Demonstrators gathered Thursday night at the Baldwin County Courthouse to protest the death of Otis “OJ” French, Jr., who was killed by police in Bay Minette following a traffic stop he less than two weeks ago.
“He was the best of me,” French’s sister told the crowd. “My brother’s death will not be in vain.”
“We will get justice because there are too many questions that need answers,” said another speaker.
The Bay Minette Justice League and its supporters argued that French had been the victim of undue use of force by police. Authorities say French was shot and killed when he failed to comply with an officer’s instructions during a traffic stop for a broken tail light.
After the crowd chanted “OJ Matters” and people held up signs that read “Justice for OJ”, a Georgian minister with family in the area said “any of them could have been OJ”.
The pastor said law enforcement‘s version of events was vague.
“What instructions? He was not under arrest, he was not detained, he was not detained,” he said. “It seems the community needs answers. What legitimate instructions did he not follow that led to his death? »
To cheers, the pastor said, “Broken taillights are not the problem. The problem is a failing police system. We came today to be the taillights of Bay Minette.
The incident began around 10:25 a.m. on August 20, when the officer arrested French, 32, on Lower Street in Bay Minette. The officer asked French to exit the vehicle so the officer could show him the equipment violation on his vehicle and issue a warning.
The Baldwin County Major Crimes Unit, which is investigating the incident, said French exited the vehicle but refused to comply with the officer’s instructions. French became combative, the major crimes unit said, and he and the officer began to fight. The officer was pushed to the ground and French fled.
The officer caught up with French and attempted to taser him, but it was ineffective. French and the officer began to fight again, according to authorities. During the scuffle, French grabbed the officer’s Taser and began using the Taser on the officer, law enforcement said.
At that point, the officer shot French, the major crimes unit said. French died at a local hospital. The officer was treated for minor injuries and released. The officer is on administrative leave pending the conclusion of the investigation.
“We don’t want revenge,” said another speaker at Thursday’s protest, “we want justice.”
Led by French’s family, protesters then marched seven times around the Baldwin County Courthouse.
Protesters said they would gather again on September 10 to demonstrate against the police killing.
“We are not giving up,” said one speaker. “We constantly apply the pressure.”