Tuscaloosa Police Identify, Charge Man Who Aimed AR-15 At Officers
The suspect who was critically injured in an officer-involved shooting last week has been officially identified and charged, police confirmed Tuesday afternoon.
The incident began at approximately 2 a.m. last Wednesday November 17 when a Tuscaloosa Police Officer attempted to stop a vehicle for driving recklessly.
Police had previously been notified that driver, Baxter Gilstrap, 29, had been physically removed from Harry's Bar earlier that night for being hostile and attempting a fight.
Gilstrap refused to stop and drove a short distance to Bent Tree Apartments, where he exited his car and entered his residence. When officers attempted to make contact with Gilstrap, two of his roommates stepped out and reported he was armed with a rifle and a pistol, and was acting erratically.
Officers soon heard gunshots fired from inside the apartment, and they set up a perimeter. TPD activated its Special Response Team, which consists of highly trained personnel with specific skills in marksmanship, tactical response and containment. This unit is often deployed for high-risk warrant service, barricaded suspects, hostage situations and search and rescue.
At that point, Gilstrap opened the apartment door armed with an AR-15 rifle pointed towards an officer. Police fired several shots at the suspect, striking him multiple times.
"At this time, we don't know what was in his mind or the reasons behind this, all we can do is judge the case by his physical actions, said Jack Kennedy, Captain of the multi-agency Tuscaloosa Violent Crimes Unit, at a press conference following the shooting. "What we do know is he fled from police officers on a traffic stop, armed himself, and there's some other actions that I'm not going to discuss right now that occurred in his apartment with his roommates before they left. After he armed himself, he did point a fully-loaded weapon with the safety off at a police officer on a perimeter that he knew to be police. Those physical actions alone, those are what we're judging him on."
Gilstrap was transported to DCH in critical condition, at which point the Tuscaloosa VCU assumed the investigation. This unit is comprised of detectives from TPD, the Tuscaloosa County Sheriff's Office, the Northport Police Department and the University of Alabama Police Department.
As per protocol, no investigators affiliated with TPD have been involved in the ongoing investigation.
Gilstrap is originally from South Carolina, Kennedy said, and has only been in the Tuscaloosa area for a few weeks.
As of publishing, Gilstrap is still receiving medical treatment. No other update on his condition was provided.
"Any time officers are involved in something like this, their mental health is one of our top concerns. This is traumatic, nobody wants to shoot anybody," said Tuscaloosa Police Chief Brent Blankley. "When the suspects force us to do that, these officers take that to heart, their families take it to heart and we want to make sure they get the best care possible until they're ready to come back to work."
Police charged Gilstrap with attempting to elude and discharging a firearm into an unoccupied building, with combined bond of $36,000.
This case will be presented to a grand jury once the investigation has ended, and more charges may be forthcoming.