On Feb. 3, 2011 an unarmed man with a broken hip, who was using crutches to walk was shot by Goodwater, AL police officer for arguing with the Judge, Carlton Teel.
There are numerous news articles on the incident. But they are all conflicting.
Witnesses in the courtroom say that Brian Keith Ford was upset at the huge fine levied against him for a misdemeanor charge. He, according to someone who knows him, could only pay half. When the judge refused his request he asked to speak to his girlfriend, which the judge denied. Mr. Ford became upset and he and Judge Teel got into a yelling match. Cops, the judge and lawyers in the courtroom claim that Ford went for the judges gun, which was under his robes and not visible. They also say he grabbed the judge. A Goodwater police officer on security duty in the courtroom then shot Ford once in the stomach and when he was on the ground shot him again in the side.
Witnesses in the courtroom that do not work for the city, the state and who are not lawyers tell a very different story.
They say that there was no gun, Ford never went for any gun, that it was simply a yelling match between the judge and Ford. They said Ford was loud and unruly but didn’t do anything to deserve to be shot twice.
Obviously, there are some questions about why this man was shot.
Now, I’ve had the misfortune of being in that courtroom when the current Judge Teel’s older brother, Robert, was judge in 2000. Back then Judge Robert Teel routinely jailed everyone who was unable to pay a fine for misdemeanors. I was jailed for not forking over nearly $800 for a misdemeanor traffic ticket. They refuse to work out any sort of payment arrangements with anyone. If you don’t have the money right then and there then you are made to sit along the wall until court is over and then you are taken downstairs to jail. It is the only court I have ever been in that refused to work with people on fines. Considering that Goodwater is a severely economically depressed area (there is one small factory there) I have always found that very odd and well…cruel. I also think it is illegal. I encourage you to read what happened to me in that courtroom. It appears that the current Judge Teel has followed in Robert’s footsteps, because according to some of the news stories he, too, is making those unable to pay huge fines for minor offenses sit along the wall (on the floor) until they can be taken to jail, (which is a horrible hole downstairs).
Goodwater is a strange place as far as the legal community goes. It’s like an incestuous cabal of related judges and lawyers who run the whole town. The Teel’s father was at one time a State Representative. His three sons, Robert, Frank, and Carlton currently control Goodwater. Robert used to be the judge and he retired. Frank Teel is the Asst. DA who was arrested by the ABI for extortion in May of 2010. And Carlton Teel is the current municipal judge. They are white. The vast majority of Goodwater residents are black.
There are some major questions that need to be asked in this case.
1) A Judge sits on an elevated platform where it would be nearly impossible to put ones hands on him. There are some steps to climb to get to the judge. Are we really to believe that this man, with a broken hip and walking on crutches, actually made it past security, up the steps and to the judge before a cop could stop him?
2) Some news outlets are reporting that Ford “tried to forcibly obtain a firearm” that was under the Judge’s robe. If it was under his robe then how did Ford know it was there? If it was under his robe then it wasn’t visible. A different news outlet is reporting that he tried to take the gun from the cop. And yet another news outlet is reporting that Teel pulled the gun and Ford tried to take it away from him. The ABI is going with Ford trying to take it from the judge after the judge pulled it. Witnesses in the courtroom say there was never a gun except the one Ford was shot with.
3) Are cops in Goodwater so poorly trained that they can’t take down a guy with a broken hip who is using crutches to walk?
And there is this oddball story about how Ford got his hip broke in an alleged police chase. Problem is, the police who were reportedly chasing him have said there was no such chase. And, I have questions about this paragraph.
“A Goodwater police officer informed (the trooper) that ACPD was in pursuit of a vehicle that was traveling North on Alabama 9 and he was waiting on the chase to enter his jurisdiction but ACPD called off the pursuit,” the report states. “The Goodwater police officer traveled South on Alabama 9 to try and locate the vehicle and came upon the wreck with the driver still inside. The GWPD police officer believes that the vehicle was the one ACPD was chasing but can’t prove it.”
Now, the ACPD is the Alexander City Police Department. Their jurisdiction is within the city limits, although they do sometimes help the Tallapoosa Sheriff’s Dept. out in the county. Highway 9 is in an entirely different county. The part of it referenced in that paragraph is in Coosa County headed toward Clay County. ACPD wouldn’t have been anywhere near there as it is way out of their jurisdiction. If it was already on Hwy 9 N. then it would have been well within the jurisdiction of Goodwater PD and Coosa Co. Sheriff’s dept. and they would have been giving chase.
Either the ACPD is lying because they were giving chase outside their jurisdiction, or the Goodwater PD is lying because they want to paint this unarmed man they shot as a really bad person….which he might be, but that doesn’t justify shooting him when he is unarmed.
The ABI is merely parroting what the Judge, lawyers and cop who fired the shots are saying. Seriously, their statement is almost literally “What They Said”, with ‘they’ being the Judge, cop and lawyers. What about what the eye witnesses who have all said something very different? Does their version not count because they are just common folk?
This case needs to be watched very closely. The municipal court in Goodwater needs to be investigated for jailing people for merely being unable to pay a fine and for refusing to work out payment arrangements. I know that Leeds and at least one more city recently got sued for that practice. The plaintiffs won. It is illegal to jail people on non-jailable offenses for being unable to pay fines. It amounts to debtors prison.
The cop needs to be fired and barred from ever working as a police officer again. Anywhere. Chances are he won’t be though. Seems that most places just pass bad cops on from one department to another, like pedophile priests. That is what I’ve heard regarding this cop already. Nothing is done about them until someone gets killed or brutalized…and even then it is rare that anything is done to them.
Stay tuned for new developments.