Carol Robinson Alabama Media Group, Birmingham
BIRMINGHAM — One Birmingham police officer was killed and another critically wounded in a shooting early Sunday outside a downtown nightclub.
The shooting happened just before 2 a.m. in the 900 block of Fifth Avenue North outside the 4 Seasons Bar & Grill. One suspect was taken into custody and one suspect was also shot. Birmingham Fire and Rescue Service transported all three to UAB Hospital’s Trauma Center.
Birmingham police officials identified the fallen officer as Sgt. Wytasha Carter, 44. He had served with the Birmingham Police Department since 2011, where he has worked various assignments including West Precinct, HICOPP and Youth Services as a school resource officer. Carter was promoted to sergeant in February 2018.
Carter began his law enforcement career in 2002 as a correctional officer with the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. Later that year he joined the Leeds Police Department where he served as an officer. In 2007, Sergeant Carter joined the Fairfield Police Department until transferring to the Birmingham Police Department.
He was a 1993 graduate of Phillips High School. He received his bachelor’s degree from Belford University. He also served in the United States Air Force. He is survived by his wife and children.
The sergeant is the 52nd Birmingham police officer killed in the line of duty. The last time an officer was killed was June 17, 2004 when Robert Bennett, Harley Chisholm and Carlos Owens were gunned down in an ambush outside an Ensley drug house.
“This is one of the roughest hours of your career.” said Birmingham Police Chief Patrick Smith. “There’s not a chief, not an officer that ever wants to have to deal with this. This is a very very difficult thing for the family, and for the department.”
“Each and every day the men and women of the Birmingham Police Department do everything that we can to try to address crime within the city. We do everything that we can to try to protect and serve the people of the city of Birmingham with pride with respect. We do everything we can to keep everyone safe,” the chief said.
The ordeal began at 1:59 a.m. when officers were working a special detail dealing with a rash of car break-ins in that area. An undercover officer spotted at least two suspects who appeared to be trying door handles to see if they were locked. The officer called for backup, and the sergeant arrived.
The officer and the sergeant approached two suspects. “The officers approached one suspect and patted him down where they found what they believed to be a weapon,” Smith said. “They asked him about it, he armed himself and fired upon our officers.”
“What I can tell you is it appears our officers were unable to respond,” he said. “They were taken completely by surprise. We can’t go into great detail because we are still in the infancy stage of the investigation.”
The second officer remains critical at UAB Hospital. “Both of them were shot in very critical areas,” Smith said.
Dozens of officers are keeping vigil in the emergency room area and later saluted as the mortuary transport van left the hospital. More than a half dozen patrol cars escorted the fallen officer’s body as he was taken away from the hospital.
Smith said he did not immediately know the condition of the suspect who was wounded. The second suspect is under arrest. “We’re not absolutely certain right now if we have one outstanding suspect but we have other possibilities and the investigation is ongoing.”
The chief said he does not know if the break-ins in that area are linked to similar crimes in other downtown areas. “This is a problem we’ve been working in the city and that’s why the officers were out here trying to make sure we do everything we can to protect the citizens,” he said.
Smith said he has spoken to family members of one of the officers. “You know the main thing is we’re here for them and we’re going to do everything that we can to support them,” he said. “This is a difficult time. There are members on this department that have worked with them for years and they’re hurting just like everyone else.”
Dozens of officers gathered outside of UAB’s emergency room, some of them visibly emotional. “We ask that everyone be respectful of their space. We want to give them their time to grieve and we’re going to continue to move forward and do everything we can to keep the citizens of Birmingham safe,” he said.
At a public safety Town Hall meeting held late last week, Smith talked of volume of weapons that police are taking off the street each day. “We’re averaging just under 200 a month,” he said, adding that they confiscated more than 2,200 in 2018.
“That lets you know what is happening and the number of weapons that are out there and the sheer dangers that our officers face each day,” he said. “We do it successfully, we do it safely, and this is just one of those very unfortunate times that it led to a tragedy. “
Police have set up a massive multi-block perimeter around the crime scene. Officers from all four of the city’s police precincts are on the scene, as are officers from Bessemer and the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office. The State Bureau of Investigation is also on the scene and will lead the investigation.
The City of Birmingham released this statement: “Mayor Randall Woodfin wishes to express thoughts and prayers for the two Birmingham police officers shot overnight in the line of duty in downtown Birmingham as they investigated car break-ins. Sadly, a sergeant lost his life and another officer remains in the trauma unit at UAB Hospital. Please join the mayor as he prays for these officers, their loved ones, the police department and the city. Two suspects are in custody. his is a very difficult thing for the family and a very difficult thing for the department..’’
Jay Town, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama, called the shooting a terrible tragedy. “This tragedy is a heartbreaking reminder of the dangers all law enforcement faces while we sleep. While they keep us safe,” Town said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of the officers, the officer still fighting for life and the fallen officer whose end of watch came much too soon.”
Birmingham City Councilman Hunter Williams, public safety chairman, issued this statement: “On behalf of the Birmingham City Council, Please join me in lifting up our thoughts and prayers for the families of the officers shot this morning, as well as the men and women of Birmingham Police Department. Our officers make many sacrifices to keep us safe. Early this morning one officer made the ultimate sacrifice and another of our officers is still in critical condition. The Birmingham City Council stands with the law abiding citizens, families, and victims, and will cooperatively work with Mayor Woodfin and other law enforcement agencies to combat this senseless act of violence. We know the negative impact of gun violence on the health and safety of our communities must be met with swift and certain punishment. The Birmingham City Council fully stands behind all of the men and women of the Birmingham Police Department in their efforts to make sure justice is served.”
This story will be updated as more information is released.
©2019 Alabama Media Group, Birmingham