Muscle Shoals, AL – The gunman accused of murdering a citizen and a Sheffield police sergeant over the weekend is a convicted felon who was granted an early release from prison despite having killed his own father.
Brian Lansing Martin, 41, had previously been convicted of fatally shooting his father in the chest a decade ago, WAFF reported.
Martin claimed he shot his father in self-defense and ended up pleading guilty to a lesser charge of manslaughter.
He was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but was released in 2016 after serving just three years, WAFF reported.
Martin is accused of fatally shooting a man on Oct. 1 and driving off in the victim’s vehicle, leaving his body lying in the middle of the street, according to The Birmingham News.
He later opened fire on police, fatally wounding Sheffield Police Sergeant Nick Risner.
Sheffield Lieutenant Max Dotson was also shot in the exchange of gunfire, but he was protected by his ballistic vest and did not suffer serious injuries, Sheffield Police Chief Ricky Terry told The Birmingham News.
Sgt. Risner, a U.S. Army veteran and eight-year member of the Sheffield Police Department (SPD), leaves behind his wife, Brandy, and his 18-year-old daughter, Aili.
Chief Terry was outraged to learn Martin was a convicted killer who was allowed to walk out of prison early.
“The justice system failed not only Sgt. Nick Risner, but his family and everyone who has been affected by his passing,” Chief Terry said in a statement on Saturday, according to The Birmingham News.
In less than 24 hours, 3 AL police officers were shot in the line of duty. I’m devastated to learn Sheffield Police Sgt. James “Nick” Risner succumbed to his injuries this morning. I offer my heartfelt prayers to his family, fellow officers & community.https://t.co/QblIeq0D7Z pic.twitter.com/yTvwLoVG8R
— Governor Kay Ivey (@GovernorKayIvey) October 2, 2021
“This incident should have never happened, because a coward who should still be in prison was walking the streets,” Chief Terry added.
Muscle Shoals Police Chief Clint Reck noted Martin couldn’t legally possess firearms, WAFF reported.
“We’re upset, period,” Chief Reck ranted. “This guy had access to a gun, shot somebody in a vehicle, and then shot at multiple police officers.”
Sgt. Risner’s brother, former Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Deputy Billy Risner, said he is “extremely angry at the judicial system,” The Birmingham News reported.
“This man got sentenced to 10 years for manslaughter and was released within three years,” Billy Risner said. “If he would have served his 10-year sentence, my brother would still be alive. My brother would be alive to save someone else. My brother would be alive to help somebody else tomorrow.”
“The judicial system failed my brother and the community and it failed the [vehicle owner] who was shot,’’ he added. “This isn’t just about my brother. The system failed everyone involved, and it failed the next person that my brother was going to be able to help.”
Sheffield Police Sgt. Nick Risner died a hero. His ultimate sacrifice to his community will not be forgotten. Sgt. Risner, we'll take it from here. 💙🚔@ALEAprotects @mcsosheriffAL pic.twitter.com/WZZYQBiuCt
— Huntsville Police (@HsvPolice) October 3, 2021
The series of events began at approximately 1:44 p.m. on Oct. 1, when police received a report of what was initially believed to be a hit-and-run involving a pedestrian on Avalon Avenue, The Birmingham News reported.
When officers arrived at the scene, they learned the person lying in the roadway had been fatally shot.
A witness was able to take a picture of the vehicle that fled the scene, The Birmingham News reported.
Investigators determined the vehicle the gunman fled in was registered to the shooting victim.
SPD officers spotted the suspect vehicle a short while later and pursued the alleged gunman back to the Muscle Shoals area, according to The Birmingham News.
Billy Risner told the paper the suspect appeared to be heading towards the Walmart store, which generally has a large number of shoppers at midday.
“Nick knew, they knew, the guy was dangerous. They knew he had a gun,’’ Billy Risner told The Birmingham News. “Nick knew if they continued into the Walmart parking lot, where people were, he was going to kill someone else, or they would have been forced to get out where there were people and engage him and there would have been more rounds fired and people would have died.”
In an effort to end the chase and to stop the gunman from reaching the store, Sgt. Risner conducted a pursuit intervention technique (PIT) maneuver, Billy Risner said.
“My brother pitted him with, according to the officer I talked with, the best precision PIT he’s ever seen and the [suspect’s vehicle] spun around,’’ he told The Birmingham News. “They were driver door to driver door and Nick didn’t have time to react…My brother never got out of his car.”
Martin was also wounded in the shootout.
Another round nearly hit a Muscle Shoals police officer in the head.
Sgt. Risner was rushed to Huntsville Hospital, where he succumbed to his wounds at 9:52 a.m. on Saturday.
The Birmingham Police Department sends its heartfelt condolences to the Sheffield Police Department and the family and friends of Sgt. Nick Risner.
Sgt. Risner paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect his community and is the true definition of a hero. pic.twitter.com/fOQF3xWBmF
— Bhampolice (@BhamPolice) October 2, 2021
He had been shot multiple times, Alabama Governor Kay Ivey said in a press release later in the day.
“Sgt. Risner performed a heroic act by protecting the Shoal’s Community from the shooter from entering the Walmart parking lot,” Chief Terry said, according to WVTM. “Sgt. Risner died a hero, and his legacy and memory will be with Sheffield Police Department and the Sheffield Community forever.”
A police procession escorted the slain officer’s body from Huntsville to Birmingham shortly thereafter, where his organs were donated to help others, according to The Birmingham News.
“That’s one thing he always said he wanted to do,’’ Billy Risner told the paper. “Nick chose to save lives one more time.”
Sgt. Risner joined the SPD after going on a ride-along with a Florence police officer, The Birmingham News reported.
The officer instructed him to remain in the patrol car as he jumped out to deal with a fight in the middle of the street, but soon ended up trying to single-handedly deal with three combative suspects, according to the paper.
The officer subdued two of the suspects and got them into handcuffs before he realized Sgt. Risner had gotten out of the patrol car and was holding the third suspect on the ground, The Birmingham News reported.
Sgt. Risner joined the SPD shortly thereafter and eventually became a K9 handler.
“Nick was all about a good outcome on every situation, no matter the situation,” Billy Risner told the paper. “My brother pushed people, he saw what somebody had the ability to do, and he pushed them to do it no matter if they were strung out on drugs, or what.”
“He always found the good in people and showed them the good in themselves,” he added.
A fundraising campaign established to help Sgt. Risner’s family in the wake of their loss has raised over $16,000 so far.
Ivey ordered all flags be lowered to half-staff in honor of Sgt. Risner’s sacrifice.
“Let us remember the life and service of Sgt. Risner, whose sacrifice will never be forgotten,” the governor wrote. “We offer our heartfelt condolences and prayers to his family, his fellow officers and his community. We also pray for the safety of all of our men and women in law enforcement who put their lives on the line every day to ensure the protection of our communities.”