FLORENCE — Lauderdale County grand jurors have cleared a sheriff's deputy and reserve officer involved in a Nov. 3 shooting that resulted in a man's death.
Chief Deputy Jr. Witt said his office was notified Friday afternoon that grand jurors hearing evidence about the shooting death of Richard Fontenot determined that the actions of deputy Gaylon Phillips and reserve officer Andy Corbett were justified.
"We felt confident all along," Witt said. "We hate it happened, but (the deputies) did exactly what they had to."
Fontenot, 35, 390 Lauderdale 57, which is also known as Kelley Road in the Underwood community, died at Eliza Coffee Memorial Hospital after the shooting. The shooting occurred about 9 p.m. Nov. 3.
Deputies were dispatched to Fontenot's house because he was reportedly threatening to harm himself. Officials said evidence revealed Fontenot had been drinking alcohol, and that could have been a contributing factor in the shooting. Witt said when the deputies went to Fontenot's house, he met them at the door with a loaded and cocked pistol.
"There is no doubt he would have took one of the officer's lives," Witt said. "He came out and stuck the gun in the deputy's face and (the deputy's) gun wasn't even drawn."
Witt said Corbett was on one side of the door and Phillips on the other when Fontenot came out. He said Phillips, when threatened, stepped back and pulled his weapon.
"They told him to stop and put down his weapon," Witt said.
"He disobeyed the order and moved aggressively toward the deputy, and they fired their weapons."
The Alabama Bureau of Investigation conducted the investigation and turned over their findings to the district attorney's office. Grand jurors decided the officers did nothing wrong.
Phillips, who has been with the department about three years, has been on administrative leave with pay, and Corbett has been placed on leave as a reserve officer. Both have been reinstated.
Tom Smith can be reached at 256-740-5757 or tom.smith@TimesDaily.com.