The state is still reeling from the shooting of two Bibb County deputies, which left one dead and the other injured.
On June 29, repeat offender Sean Patrick Hall was reportedly fleeing law enforcement in Bibb County when he exited the vehicle and began firing at the deputies who were pursuing him.
Two Bibb County Sheriff’s deputies were struck by the fire, sending both to the hospital.
Deputy Sheriff Brad Johnson succumbed to his wounds the next day. Deputy Chris Poole was released from the hospital and is currently recovering.
Criticism has been pouring in due to the shooter’s extensive criminal record, leaving many to wonder why he was out of jail and capable of shooting anyone.
According to Attorney General (AG) Steve Marshall, this case shows the need for significant reform in Alabama’s criminal justice system.
Marshall said that Hall was first arrested in 2016 due to theft and burglary charges and placed on probation.
During his probationary period, Hall was arrested on nine new theft and burglary charges and sentenced to almost 10 years in prison in 2018.
Despite having escaped a work-release program and crossing state lines in 2019, Hall was released from prison under Alabama’s “Good Time" law after serving just over four years of his sentence, two months before he shot and killed Johnson.
“Days after his release from state custody, the shooter bonded out of jail on 10 new charges in Calhoun County and 12 new charges in Chilton County—including charges of assaulting a police officer and illegally possessing a firearm,” Marshall said. In both counties, his bond was set in keeping with the recommended fee range. After he made bond, (Hall) walked free to await his trial.
According to Marshall, Hall’s release shows the flawed nature of the state’s policy on early release.
“The people of Alabama have heard me say many times before that Alabama’s Correctional Incentive Time laws are broken,” Marshall said. “Had the shooter served his entire sentence, he would not have been able to commit his brazen crime spree across our state, which ended in capital murder. Furthermore, an inmate who escapes custody should never, under any circumstance, be rewarded with early release.”
This is not the first time a shooting of law enforcement in the state has led to criticism of the state’s "Good Time" law, which allows for the early release of convicts for good behavior while incarcerated.
The Sergeant Nick Risner Act was signed into law by Gov. Kay Ivey in April and went into effect in July.
The law drew its namesake from Sheffield Police Sgt. Nick Risner, who was gunned down in 2021 by a man who was released from prison under Alabama’s “Good Time” law.
Risner’s killer, Brian Martin, was released from prison in 2016 after serving three years of a 10-year sentence after he pled guilty to manslaughter in the 2011 death of his father.
The law placed limitations on convicts who used a deadly weapon to kill someone from being released early under Alabama’s “Good Time” law.
State Rep. Phillip Pettus (R-Greenhill) sponsored the Risner Act.
Pettus Spoke to 1819 News about the shooting in Bibb County, and the state should avoid such incidents in the future.
Pettus also declared his disappointment in the lengthy process it takes to execute those convicted of murdering police officers.
“It takes forever for them to receive the death penalty,” Pettus said. “I think it ought to be fast. If you kill a police officer, you ought to get the death penalty quick; it shouldn’t take you 20 years or so.”
Pettus said the Nick Risner Act was a “good start,” but the state still has a long way to go.
“Mean people need to be in jail,” Pettus said. “We are building more prisons now so we can lock people up. Everybody doesn’t need to be in jail, but the ones that are in prison, most of them need to stay there.
“Alabama has some of the most lenient 'Good Time' laws in the country, People get out easy. You think you’d have to be good in prison, but the guy who killed Nick Risner, they took his good time away from him, but a warden, with the click of the pen, gave it right back to him. … He put a guy in the hospital, he got in a fight, he and a guard had some problems. If you lose your time, it should be gone forever."
Marshall broadly agreed with comparisons between the shootings of Risner and Johnson.
“As was the case with the death of Sergeant Nick Risner last fall, this tragedy requires that we reassess the state laws and policies that abetted this shooter in the death of Deputy Brad Johnson," Marshall said.
Pettus was outraged that Hall was released early despite escaping a work-release program. He also claims that such crimes display the need for the multiple prison builds planned by the state.
“If you escape from a prison or work release, that’s another felony,” Pettus said. “If we just keep being more lenient, and lenient, and lenient, and we are going to keep having more police officers die because of our justice system.
“People that go to prison, they’re there for a reason. They don’t just go out there one time and do one little thing, most of them. They do something over, and over, and over; in and out, in and out, in and out. … If we can rehabilitate them, that’s great. But if you kill a police officer, there’s no rehabilitating you.”
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