COLBERT COUNTY, Ala. (WHNT) – On October 1, 2021, the lives of several people in the shoals changed when a shootout broke out behind Southgate Shopping Center between authorities and the alleged suspect, Brian Lansing Martin.
It’s been a year since the day Sheffield Police Sergeant Nick Risner was shot and killed in the line of duty. Lt. Max Dotson was also injured. Risner’s K9, Wiske was with him at the time but was unharmed.
Martin, the accused shooter, was sentenced in 2013 to 10 years in prison after pleading guilty to manslaughter. He was arrested in 2011 for killing his father over a debt owed to Tuscumbia. He was released from prison in May 2016 after serving just three years of his sentence, according to police.
At 1:44 p.m. Friday, Oct. 1, dispatchers told officers someone called 911 saying a person had fallen from a moving vehicle on Avalon Avenue in Muscle Shoals. The caller quickly clarified that the body had been pushed out of the vehicle.
Once officers arrived at the scene, they confirmed that the victim, later identified as William Mealback, Jr., had head trauma. They called an air evacuation unit, but after realizing he was dead it was called off.
Then the search for a killer began.
Dispatchers told officers to be on the lookout for a gray Ford F-150 in the Avalon Avenue area. Shortly after, 911 was notified that the truck may have been involved in a hit-and-run on Woodward Avenue. Sheffield officers quickly spotted the truck and began the pursuit.
The driver led them on a chase from the Sheffield city limits to Muscle Shoals. According to radio traffic, the driver turned left from Montgomery Avenue onto Avalon Avenue. He eventually left Avalon Avenue to park near the Ruby Tuesday restaurant. Officers attempted to stop the truck.
Officers trapped the suspect’s vehicle behind the mall to prevent him from approaching the nearby Walmart, and Martin began shooting.
At 2.26pm, Sheffield Police Lieutenant Max Dotson can be heard saying: “Shots have been fired! I was touched ! I was touched !
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The dispatcher called in Muscle Shoals Rescue and two air evacuation units. Initially, they were only aware of one officer shot down.
A few minutes later, an officer present at the scene shared the news. He says a second officer, later identified as Sgt. Risner had been shot and was “down”. Martin has also been described as “down”.
An air evacuation unit airlifted Risner to Huntsville Hospital for surgery. He died at 9:52 a.m. the following morning, Saturday, October 2.
While events that only lasted a few hours would end Sgt. Risner’s time on Earth, his legacy will live on forever.
Sheffield Police Chief Ricky Terry released a statement thanking the community and all who prayed for Sgt. Risner, his family and the Sheffield Police Department. Terry said Risner died a hero and saved even more lives by being an organ donor.
After his death, Governor Kay Ivey signed into law the Nick Risner Act. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Phillip Pettus, prevents convicts who use a deadly weapon to kill someone from being released early under Alabama’s “Good Time” law. The law allows eligible inmates to be able to shorten their prison sentence through a “good period of time served”.
As for Brian Lansing Martin, he was indicted for the murders of Mealback and Risner. He pleaded not guilty.
Prosecutors asked Martin to undergo a mental exam before his trial, as he pleaded not guilty due to mental illness or defect.
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