More than a dozen supporters of the Boarts family took to the City Council to call for police reform and the release of body and dash camera footage in the police shooting death of Melissa Boarts, a 36-year-old woman who was shot and killed by officer of the Auburn Police Division back in April.
"You took something from my family that we can never get back," said Terry Boarts, Melissa's mother. "We called 911 when she was in a mental crisis, thinking that y'all would help us get her the help she needed. ... Your cops chose to shoot and kill her."
Terry said she wants the dash camera and body camera footage of her daughter's death released. The city, thus far, has refused to do so. The family has launched a series of public protests against the city's police and is in a court battle over what the family says was a bad shooting.
"We want answers," Terry said. "We want answers, and we want the video released. This has been since April 3, and we've gotten no answers. You know we need answers, and we want to know when we're going to get answers."
The city has previously refused to comment, and tonight there was no additional release of information.
"Our attorneys have advised us — that since they've engaged with an attorney, and they've filed a claim and threatened a lawsuit — for the city to not make any comment," Duggan said.
Mayor Bill Ham offered his condolences to the family.
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"Our grief is with the family," Ham said. "It's a legal process, I guess, is the current situation."
Police said officers responded on a Sunday afternoon, April 3 to a report of a suicidal motorist.
That call was from Terry, who decided to call the police after her daughter got in her car and disappeared. Terry said she discovered her daughter was on Interstate 85 and began following Melissa in her own car throughout the ordeal.
"While y'all are celebrating the Fourth of July, we'll be siting at home grieving," Terry said. "You also took a little 2-year-old girls' mom. She'll never get to know her mom. She'll eventually forget about her, but she'll never get to know her as her mom anymore, because you took that from her."
As she was tonight at the Council meeting, Terry's granddaughter — Melissa's daughter — was also with her in the car as she followed Melissa throughout the events of that afternoon. When Melissa finally stopped on a rural road in Macon County, Alabama, police said she rushed officers with a weapon.
A single gunshot hit Melissa in the chest. She succumbed to the gun shot wound shortly thereafter, and the death was later ruled a homicide.
Police maintain the shooting was justified because she charged officers with a weapon. Terry, and her husband Michael Boarts, said Melissa was only carrying a small pocket knife she kept in her car.
Jennifer Williamson rose and spoke for Michael after he tried but burst into tears before he could it to the podium. She read off of a crumpled piece of paper with notes Michael had written. She said he wanted to request a copy of the police report, a death certificate and documentation that would help the family finish up their life insurance claim.
Michael and Terry cried and held each other in the audience as Williamson spoke.
"I don't know what happened that day, as I won't know and none of us will know," Williamson said. "It's beyond my control to imagine how a girl smaller than me comes up against so many law enforcement officers with a pocket knife. They know that she had that, and they kind of know the situation. It just blows my mind that there was not a different way to handle that. They shot her in the chest to kill her."
Several other Auburn residents rose and contentiously spoke to the council about other grievances with the police and their support for the Boarts family. Ham was forced to use his gavel several times to maintain order in the Council chambers after several individuals engaged in a shouting match with the mayor and Ward 8 Councilman Tommy Dawson over unrelated police issues. Some said the entire police force was corrupt and verbally attacked Dawson.
"Police suffer too," Dawson said. "They are human beings. They try to help people. They try to save lives."
Members of the Boarts family and other supporters left in the middle of the Council meeting after the conclusion of Citizens' Communications. On the way out, they still had words for the members of the council.
"I hope you have to live with the conscious of killing my daughter," Terry said as she walked out.
Members of the Council struggled to continue with regular business on their agenda, attempting to pass an ordinance as the Boarts family and their supporters left.
"All I can hear is someone saying they hope my kid dies, but no, I don't have any problem moving forward," said Ward 4 Councilman Brent Beard as Ham asked for unanimous consent to move forward with voting on the ordinance.
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