Childhood pastor of 22-year-old bystander killed in pursuit speaks on his character

WAFF 48's Romario Gardner reporting
Published: Jul. 25, 2023 at 11:16 PM CDT
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TONEY, Ala. (WAFF) - A church community is mourning the loss of one of their own.

22-year-old Matthew Norwood died Friday night when Gurley police officer Christopher Whalen crashed into him during a police chase.

Whalen crashed into Norwood’s car on Jordan Lane in Huntsville, as he was pursuing a suspect alongside several agencies.

Jackson County deputies say the chase began in Hollywood but authorities stopped once they left the county.

It’s unknown when Whalen began the chase, but he suffered minor injuries and was released from the hospital.

Norwood’s childhood pastor at Mount Zion Baptist, Ernest Williams Senior, said he couldn’t believe the news when it happened.

“To see his mother and father and the siblings go through what they are going through is difficult,” said Pastor Williams. “And as a friend of the family, we grieve.”

The pastor said Norwood was filled with immense talent within his church’s choir. He believed his life was just getting started.

He said Matthew was a loving, thoughtful Christian man who followed the beat of his own drum. He says the entire church community and family are torn up. Despite the tragedy, Pastor Williams said he knows Norwood is looking down with a smile on his face.

“The life that you lived before us was a full life. We didn’t know it, and you didn’t know it,” said Pastor Williams. “But God knew it. And so because of that, Matthew, You did live your best life. And now we trust your life and God’s fans right now. Rest in peace, my dear friend.”

The Mayor of Gurley released the following statement:

“On behalf of the Town of Gurley, I want to express our condolences to the family of Matthew Norwood who died in a tragic accident on Friday evening. A Gurley Police Department vehicle, unfortunately, collided with a vehicle driven by Mr. Norwood on Jordan Lane in Huntsville while officers from several jurisdictions, including Officer Chris Whalen of the Gurley Police Department, were involved in the pursuit of the driver of another vehicle. Officer Whalen suffered non-life-threatening injuries in the accident and has been released from the hospital.

The automobile accident is being investigated by the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency (ALEA). Gurley Police Chief J.C. Martin is heading up an internal investigation by the Gurley Police Department regarding Officer Whalen’s involvement in the police pursuit. Officer Whalen has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the internal investigation. Any other information will be provided upon completion of the internal investigation.”

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