Pubdate: Fri, 18 Jun 2004
Source: Decatur Daily (AL)
Copyright: 2004 The Decatur Daily
Author: Staff, and Wire Reports


3 Birmingham Policemen Killed In Arrest Attempt

The cousin of DECATUR DAILY photographer John Godbey was one of three
police officers fatally shot Thursday afternoon during an arrest
attempt at a Birmingham residence.

Charles Robert Bennett, 33, and two fellow Birmingham Police
Department officers died at a house where they had gone to pick up a
man wanted for misdemeanor assault. Gunfire erupted shortly after
officers arrived at the one-story house, divided into duplex
apartments, at 1:19 p.m.

Chief deputy coroner Jay Glass identified the slain officers as
Bennett; Harley Chisholm III, 40; and Carlos Owen, 58, who had been on
the force for 26 years. Chisholm was hired in 1998, and Bennett had
been a Birmingham officer since 2001.

Godbey described Bennett, the son of his mother's sister, Reba
Bennett, as a "very athletic and friendly guy." He said Bennett's two
loves were his job and his family - wife Susan, a nurse, and
5-year-old daughter Caroline.

"Charles always wanted to be a police officer," said Godbey, who saw
his cousin at a reunion last fall. "His mother tried to talk him out
of it, but he loved law enforcement. She just knew something like this
would happen. That's always been her big worry."

Kerry Marquise Spencer, 24, and Nathaniel Lauell Woods, 27, were
arrested within two hours of the shooting and were being held today on
suspicion of capital murder, police said.

At least two other people also were in custody, said City Hall
spokesman Brett Oates.

"They are all being questioned," said Oates.

The district attorney's office said formal charges could come

Police Chief Annetta Nunn, struggling to maintain her composure,
called the slayings a tragedy. "This is something that seems
unimaginable," she said later.

The officers were killed when they went to a house with a fourth
officer to arrest Woods on a misdemeanor domestic assault warrant,
said Nunn. She said the fourth officer was not injured.

Bennett's body was outside the front of the home, Glass said, while
Chisholm and Owen were found dead inside a small room at the rear of
the house.

SKS assault rifle

Glass said investigators told him the officers were shot with a
high-powered SKS assault rifle, but an autopsy was being performed to
confirm the type of rounds used in the shooting.

An SKS assault rifle also was reportedly used in the Jan. 2 slaying of
two police officers in Athens. Sgt. Larry Russell and officer Tony
Mims were shot to death in an ambush when responding to a 911 call to
a home. Barksdale, 29, is charged with capital murder and has pleaded
innocent by reason of mental disease or defect.

Glass said spent shell casings were found both inside and outside the
Birmingham house, but investigators weren't sure whether the casings
discovered outside were connected with the killings.

"It's not unusual for people to be shooting off rounds out there,"
Glass said. "There had been some reports of gunfire out there not too
long ago."

The Birmingham News said the officer outside the front door was able
to make a final radio call for help for his fellow officers before a
bullet struck him in the head.


Friends of the officers gave this account to the newspaper: One
officer patrolling the area had an argument with one of the men inside
the apartment home about noon Thursday. The officer checked police
records and found that Woods was wanted by Fairfield police on a
third-degree assault charge.

Owen, Chisholm, Bennett and Mike Collins went to the home to serve the
warrant. Owen and Chisholm entered the apartment through the back door
to arrest Woods. He broke away from them and ran toward the front of
the house, where Bennett was about to come through the front door as
shots were fired.

The shootings Thursday occurred in a low-income neighborhood of
modest, older homes.

During a search for suspects, dozens of officers swarmed around the
house and went door-to-door. The area around the house was blocked off
with yellow crime scene tape as police, wearing body armor and
carrying shotguns and rifles, moved through the area.

Herman Harris, who said he lives in the area, and other neighbors said
the house has a reputation as a "crack house."

"They're all the time out back doing drugs," Harris said.

Nunn said no drugs were found inside the house.

The shootings marked the second time in a year that three police
officers were gunned down in Alabama.

Fayette police officers Arnold Strickland and James Crump and
dispatcher Leslie "Ace" Mealer were shot to death at the Fayette
police station in West Alabama a year ago. Devin Darnell Thompson, 18,
has pleaded innocent by reason of mental disease or defect to capital
murder charges.
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