By Erica Wright
The Birmingham Times
After an officer-involved shooting death of a 28-year-old Black man on Easter Sunday and calls from Black Lives Matter Birmingham to step down, Mayor Randall Woodfin said he will not resign.
Last month, Desmon Ray Jr. was killed by Birmingham Police on Easter Sunday when responding to a domestic dispute call in the 200 block of Ninth Avenue West.
On Monday, Black Lives Matter Birmingham called for the resignations of Woodfin and Police Chief Patrick Smith, stating their handling of the police killing of Ray is “unacceptable.”
During a virtual news conference on Tuesday, Woodfin said pointedly: “I want to make this point very clear, I will not be resigning.”
Woodfin said, “I want to acknowledge the family of Desmon Ray and I offer my condolences to them. There are real issues in America right now and these issues have persisted for quite some time where unarmed Black men have been shot by white officers… this is not one of those instances and this is not the case.”
Since the shooting, Ray’s family and local activists have called for the video footage in Ray’s death to be released. Smith has released three videos from the shooting — from two officers’ body cameras and a neighbor’s security camera.
However, activists with BLM Birmingham said the release of the videos was not acceptable.
“The family should not have seen this video on the news or through social media without the leadership first contacting them,” said Eric Hall, co-founder of BLM Birmingham.
Ray’s family and BLM has also called for the full release of unedited footage and for the officer or officers involved in the shooting to be held accountable.
Around 10:50 p.m. on April 4, the Birmingham 911 Communication Division received a call that two people were involved in a domestic disturbance inside of a vehicle traveling in north Birmingham.
Officers saw the vehicle that matched the description in the 300 block of 9th Avenue West. Officers attempted to stop the vehicle, but the driver refused to stop, police say. The vehicle then came to a rest in the 200 block of 9th Avenue West after colliding into a fence.
Police say that is when the driver-identified as Ray- exited the vehicle and confronted officers with a firearm. In return, an officer fired their weapon striking the suspect.
The State Bureau of Investigation is leading the probe and will turn the findings over to the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office.
“I look forward to the Alabama Bureau of Investigation completing their investigation and turning over their findings to the District Attorney’s Office as well as the City of Birmingham being provided the opportunity to see what is in that report [and] Ray’s family getting the details of what happened that night,” Woodfin said.
$74M From American Rescue Plan
Woodfin also announced during the press conference that the city received $74.1 million from the federal government as the first of two installments from part of the American Rescue Plan, signed into law by President Joe Biden in March.
“The initial federal guidance on how the money will be spent was also provided yesterday and our team is reviewing a very long document, it was 151 pages, and we look forward to providing more detail in the coming days and we look forward to engaging with the City Council and communicating more about this money received to put Birmingham and our citizens on a better footing.”
Once the guidelines are reviewed “that puts us in a better place to overcommunicate to the community what we can do and what we plan to do with those resources to stimulate Birmingham and get people back to where they were pre-COVID,” Woodfin said.
The mayor has said his administration has some priorities for the spending. “Chief among them is our commitment to the continued service and sacrifice to all of our city employees who we are so grateful for and everything they’ve done,” Woodfin said last month when discussing the funds. “They have answered the call as our first responders, they’ve continued to work to keep our communities clean and have supported small businesses to help them survive.
The mayor has also said in the past he would like to see the funds go into neighborhood revitalization and investing in small and minority-owned businesses.
In addition to providing funds for states and cities, The American Rescue Plan also extended unemployment insurance, increased SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits and child tax benefits and eligible Americans received $1,400.
The city will receive a total of $148.8 million by next year under the $1.9 trillion plan.