Deputies responded to a call Wednesday from a man who said his brother, Donald Randal Crowell, had left two suicide notes.
“Our 911 dispatch received a call at 11:06 a.m.,” Winston County Sheriff Rick Harris said. “The brother had received two suicide notes from him, one addressed to the brother and one addressed to the ex-girlfriend, stating that he was tired of life and all used up.”
The deputies went to assess the situation, unsure of what they would find.
“The brother took us out to the little building he lived in, which was like a little tool shed on this massive old chicken farm property,” Harris said. “It was about a 10-by-10 plywood building on the property.”
The sheriff and deputies knocked and attempted to open the door but found it was barricaded from the inside. Crowell refused to open the door and then began firing at the deputies through the walls from inside the building.
“This little building he lived in didn’t have any windows and there was no visibility,” Harris explained.
The deputies attempted to negotiate with the man but, after almost eight hours, it became obvious that Crowell was not coming out. Three canisters of tear gas were fired through the walls into the building. Almost 30 minutes passed before Crowell emerged. He then came out of the building and began firing at the police again. At that point, deputies from the sheriff’s department fired on Crowell, killing him.
Harris said he believed that the end of Crowell’s relationship, almost a year ago, and the recent news that his former girlfriend had moved on, may have set the wheels in motion for the standoff.
“He was a very reclusive man, never married, no children and this girlfriend was basically the only girlfriend he’d ever had at age 47,” Harris said. “And when she left him it devastated him.”
No officers were injured in the standoff. As is protocol in an officer-involved shooting, the Alabama Bureau of Investigations came to the scene and conducted an investigation. They will present the case to the next convened grand jury, but no charges are anticipated. Harris said the shooting was justified and expects that to be the ruling of the grand jury.
“We always bring the ABI in to handle these things because it needs to be impartial,” Harris explained.
Crowell’s body was sent to Huntsville to the Department of Forensic Science for an autopsy.
The recently-formed Winston County Response Team, comprised of seven deputies that have received special training and are equipped with special gear, managed the scene and kept everyone safe.
“If this had happened just a few months ago, if would have been much different,” Harris said.