Keith Buchanan has been identified as the Birmingham, Alabama police officer accused of staging an officer-involved shooting in order to make himself look like a hero, according to Chief Patrick Smith.
Smith referred to the incident as “stolen valor” and “tremendously disappointing” during a news conference on August 1, 2019. He stated that Buchanan has been fired from the force and is expected to face criminal charges.
Heavy has reached out to the Jefferson County, Alabama District Attorney’s office for more information about the criminal case against Buchanan.
Here’s what you need to know.
1. Keith Buchanan Called for Help While Patrolling a Rural Area After Midnight on July 21
Birmingham Police Officer Keith Buchanan was patrolling a "desolate" area alone near the city of Tarrant, along railroad tracks, on July 21, 2019, according to Chief Patrick Smith. Buchanan reported over the radio that he was making a traffic stop.
Shortly after 1 a.m., Buchanan called for help. Smith explained that the dispatcher could hear gunshots in the background of Buchanan's call.
Buchanan went quiet after that, without sharing his exact location. Smith said the communications dispatchers tried repeatedly to contact Buchanan for 30 minutes after his plea for help. Other police officers responded to search for Buchanan.
2. Buchanan Was Found Slumped on the Ground Holding His Gun & the Cruiser Had a Bullet Hole Through the Front Window
Keith Buchanan was eventually located after a citizen spotted the abandoned police car along the railroad tracks. The witness reported seeing a bullet hole through the front window.
Chief Smith said that Tarrant Police officers, who had joined Birmingham officers in searching for Buchanan, were first on the scene. They reported back that Buchanan was laying on the ground clutching his gun. He was moaning and appeared to be injured.
AL.com reported that law enforcement officials closed down roads in order to get Buchanan to a nearby hospital as quickly as possible. Once there, doctors said that Buchanan had not been shot and was not injured. Meanwhile, many officers showed up at the hospital to check on Buchanan to make sure he was ok.
3. Birmingham Police Chief: The Reported Shooting Turned Out to be a Hoax
Chief Patrick Smith explained during the news conference that his department thoroughly investigated Keith Buchanan’s claims of a shooting following a traffic stop. Officers combed through video footage, spoke with eyewitnesses and looked for any other evidence. As Smith explained, if there was a shooter out there, his department wanted to catch the suspect.
However, the suspect turned out to be Buchanan himself. Smith stated, “This entire event was a hoax. The radio call, the shots fired, the help call, laying injured on the tracks, the damage to the police car… all a hoax. We found nothing to support the officer’s account of this incident.” Smith added, “We will always be in relentless pursuit of our suspects, even what that suspect is one of our own.”
4. Keith Buchanan Was Relieved of His Duties & Faces Criminal Charges
Chief Smith shared that after his investigators concluded that Keith Buchanan’s story had been a fabrication, he relieved Buchanan from duty. Buchanan turned in his gun and his badge.
Buchanan faces potential criminal charges for his actions. Smith said that his department was consulting with the Jefferson County District Attorney Danny Carr on next steps. A warrant for Buchanan’s arrest was being drawn up.
Buchanan faces charges including criminal mischief, discharging a firearm in city limits, and false reporting.
Smith added during the news conference, “This officer did a lot on that night to present a false image of heroism. He endangered the lives of the community by discharging his firearm, and also of other officers as they responded from all over the city to be at his side and to do everything they can to help.”
5. Keith Buchanan Joined the Police Force in 2012 & Had Prior Instances of Misconduct
Keith Buchanan graduated from the police academy on July 2, 2012, and was assigned to the north precinct. Smith said that Buchanan did not give a reason as to why he would have staged a shooting. When asked by reporters, Smith said that there had not been any indication that Buchanan was unhappy in his job.
Buchanan had been written up at least three times during his tenure as a police officer. According to AL.com, citing records from the Jefferson County Personnel Board, Buchanan forgot to sign a warrant for a suspect’s arrest in 2014.
The next year, Buchanan was accused of keeping a stolen gun from a crime scene for four months. He then “falsified a report saying he had found the weapon.” In 2016, Buchanan was again accused of filing a false report.