Greg Gunn, killed by police near his Montgomery, Ala., home Feb. 25, 2016
Photo: Gunn Family

Three years ago, a white police officer shot and killed an unarmed black man in Alabama.

The trial, now on its ninth judge, is now making its way to trial, according to the Montgomery Advertiser.

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Aaron Smith, who was 23 at the time of the shooting in 2016, killed 58-year-old Greg Gunn, who fled the scene of a random stop-and-frisk in the West Montgomery neighborhood Mobile Heights. He was chased, tased, beaten and then shot five times at close range by Smith, who argued that he acted in self-defense.

Kenneth Gunn, Greg’s brother, told local news station WBRC that his brother was not a violent person. Gunn spent the night playing cards at a nearby home. According to a statement taken just after Gunn’s death, Smith stopped a suspicious person on foot carrying possibly a metal pole likely kept for self-defense, though reports conflict. Smith, who had his bond set at $150,000 after his arrest in March of 2016, stopped and questioned Gunn, who “outweighed him considerably,” before Gunn “armed himself with a pole. Not some little stick, but a metal pole. He took a body position, crouching and preparing to swing,” the report said. After Smith struggled with Gunn for about a block, he shot and killed him, at approximately 3:20 a.m.

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Gunn’s father was one of the first black police officers sworn onto the local force. Montgomery did not conduct its own investigation.

“Trayvon Martin was a black kid walking in a predominantly white neighborhood, and someone just thought he looked suspicious,” Attorney Tyrone Means, who represented the Gunn family, told the Associated Press in 2016. “Greg Gunn was in a community in which he was well-known and well-loved. That’s scary.”

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Judge Sam Welch, the eighth judge to preside over the case, recused himself this week after being assigned last Friday. The state Supreme Court has now brought on Judge Philip Ben McLaughlin, a retired judge from nearby Dale county. The move away from a Montgomery judge can only be seen as a win for Smith, who has tried three times to have the case moved away from the city.

According to the Advertiser, the state Supreme Court may have erred in selecting Welch, who noted that he had twice ruled on the Gunn case, had denied a motion from Smith’s legal team asking for an earlier judge’s dismissal.

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The date and location of the new trial have yet to be selected.