Unanswered questions loom after police pursuit leaves one man dead, Gurley officer hospitalized

WAFF's D'Quan Lee reporting
Published: Jul. 23, 2023 at 10:35 PM CDT

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - Sunday morning, the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency announced that just before midnight Friday night, a Gurley patrol vehicle crashed into another car. Sources tell WAFF 48 this chase started in Jackson County.

The Gurley officer joined the pursuit when it crossed into the city’s limits. According to police scanners, the pursuit reached speeds up to 130mph while they were heading towards Huntsville.

Following the collision, 22-year-old Matthew Norwood from Toney and 31-year-old Gurley Police Officer Christopher Whalen were both taken to the hospital. Norwood died of his injuries, while Whalen’s condition is still unknown.

“A couple questions I would have if I was a family in this situation is ‘How did this come about? What was the police officer doing? Was it just an accident? Did he have his lights on? Was he running sirens?’” said Huntsville attorney Hunter Garnett.

Gurley Police have not responded to questions surrounding the events of the pursuit, but Garnett says a civil suit may be filed, depending facts of the situation.

“Generally, police officers are immune from civil prosecution unless they violated a written rule,” Garnett continued. “An example of a written rule would be running code, which means lights and a siren; You’re usually immune if you cause an accident.”

Garnett also says the case doesn’t stop there, the suspect being chased could also be held liable.

“In a case like this, you’d have multiple responsible parties. You have the guy that’s running from the police and you may have the police officer that’s chasing him depending on the facts of the case,” he continued. “Depending on if that officer violated a written safety rule. The guy that’s running from the police, he’s going to be held civilly and criminally for the death of this innocent bystander.”

WAFF has reached out to multiple law enforcement agencies regarding whether or not the suspect being pursued was ever caught. Law enforcement has either declined to respond, or deferred to state troopers.

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