Family sues sheriff, county over mentally ill man’s shooting death by police

Published 9:38 pm Thursday, April 29, 2021

Relatives of a mentally ill Black man who was shot to death by police in 2019 filed a federal lawsuit Thursday claiming officers wrongly broke into his home and killed him without reason.

Officers in Pickens County unjustly shot Wallace Wilder inside his apartment in the west Alabama town of Gordo after a neighbor called authorities because of noises coming from the unit, attorneys and relatives of the man told a news conference outside the courthouse.

The wrongful death suit, which names Sheriff Todd Hall and Pickens County, claims Wilder’s rights were violated. Wilder’s niece, Renota Harris, compared his death to those of other Black people who have been killed by law enforcement.

“No one is above the law. No one has the right to break into your home, under any circumstances, no matter what title they hold within a community, and kill you,” she said. “And that is exactly what happened to Wallace.”

The suit contends Hall, who is white and was appointed sheriff about a month before the shooting on Aug. 28, 2019, was involved in the killing. Hall did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

Wilder, 62, had a long history of mental problems and was known to Hall, said Johnathan Austin, an attorney for the family. It’s unclear what happened to prompt gunfire, but the family has said Wilder was alone and had no weapons.

State police who investigated the shooting turned over their findings to the Alabama attorney general’s office. No charges have been filed.