MOBILE, Ala. (WALA) – Only one of the two men arrested after a shootout with police fired his gun, according to testimony Thursday in federal court.
Mobile police Officer Dennis Owens, who is assigned to a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives task force, offered the testimony at a hearing to consider gun charges against Johnny Tyrece Vail. He said a man arrested along with Vail after last week’s shootout, Andrew Mitchell, fired but that Vail did not.
A Mobile police sergeant returned fire, getting off nine shots and wounding both men, Owens testified.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Sonja Bivins determined that prosecutors had presented sufficient evidence to send the federal case to a grand jury. Vail stands accused of possession of a stolen firearm and being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm.
Since Vail has not made bail on the state charges, his attorney waived a federal detention hearing.
Owens testified that narcotics officers in an unmarked vehicle were making “proactive traffic stops” in downtown Mobile on Aug. 8 when they spotted Vail and Mitchell on Duval Street. He said officers did not know Mitchell.
“They recognized Mr. Vail based on previous investigations against him,” he said.
Owens testified that after Vail sustained two gunshots, he ran into an abandoned home at the R.V. Taylor public housing development. Officers arrested him more than an hour later.
Police recovered two guns – one near a pool of blood near where Mitchell collapsed and another about 20 feet away. Owens said that weapon was a 9mm Glock, the same type of pistol used by the officer who fired return shots.
Court papers indicate that the gun Vail stands accused of carrying had been stolen from the home of a police officer earlier this year.
Defense attorney Peter Madden pressed Owens about whether any of the officers had seen Vail drop the gun. He testified that they had not.
But Bivins found probable cause to believe Vail did have the weapon based on an affidavit by investigators indicating that Vail told police someone had given him the gun.
Federal prosecutors earlier Thursday outlined a rather lengthy criminal history for a 21-year-old man. A Mobile County Circuit Court judge sentenced Vail as a youthful offender to a year in jail for firing into an occupied home and an occupied vehicle in 2015. In one incident, according to court records, Vail fired at a house on Lucille Street in October 2015. A few days later, the court documents state, Vail jumped out from behind a tree and shot at a resident of that house after he got inside his vehicle.
Vail remains on probation for those offenses.
In addition, court documents show Vail has had a string of arrests, including:
- A charge in May 2017 of carrying a pistol without a permit.
- A charge in June 2017 of harassment and carrying a pistol without a permit. Police also accused him of giving them his brother’s name and birth date when they asked who he was.
- A charge in October 2018 of possession of marijuana during a traffic stop in Bay Minette.
- A charge in May of this year of domestic violence in Fairhope.
Meanwhile, a Mobile County judge on Thursday denied bail for Vail’s co-defendant in the R.V. Taylor, Mitchell.
Owens testified that the Mobile Police Department is conducting an internal review – standard in these cases – assessing the actions of the officer who fired his weapon.