The man convicted of killing a Crossville police officer 35 years ago is serving his sentence inside a minimum-security Alabama Department of Corrections facility, WAAY 31 has learned.
Officer Stevie Thompson was killed on Sept. 13, 1986, during a traffic stop.
Danny Roland Tucker was tried and convicted in the killing. He was originally charged with capital murder, which would have meant life in prison or death penalty. But due to a technicality, that is not what the jury decided. He was instead convicted of murder, opening the door to a possible parole.
Skip ahead 35 years and this community is still fighting for justice for officer Thompson and to keep Tucker in prison for life.
Every anniversary of the killing, current Crossville Assistant Police Chief Jack Claton goes to a small memorial to lower an American flag and remember his friend.
“I saw three or four trooper cars coming and I knew something bad happened,” said Claton
Claton has attended every one of Tucker’s parole hearings over the years, demanding the board not let him free.
The murder of officer Stevie Thompson made front page news in 1986 and rocked this small community.
Over the years, people have moved away, some memories fading into the history books, but Claton says he will never forget what happened.
“He didn’t get to go home to his wife, his kids,” Claton said.
Thompson left behind a wife and daughter. Weeks after his death, his wife gave birth to the couple’s second daughter.
Claton says he still stays in contact with her to this day, his commitment to the family left behind continues.
Tucker is eligible for parole since the jury decided the officer wasn’t officially on duty when he conducted that traffic stop, even though he was in his patrol car with his uniform on when he approached the vehicle.
As the flags above the memorial wave a little lower on this day, September 13th, Claton wants officer Thompson to be remembered as father, a lawmen and man who cared about his community and what’s right and wrong.
“He was a great man, a great friend,” Claton added.
The Alabama Department of Corrections issued a statement to WAAY 31 late Monday, after a week of calls and emails asking about Tucker’s prison records. Officials confirming that Tucker is serving a life sentence for murder with the possibility of parole.
“He meets established guidelines to be classified as Minimum-Out and placed at a Community-Based Facility / Community Work Center. His conviction does, however, prohibit him from being eligible to participate in the ADOC’s Work Release Program,” ADOC wrote.
“An objective of ADOC’s inmate classification policy and guidelines is to make security and custody assignments consistent with available resources to ensure that inmates are placed in the least restrictive setting while providing for the protection of the public, staff, and inmates,” the release said.
“Our review of and decisions related to an inmate’s custody level and facility assignment are made on an individual basis following evaluation of his or her crime of conviction, disciplinary record, and many other factors. The custody level of every inmate is reviewed periodically and is subject to change for a variety of reasons.”
Q&A with the district attorney who prosecuted this case
Mike O'Dell serves as the District Attorney for Cherokee and DeKalb counties in Alabama. WAAY 31 reached out for comment on this case. Below you will find his responses in full.
Why was the defendant convicted of murder and not capital murder in this case?
Under Alabama law, the murder of a law enforcement officer engaged in his official duties is a capital offense. Inmate Tucker was originally indicted and tried for such an offense. Upon conviction, his sentence would have been either life without parole or the death penalty.
When the trial concluded, the judge instructed the jury on the law. Those instructions were, in my opinion, both misleading and erroneous. Since Officer Thompson had called in “end of shift”, the jury was instructed that if Thompson was not “on duty”, then they could not convict Tucker of capital murder. Despite the jurors- who spoke to us after the fact- felt he was guilty under the capital charge, they also felt they had been instructed that they could not convict since he was not “actively” on duty. This, despite the fact that Officer Thompson acted in his official capacity in making the DUI stop and attempted arrest. Thus, Tucker was convicted of regular murder. He was sentenced to life with the possibility of parole.
I have always been opposed to serious offenders like murderers being placed on “work release”. Although I am a believer in second chances, and defendants serving their time and being welcomed back into the community, some convictions (murder, child sexual abuse, rape, etc.) are so heinous or egregious that work release shouldn’t be considered.
Unfortunately, neither the Legislature nor the pardons and paroles system agree.
Thus, we, as prosecutors have had to accept it.
How has this case impacted you personally?
I most certainly do remember this case. As it involved the senseless murder of beloved Crossville police officer, it will always be a “special” case to me. In nearly 41 years of prosecution, Officer Stevie Thompson’s case has been the only officer murdered in the line of duty that I have had to confront. I have a uniquely special affinity and appreciation for our men and women in blue. They are not only co-workers in the “vineyards of public service“, they are my friends. They are fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, and neighbors. They are human, too. They are the ones who work nights, weekends, in rain, shine, snow and extreme heat. While we enjoy special times with our families at Thanksgiving, Christmas, or birthdays, they are out on our streets risking their lives, for us, every day. So to lose such a individual is a very personal loss.
Law enforcement, today, are not held in the same esteem by many in our communities that they used to be. Today, police officers are being vilified and considered the enemy, when, in fact, they represent the very thin line between public safety and security and chaos and confusion. They deserve our respect. The vast majority of them are law abiding men and women of incredible integrity and decency.
It is a case I will never forget. I have dedicated my life to defend and protect all our citizens to the utmost of my ability, but the folks in blue will always hold a special place in my heart.
How do you view the prison and parole system in Alabama today?
My fellow District Attorneys and I have been in constant battles with the Legislature to keep violent offenders behind bars. Every Session new attempts to reduce accountability for defendants are introduced into the Legislature. Last Session was no exception, and we are bracing for more attempts to coddle criminals in the legal system.
We also expect additional attacks on the Parole System, trying to find ways to require early releases for inmates who have, in many cases, not even served a quarter of their sentences.
Our defense of our victims won’t cease, nor will we relent and stop our efforts against the passage of defendant-biased laws.