FOX10 News Investigates is getting to the bottom of a controversial deputy-involved shooting in Washington County, a shooting that has divided the county since it happened three years ago.
Some family members wonder if the entire incident could have been avoided, so they gave FOX10 News Investigates documents from the case file and a copy of the deputy’s body camera video to take a closer look at the case.
To watch the intense special report, click the video player above. A warning, video in the story is extremely graphic.How the incident unfolded
On September 18, 2015, Scott Beech, 57, was killed by a Washington County Sheriff's Deputy.
While investigators, and a grand jury, concluded the fatal shooting was justified, Beech's family still questions why.
“It’s a terrible thing, and we want some answers. I want to know how this gets by,” said Beech’s brother, Barry Beech.
The week before the shooting, Beech's wife asked for a divorce, so he was very upset and emotionally distraught.
The day of the incident, Beech went to buy seafood from a man selling it out of his truck.
The case file shows Beech cried, telling the man it would be his last meal, even asking the man to pray with him, but witness statements show Beech went on to say that he was "going to send a lot of people to hell."
He went on to say he may kill his wife and her sister.
So, the seafood salesman called law enforcement, and deputies started looking for Beech to arrest him on the charge of making terrorist threats.
According to deputy statements, Washington County's Chief Deputy, Ferrell Grimes, found Beech at Beech's daughter's house.
It just so happens, Grimes' son is married to Beech’s daughter, so the men knew each other well.
Beech's best friend and Washington County's 911 Director, Burk Williams, was also there at the house.
The case file shows Williams and Chief Deputy Grimes managed to calm Beech down.
"Burk done an honorable thing, I appreciate everything he tried,” said Barry Beech.
Grimes even disarmed Beech, taking his derringer pistol out of his pocket and giving it to Williams, who put it back in Beech's truck.
But instead of arresting Beech, Chief Deputy Grimes let him go, allowing 911 Director Williams to drive Beech home in Beech's truck, which was loaded with weapons.
"Why they didn't arrest him?” Barry Beech still wonders to this day. “When they had him unarmed. They could have arrested him right then, they chose not to, then turn right around and change their mind."
As soon as Williams and Beech turned on to County Road 34, Chief Deputy Grimes radioed for deputies to pull them over, and that's when the shooting happened.
If you would like to watch the full body camera video of the incident, completely unedited, watch below. mobile users click here
Was the shooting avoidable?
The deputy who pulled the trigger, Micheal Turner, said the incident was "one of the hardest things that I have endured in my life."
He didn't want to speak on camera, but his body camera video reveals his raw emotions following the shooting. He was hyperventilating and praying, worried if he made the right call.
Baldwin County Chaplain Joe Aldrete said those life or death decisions weigh on law enforcement officers every day.
"You're prepared for it, but you're not prepared for it, if you will,” he explained. "It impacts them greatly… whenever anybody goes through some kind of critical incident, you begin to evaluate your life"
But some people wonder, if Chief Deputy Grimes had arrested Beech when he had the chance, would Turner have needed to make that tough choice?
FOX10 News Investigates turned to a third-party law enforcement professional for insight.
“I do think that the mistake led to the confrontation with deadly force, and obviously, if he had been handcuffed and taken to jail, the death would not have occurred,” explained Former Baldwin County District Attorney David Whetstone.
Whetstone believes Chief Deputy Grimes not only violated policies, but also put his deputies in harm's way by letting Beech go.
"Anybody that would allow that to happen could have been charged with a criminal offense. That was certainly reckless endangerment of the officers,” explained Whetstone.
Burk Williams was also in danger.
He jumped out of the driver's side of Beech's truck just before bullets started flying.
When investigators interviewed him, Williams said the shooting "did not have to happen,” but that attitude ruffled some feathers.
Just four days after the shooting, Washington County Sheriff Richard Stringer called Williams while he was at work at the county's 911 center.
To hear the call, click on the video at the top of the page.
During the call, Stringer told Williams, "if you keep runnin' your mouth, then I’ll probably throw my badge down and come after you… that's how pissed I am."
Stringer declined an on camera interview with us, but said he doesn't deny making those comments, because he and Williams don't get along.
Stringer also felt Beech's best friend, Williams, had no business getting involved in the situation.
Williams declined an interview with FOX10 News Investigates, as well.
Sheriff Stringer is also the chair of the Washington County 911 Board.
Just this Monday, according to sources, Stringer led the charge to terminate Williams at a special board meeting.
However, Stringer insisted the termination had nothing to do with the release of the phone call.
He did say Williams was "terminated for cause."Deputy cleared by Washington County grand jury
A separate county's sheriff's office was called in to investigate the deputy-involved shooting, and that investigation was presented to a Washington County grand jury.
If you look closely at the body camera video, you can see Deputy Turner trying to knock something out of Beech's hands, and as Turner backs up, you can see Beech holding what appears to be a weapon in his right hand, and a beer bottle in the left.
Turner was cleared, and no administrative actions were taken against Chief Deputy Grimes.
FOX10 News Investigates caught up with the District Attorney for Washington, Clarke and Choctaw Counties, Spencer Walker, about the grand jury proceeding.
"Well, of course, hindsight is 20/20, if things could've been done differently I certainly would've recommended that they be done differently... but, I can't change that now, and the grand jury viewed it from the perspective was the criminal law violated by this officer who used force to protect himself in that situation, and they decided that he was justified in that shooting based on the evidence which was primarily that video... and hopefully, we won't have any situations happen like that again,” explained Walker.
The State Bureau of Investigation said it was not called in to investigate the shooting, and the FBI would neither confirm nor deny any involvement in the case, although Sheriff Stringer said he believes the Department of Justice was notified.
Beech’s family had some concerns about the fact that the body camera video starts just seconds before shots were fired.
According to several law enforcement officials from different agencies, the brand of body cameras used by the Washington County Sheriff’s Office at the time has about a 10 second delay from the moment it is turned on until it begins recording.Three months after Beech’s death, Chief Deputy Grimes also died
Some family members feel Chief Deputy Grimes shouldn't have been allowed to work in the field at the time, because of medical issues.
Months after the shooting, Chief Deputy Grimes also died.
Grimes' decision that day, to give Beech his gun back, and let him leave in his truck, is one that appears will forever remain a mystery.
A mystery, which will haunt the deputies, the friends, and family affected by the death of Scott Beech.
"He's my son, he's a part of me,” said Beech’s mother, Joy Beech, “you will never get over it."
Correction: We first reported Chief Deputy Ferrell Grimes died three months after Scott Beech. In fact, Grimes died eight months after Beech, in May 2016.
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