Federal Officials Close the Investigation into the Death of Michael Moore
The Justice Department will not pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against the Mobile Police Department officer (the Officer) involved in the fatal shooting of 19-year-old Michael Moore, the Department announced today.
Officials from the Civil Rights Division, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Alabama, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) spoke today with representatives of the Moore family to inform them of this determination. The Department makes this decision because the evidence obtained through the course of a rigorous investigation is insufficient to prove that the Officer willfully used excessive force resulting in Moore’s death.
The Department devoted significant time and resources to investigating the events surrounding Moore’s death on June 13, 2016, in Mobile, Alabama. A team of experienced career federal prosecutors from the Criminal Section of the Civil Rights Division and the United States Attorney’s Office reviewed evidence obtained by the FBI and state investigators to determine whether the Officer violated any federal laws, focusing on the application of 18 U.S.C. § 242, a federal criminal civil rights statute that prohibits certain types of official misconduct. They conducted a detailed and lengthy analysis of numerous materials, including police reports, law enforcement accounts, witness statements, affidavits of witnesses, dispatch logs, physical evidence reports, the autopsy report, photographs, videos of some portions of the incident, and conducted additional witness interviews.
The evidence developed during the investigation indicated that on June 13, 2016, the Officer conducted a traffic stop after Moore made an erratic turn. Moore had two passengers in the vehicle at the time of the traffic stop. Moore was unable to produce a driver’s license and instead provided the Officer with a license number. After running the information, the Officer learned that Moore provided him with a false driver’s license number and that the vehicle Moore was driving was reported stolen. The Officer asked Moore to step out of the car and Moore complied.
There are conflicting eyewitness accounts as to what happened once Moore exited the vehicle and these critical events were not captured on any video. The eyewitnesses to the shooting included residents and motorists traveling through the area in their vehicles. Both passengers inside Moore’s vehicle acknowledged that they saw Moore with a firearm prior to the shooting. One passenger observed a firearm in Moore’s car seat before encountering the Officer, and the other saw a firearm in Moore’s waistband once he stepped outside the vehicle. Some eyewitnesses describe Moore pulling up his pants or having his hands by his waist immediately prior to the shooting. Others describe Moore “snatching” his hand downward or “flinching” at the time of the shooting. Still others only saw Moore’s hands for a portion of the encounter or could not see them at all.
According to the Officer, Moore exited the vehicle with a cell phone in his right hand. The Officer asked Moore to put the cell phone down and when Moore bent down to place the phone on the ground, the Officer saw a gun in Moore’s waistband. The Officer commanded Moore not to reach for the gun, but Moore did so, at which time the Officer shot Moore causing Moore to fall to the ground. While on the ground, the Officer again commanded Moore not to reach for the gun. However, Moore reached for the gun, and the Officer shot him again.
Moore was transported to the University of South Alabama Medical Center where he was pronounced dead. At the hospital, emergency personnel recovered a firearm under Moore’s right hip in the waistband of his clothing. The serial number of the firearm recovered from Moore’s body matched the serial number of a firearm reported stolen earlier that day. An autopsy was conducted and determined that Moore died as a result of multiple gunshot wounds.
Under the applicable federal criminal civil rights laws, prosecutors must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, that an officer “willfully” deprived an individual of a Constitutional right, meaning that the officer acted with the deliberate and specific intent to do something the law forbids. This is the highest standard of intent imposed by the law. Neither accident, mistake, fear, negligence, nor bad judgment is sufficient to establish a willful federal criminal civil rights violation.
Given the totality of the circumstances, and conflicting eye-witness testimony, the government cannot disprove the Officer’s claim that he believed that Moore was reaching for a firearm, that he feared for his life, and that he made the split-second decision to defend it. Therefore, after a careful and thorough review, a team of experienced career federal prosecutors determined that insufficient evidence exists to prove the Officer willfully violated any federal criminal civil rights statutes. Accordingly, the investigation into this incident has been closed.