Update: Click here for the incident’s police report. This article has been updated to reflect the contents of that police report.
Birmingham Mayor William Bell and City Councilor Marcus Lundy were involved in an altercation during Tuesday’s council meeting.
Birmingham Police Chief A.C. Roper confirmed the altercation that took place out of sight of the public, but not entirely out of earshot. During the council meeting, yelling erupted from the hallway behind the councilors who were in the process of deliberating about the consent agenda.
Words variously described as either “No! No! No!” or “Mo!” were heard being shouted as officers and staff rushed through the door behind the councilors.
Roper said that Lundy was transported to a hospital after the incident. A gurney could be seen being wheeled out of the back offices of the council. Security guards forced reporters back but Lundy could be seen on the gurney.
Assistant Fire Chief Ross Sheffield said, “One of our Birmingham Fire and Rescue Ambulances transported councilman Lundy to a local hospital.”
Bell was taken to a hospital in a private car, not an ambulance. Roper said that both Bell and Lundy could potentially face charges. Roper would not comment further.
“I can confirm that there was an incident involving Mayor William Bell and Councilor Marcus Lundy,” Roper said to reporters. Roper said that police did not have to separate the two. “The investigation is ongoing. The mayor was injured and is going to a local hospital.”
Roper, who has recently spoken out about preventing violent crime in Birmingham, classified the altercation as “extremely concerning.” He added, “We will conduct a thorough investigation and try and get to the bottom of exactly what precipitated this incident.”
The official police report of the incident outlines Bell’s account of what happened. The report lists Lundy as the offender and Bell as the victim. According to the report Lundy is being charged with assault in the 3rd degree.
There are also three witnesses listed: Jose Perry, Tyrone Silmon and Chris Mosley.
According to the report, Bell requested to speak with Lundy about a city matter. “Mayor Bell stated Councilman Lundy started changing the subject and tried talking to him about a personal issue. Mayor Bell stated that Councilman Lundy started cursing him and getting loud,” the report reads.
It goes on to detail how Bell tried to leave the room but Lundy “pushed the door closed.” After trying to leave again, “Bell stated all of a sudden Councilman Lundy grabbed [Bell] from behind and put him in a choke hold,” the report states. At that point two of Lundy’s assistants “Jose Perry and Chris Mosley opened the door and got Councilman Lundy off of [Bell].”
Birmingham City Council President Johnathan Austin said at a press conference that Lundy is “fine” and that he will be pressing charges against Bell. Austin did not respond to reporters’ questions about who initiated the altercation.
“This is indicative of the lack of respect or willingness to cooperate with the council on any given issue,” Austin said. He said that during last night’s committee meeting, Bell’s chief of operations, Jarvis Patton, walked out of the meeting after an alleged disagreement. “I don’t know if what last night had anything to do with this,” Austin said.
“Birmingham has made tremendous strides. We are a city like a phoenix rising from the ashes and we can overcome this and we can do better. We will strive to do better as a council,” Austin said. “We will work together. This is not a dictatorship. This is a democracy.”
Austin held up photos showing cuts and scrapes on Lundy’s leg, deriding the use of violence to settle a disagreement.
April Odom, the mayor’s spokeswoman, issued the following statement after the incident. “The Mayor is currently recovering at a local area hospital. A formal police report has been initiated and will be ready for release in the next hour. From there, the magistrate will swear out a warrant for the arrest of Councilor Lundy. When approached by Birmingham Police, Councilor Lundy refused to give a statement. Will send more information as we have it.”
During the council meeting, an announcement was made about an active shooter drill that would be taking place at Boutwell Auditorium later in the day. A few moments later the shouting erupted, which led some in the audience to conclude that the active shooter drill had commenced.
A recess was called and people began to file out of the council chamber and into the hallway.
Brenda Dickerson, who was in the front row of the council chamber said that she heard screaming, “Someone was yelling for Mo. I’m not sure who that is but that’s what it sounded like,” Dickerson said.
“Everyone jumped up and ran into the back hallway, behind where the council was sitting. No one really knew what was going on, but judging by the yelling that was going on you could tell it was serious,” Dickerson said.
It is still unclear what sparked the altercation between Bell and Lundy. Several sources at city hall have cited a long simmering dispute between the two as the reason for the fight.
As of the time of this writing, only charges against Lundy have been filed.