Larry, Moore’s cousin, told The Daily Beast the victim “was not a thug. He was a fun-loving person and very friendly.
“This could have been anybody’s kid,” Larry added. “This just seems to be an incident that is occurring far too many times.”
Cops haven’t provided footage of Moore’s arrest, in part because Officer Hurst, who was on his way to work when he stopped Moore, didn’t have his body camera on him. (Officers in the Mobile Police Department pick up their cameras when they arrive to work and return them when they leave, Barber told reporters.)
Meanwhile, police declined to release a second officer’s body camera footage from when he arrived in the shooting’s aftermath.
Last week, the Federal Bureau of Investigation offered a $10,000 reward for video that clearly depicts the episode, Local 15 reported.
Willie Westbrook, a private eye in New Orleans, is one witness who said he was interviewed by the FBI regarding Moore’s death. He also provided a statement to the Moore family attorney, who is preparing to file a civil lawsuit.
Westbrook told The Daily Beast he was watching the news at his godmother’s house, which is across the street from where Officer Hurst stopped Moore’s vehicle.
“I believe I saw Michael Moore being assassinated,” Westbrook said in a phone interview Monday. “He never reached for a weapon. On several attempts, I asked the officer not to shoot him. [Hurst] looked at me and shot him.”
Officer Hurst shot Moore “once while he was standing, then once while he was down,” Westbrook claimed. After the first two bullets were fired, Moore was motionless on the pavement, he added.
Westbrook said he ran to the scene after the first shot. “Don’t shoot him again,” he allegedly told Hurst before the officer fired more bullets.
“That officer did not have to shoot Michael Moore,” Westbrook said. “I train with weapons all the time. Even if the first shot was justified, the other four shots were not justified.”
Police Chief Barber did not return messages seeking comment on Westbrook’s allegations. A police spokeswoman directed a Daily Beast reporter to video of Barber’s most recent press conference.
According to police, Officer Hurst was heading to work at 6 p.m. when he saw a white Lexus quickly turn left into oncoming traffic, nearly causing an accident. Hurst pulled over the vehicle, which had three people inside, cops say.
When Hurst approached the car and asked the driver, Moore, for his license and registration, Moore allegedly gave Hurst a false name. A check on the vehicle’s tag number indicated it was reported stolen on June 11, authorities claim.
Hurst called for backup, then returned to the Lexus and asked Moore to exit the vehicle. Moore complied and held a cellphone in his hand. He obeyed Hurst’s command to set the cellphone down, police say.
As Moore dropped the phone, Hurst allegedly saw a gun in Moore’s waistband. The cop warned Moore several times to keep his hands away from the weapon, and when he saw Moore reach for it, he fired at the suspect, authorities say.
Moore fell to the ground and allegedly tried to grab his gun again, so Hurst fired another shot, police say. Hurst held Moore and two passengers at gunpoint until backup arrived, at which point cops handcuffed the suspects.
Cops claim emergency responders transported Moore to the hospital, where he later died and where authorities allegedly recovered a semi-automatic .40 caliber Smith and Wesson from Moore’s body. Police say the gun in Moore’s possession was reported stolen the night before.
Hurst fired a total of five shots at Moore, cops say.
Officer Hurst is on paid administrative leave pending an internal affairs investigation into the shooting, which is also being probed by the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office for possible civil-rights violations.
Mobile police say they interviewed Moore’s two passengers, along with seven other witnesses. One passenger said Moore was armed with a pistol before Hurst came to the vehicle a second time, cops say.
According to authorities, a bystander also claimed to have seen a pistol on the right side of Moore’s waistline.
Yet cops have provided conflicting accounts of the incident. A police spokesperson told News 5 on June 14 that Moore was “uncooperative” and got shot when he reached for a gun that was found in the car.
Authorities also claimed Moore was not only driving a stolen vehicle, but that the car contained several items from recent burglaries, including a safe with foreign currency.
Moore’s family is questioning the stolen property claims, especially since Moore’s passengers haven’t been charged with any crime.
“They want to try to tarnish the character of the victim,” said Larry, a cousin of Moore who speaks for the family.
Larry described Moore as a gentle kid who loved to play basketball and spend time with his 11-year-old brother. He said Moore was planning on returning to high school—just two classes short of graduation—rather than simply get his GED. He was also considering joining the Air Force, Larry said.
“There’s still a lot of questions that have not been answered,” Larry told The Daily Beast. “There’s no real video evidence that has been released.”
Larry said he believes Moore was driving a car belonging to Moore’s girlfriend. “The family does not believe the car was stolen,” he added. “Normally when you find a stolen vehicle, you will not find people driving in the vehicle, with a car key for the vehicle.”
Also troubling is the allegation that Moore’s passengers were detained by police for two days without contact with their parents in wake of the shooting. Munnerlyn told The Daily Beast one friend was dropped back home at 3 a.m.
“We have talked to these witnesses,” Munnerlyn said, “and they are not credible… They have been intimidated.”
The Daily Beast could not confirm whether Moore’s friends were detained by police or for how long.
One of those friends, Robert Blackmon, told News 5 that he was in the back seat when he witnessed Moore put his hands on the vehicle. Blackmon said Moore had a gun on his right side, with a cellphone in his right hand.
At one point, Moore “flinched” when he saw Officer Hurst’s gun drawn but he never reached for his own weapon, Blackmon said.
“Some way, I don’t know how, but Mike flinched,” Blackmon told News 5. “He backed up, put his hands up, and the officer told him ‘Get on the ground, get on the ground!’ But [the officer] never gave Mike time to get on the ground.
“All I know is Mike never reached for his gun. He never reached for his gun, his hands were up the whole time,” Blackmon added.