Jan. 26-PRICEVILLE - The man killed in an exchange of gunfire that also injured the Priceville police chief Monday was ordered by a judge last year to turn his firearms over to the Morgan County Sheriff's Office after a domestic abuse complaint, but the order was rescinded when his wife dropped the complaint.
Bradley James Ellison, 47, was shot near his house at 170 Emory Drive at about 2:30 p.m. and was pronounced dead at 3:30 p.m. at Decatur Morgan Hospital.
Priceville Police Chief Rick Williams, injured in the shootout, is home from the hospital, according to Mayor Sam Heflin, and is on administrative leave pending an Alabama Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the shooting. Sgt. Jason Wilbanks is handling Williams' duties in the 10-officer department.
Terrance Bowie, who lives two houses south of the Ellison house, said he called 911 shortly after 2 p.m. Monday to report that a man, who turned out to be Ellison, had lain down in Bowie's backyard and was unresponsive when Bowie called out to him.
"I was doing a little touch-up painting back here and he just kind of stumbled up here from behind that fence on the north side," Bowie said Tuesday. "He just fell down and just laid there like he was making snow angels."
Bowie said that when he contacted the police to report the man, they told him to monitor the situation.
"They said if he gets up and leaves to call them back," Bowie said. "So he got up and started walking north behind the (neighbor's) fence, so I let the police know."
Bowie led police to his neighbor's fence in his backyard where he had last seen Ellison. Emory Drive is a dead end and Ellison's is the last house on the block.
"They walked beyond that fence and I walked back inside the house," Bowie said. "About five or 10 minutes later, that's when I heard the shooting."
A contractor who was laying a foundation for a property on Emory Drive on Monday said he had seen an unfamiliar man walking the Cove Creek subdivision that morning and he believes the man may have been Ellison.
"Earlier that day, a strange man had walked up here to the end of (Emory Drive) and he kind of looked around and walked back down the road," Terry Herchenhahn said Tuesday.
Herchenhahn said he thought the man might be a vagrant because of the way he was dressed.
"He was wearing this old, tattered Carhartt jacket and looked like he had been awake for several days," Herchenhahn said.
Herchenhahn said he saw the man around 10 a.m. and later left for a lunch break. When he returned from his break, two police cars had pulled up at Bowie's house, adjacent to where Herchenhahn and his crew were working.
Herchenhahn said he and his crew took cover after hearing the gunfire.
"I'd have to say it was about 50 to 60 rounds we heard," Herchenhahn said. "We had a truck parked there on the property and we kind of hunched down behind it."
On July 21, Ellison's wife filed a petition for protection from abuse against her husband. The two lived in a house Bradley Ellison owned in Somerville, although county records show he has also owned the Emory Drive house since it was built in 2003. According to the wife's affidavit, Ellison had been drinking heavily for the three days before she filed the petition and was verbally abusive.
She wrote that on July 20 "he violently slapped my head. I told him that's it I'm calling the law. He tried to take my phone from me several times to keep me from calling. I finally called. ... He then said, 'OK, it's on. You're going to regret this!'"
On the day the petition was filed, Morgan County Circuit Judge Stephen Brown issued an order requiring Ellison to stay at least 300 feet from his wife's residence and place of employment. "The defendant shall surrender all firearms to the Morgan County sheriff," Brown wrote in the order.
A hearing on the petition was scheduled for Sept. 23, but on Aug. 9 Ellison's wife filed a handwritten motion requesting that the petition be dismissed. "I believe Bradley has quit drinking and is able to be calm and carry on a cool conversation at this time," she wrote.
The judge dismissed her petition the same day and vacated his previous order.
A misdemeanor domestic violence charge was filed against Ellison in connection with the same incident, but it was dismissed Oct. 13 at the request of the prosecution's witness.
The mayor said Monday's violence was unusual for Priceville, a town of 3,500 people.
"I've lived here since 1976, and we've only had three similar incidents occur that I can remember," Heflin said. "Two of them were domestic violence cases."
He said the community is looking at Monday's shooting as a "one-off" incident.
"Obviously, our police officers put their lives on the line every time they go out, but at the same time this isn't something that normally happens in Priceville," Heflin said.
- firstname.lastname@example.org or 256-340-2438. Eric Fleischauer contributed to this report.