A brazen early morning robbery turned into a shootout between the would-be robber and an armed store employee in Birmingham, Alabama over the weekend. It was about 7:45 Saturday morning when the employee showed up at Hatcher’s Auto Transmission Center for what should have a been a typical morning repairing vehicles, but as he was getting ready to open the business, he was confronted by a man with a gun.
According to authorities, 22-year old Josiah Bryant shot at the clerk, who fired back with a gun of his own. The clerk was unharmed in the exchange of gunfire, but Bryant was struck and killed.
While the investigation continues, it’s not likely that the employee will face criminal charges given the circumstances of the shooting. As for the would-be robber, it turns out that this wasn’t his first time trying to rob someone, though it appears he got off with a light sentence for his previous offense.
Court records indicate Bryant pleaded guilty to first-degree robbery in 2018, and received a 20-year sentence with four years to serve.
He was brought up on probation revocation charges earlier this year. In April, a judge did not revoke his probation but extended it through 2024.
So, a 20-year sentence turned into a 4-year sentence, but as it turns out, Bryant didn’t even serve that much time. He should have been behind bars until next year, but had already been returned to the streets at some point prior to April of 2021.
Once again the failures of the criminal justice system are apparent in this case. If Bryant had actually been required to serve all four years of his robbery sentence, he’d be alive today, albeit behind bars. Instead, he was released early, and when he violated the terms of his probation, a judge simply extended his probationary period instead of returning him to prison to serve out the rest of his original sentence.
Bryant’s attempted robbery on Saturday morning could have easily ended up with the store clerk dead. Thankfully because the staffer was armed he was able to fight back and defend himself, but that shouldn’t take away from the fact that Bryant never should have been in a position to shoot at the store employee to begin with.
However, any discussion about the failures of the criminal justice system has to include the fact that the prison system in Alabama has some serious problems of its own. The Trump administration’s Justice Department actually sued the state of Alabama over conditions in its penal system last year, claiming that the state “violates the constitutional rights of prisoners because of inmate-on-inmate violence, excessive use of force by correctional staff, and unsafe and unsanitary conditions.”
The state of Alabama has rejected those claims, even while acknowledging a staffing shortfall in the Department of Corrections. Gov. Kay Ivey has tried to bolster staffing by contracting with businesses that would have operated and maintained two private prison facilities, but that plan fell apart earlier this month when the developers failed to secure funding.
I’d love to say that these issues can be easily and quickly resolved, but that’s simply not the case. Until the state is able to fix the issues with its prison system, we’re likely to see more criminals receive shorter sentences, judges who are reluctant to return them to prison even when they violate the terms of their probation, and armed citizens who are prepared to defend themselves from the repeat offenders in their midst.