I was watching the news on Friday evening December 6th, 2019 when the anchors broke in and started telling the story. An officer was shot and critically injured in a drug bust in North Huntsville on Levert Street. I got that feeling, watching the mannerisms of the of the commentators, this officer wasn’t going to make it. Finally, Chief Mark McMurray came on and confirmed the tragedy saying the community had lost an officer.
Today we found out the officer’s name. Billy Fred Clardy III. A very distinguished officer with military service to boot. Chief McMurray said the experienced officer with twenty years of service had done everything right, and yet a bullet managed to slip through the top of his bullet proof vest finding his heart. They worked on him for an hour and a half, but nothing could be done.
In fact, I innappropriately assumed the bullet entered from the top of the vest. An HPD spokesperson later said the bullet had entered “outside the scope” of Clardy’s bullet proof vest. After seeing the vests I might now assume the shot entered under the arm, etc. The fact is I don’t either way and the detail doesn’t seem to have been disclosed thus far.
As it happens, I pass through the area of the event once or twice a week, taking shortcuts on my bike. Reports seemed to suggest it all went down closer to Oakwood Avenue. Today I was already headed in that direction, and found the scene was actually tucked back on the north end of Levert.
The area in the second photograph actually overlaps where I took a photo earlier this year that I used for a cover shot. It doesn’t appear that there is any connection to the incidence of the cover photo and the death of Officer Clardy. However, one reason I made the cover photo when I did was that the City of Huntsville had posted a sign, not in the cover photo frame, declaring the craft full of trash to be a public nuisance, etc. The boat had been sitting there for a few weeks accumulating trash and it did indeed disappear a short time later. I just thought it was an interesting if bizarre photo to share.
LaJeromeny Brown accused of killing Officer Billy Clardy
The three streets in that small subdivision are successively run down from east to west with the last being the worst. Levert in between. I wouldn’t call it a slum, it’s just run down with a lot of boarded up row houses. Which is to say, it’s a quiet area where I don’t usually see too much going on outside. No gang activity or rowdy behavior. It’s not necessarily where’d you’d expect a “major drug dealer” to be doing business. But then, these types of things usually do happen somewhere you don’t necessarily expect.
We also found out today that Police arrested LaJeromeny Brown for the murder of Billy Clardy saying Brown is the “worst of the worst.” TOCC TV is pursuing additional information about LaJeromeny Brown and will update when it becomes available.
Unfortunately, it is impossible for me to present any story regarding Huntsville police without also offering some sobering realities to consider. It certainly does appear that Officer Clardy is exemplary, but then, so are many others that turn out to be less than virtuous. The fact is, Huntsville’s police department is rife with deeply ingrained and systemic corruption. I have experienced it and I have witnessed it. False arrest, false imprisonment, identity theft, illegal search, excessive force, conspiracy to deny constitutional rights are some of what they are also known for, aside from all the wonderful things they are credited with on behalf of the community.
It may very well be that officer Clardy would not deserve such ridicule, and since I never had a run in with him, I offer none to him. Even still, the ones who carry all the glory and approbation are often the ones who are most likely to abuse their authority and violate the public trust – the penultimate alpha good ole boys. The pattern is a familiar one, and Black Lives Matter notwithstanding, the cliche of classicism is totally accurate. In short, what they can get away with is determined by who has a lack of community status or the economic means to hold them accountable.
Don’t misunderstand, there are officers who do good for the community and try to do the right thing either way. However, the hero worship, the absolute solidarity, the group psychosis, and the outpouring of support in unison that we saw today is contraindicated. Law enforcement needs reform all across this country, and Huntsville is no exception. Community leaders should be careful to temper their adulation of everything police, even when an exemplary officer is killed in the line of duty. The reality is more important than the moment, however painful the moment may be.
©2019 – Jim Casey