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Hero Down: Sheffield Police Sgt. Nick Risner Murdered By Gunman

Muscle Shoals, AL – Sheffield Police Department (SPD) Sergeant Nick Risner died in the line of duty on Saturday after being shot by a convicted felon who was out of prison on early release.

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.

Sgt. Risner’s brother, former Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Deputy 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.”

Sgt. Risner, Lieutenant Max Dotson, and the suspect were all shot during the ensuing exchange of gunfire, according to investigators.

“My brother never got out of his car,” Billy Risner told The Birmingham News.

Lt. Dotson was protected by his ballistic vest and did not suffer serious injuries, SPD Chief Ricky Terry said.

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.

A police procession escorted his 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.”

The gunman, 41-year-old Brian Lansing Martin, had previously been convicted of fatally shooting his own 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.

“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.

“This incident should have never happened, because a coward who should still be in prison was walking the streets,” Chief Terry added.

Sgt. Risner, a U.S. Army veteran, joined the SPD over eight years ago 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.

Sgt. Risner leaves behind his wife, Brandy, and his 18-year-old daughter, Aili, according to The Birmingham News.

A fundraising campaign established to help his family in the wake of their loss has raised over $15,600 so far.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of Sheffield Police Department Sergeant Nick Risner, both blood and blue. Thank you for your service.

Sergeant Nick Risner, your life mattered.

Written by
Holly Matkin

Holly is a former probation and parole officer who is married to a sheriff’s deputy. She is a regular contributor to Signature Montana magazine, and has written feature articles for Distinctly Montana magazine.

View all articles
Written by Holly Matkin

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