BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) - Birmingham Mayor William Bell spoke today for the first time about his part in a police shooting involving his security detail that happened Friday night.
Bell said that the incident has made him "more determined than ever" to fight crime in the city.
Officials say two suspects got into a shootout with members of Bell's police protection after those suspects shot at a vehicle near the mayor's SUV. The shooting happened on I-20/59 near 22nd Street North, prompting police to shut down all lanes of the northbound side of the interstate. Traffic was at a near standstill for almost three hours as police diverted drivers off of the interstate onto 17th Street North.
The mayor appeared in public Saturday, just hours after his officers traded fire with suspects while he was hunkered in his SUV, but didn't say much about the incident.
At a press conference today, Bell gave a much more detailed, and frightening, account of what happened Friday night on what was supposed to be a quick ride home.
Bell was leaving a fundraiser at the Wine Loft downtown and heading home in his SUV driven by his police security detail when they pulled up to the intersection of 3rd street and Abraham Woods. That's when Bell says two suspects in a white town car nearby started shooting at a brown SUV just to the right of his car.
Bell says his bodyguards' first reaction was to get out of there.
"I was ordered to stay down, but you know, curiosity sometimes gets the best of you and I wanted to know what was going on. But by the same token, everything happened so quickly, you didn't have time to worry about fear, adrenaline takes over," he said.
Bell says the shooters peeled off onto 6th Street and his SUV continued on 3rd to get away from the danger, but the suspects' car ended up pulling out in front of them further down 3rd street. That's when his officers, already talking to police dispatch, decided to follow at a safe distance.
"For the most part, you don't have time to worry about fear or anything else, our concern was that of the public. Here, you had individuals who had opened fire in a public area, and I would've been derelict in my duty and my officers would've been derelict in their duty had they not done what they did," the mayor said today.
Bell says this didn't become a chase until the town car got onto I-20/59, picked up speed, then crashed into the median.
Bell's officers jumped out of his SUV when they saw other drivers beginning to approach the suspects' car. The suspects and police traded gunfire and both suspects were shot.
"Since they were there, they knew they had to take control of the scene and bring it to the end that it did come to," he said.
Captain Henry Irby with Birmingham Police said Friday night that the two suspects, a male and a female, were taken to the hospital for treatment for their wounds. He said a third suspect was taken into custody for questioning.
Bell says he doesn't believe he was the target of this shooting, but said later that night he had a "good conversation with the Lord."
Bell says his SUV was damaged in the shooting. He added that he sometimes gets criticism for having a security detail and said, "This answers some of that."
The ABI is investigating the shooting and may take 60 days to release the results of their investigation.