Sources: DOJ investigating Huntsville police officer

Sources: DOJ investigating Huntsville police officer

HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) - The Department of Justice is investigating Huntsville police officer Brett Russell for using excessive force during an arrest in 2011, sources said Tuesday.

Russell responded to a domestic violence call two nights before Christmas 2011. Officers on the scene arrested Gary Wayne Hopkins for beating his wife in front of his children.

While in police custody, Hopkins began kicking officers and even broke out the window of a police car. While Hopkins was handcuffed and subdued, dashcam video shows Russell punching and kicking him. Hopkins was so badly injured the jail would not take him until he had been treated at Huntsville Hospital.

Russell was fired by the Huntsville Police Department in May 2012. However, in August 2012, the Huntsville City Council unanimously voted to reinstate him.

Hopkins filed a claim against the city, which was ultimately settled in Nov. 2012.

Legal analyst Mark McDaniel says it's pretty rare for the DOJ to get involved once an officer has already been reinstated. He says the DOJ will be reviewing the evidence and deciding whether or not to indict Officer Russell.

Even if Russell is indicted, not much will change for the victim.

"They won't be looking at any kind of civil allegations that involve money at all; that's out of the way," McDaniel said. The issue is, has there been a civil rights violation, just like we had in the case recently in Madison?"

McDaniel also says if the DOJ finds Russell committed a civil rights violation, he'd most likely face jail time.

Councilman Will Culver says this is the perfect time for the city to look into new technology that will benefit both police the people they serve.

"I am tasking our police chief and our legal team to look at body cams," Culver said, "and this is just the perfect timing to explore that because technology is available."

While Culver can't say much about the DOJ investigation, but, reminds us that this is just an investigation, not proclamation of guilt.

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