Alabama man executed for role in 2004 killing of three police officers

Death row inmate Nathaniel Woods is seen in Atmore, Alabama, U.S., in this photo provided March 5, 2020. Alabama Department of Corrections/Handout via REUTERS

(Reuters) - An Alabama man was put to death by lethal injection on Thursday for his role in the 2004 killing of three police officers at his Birmingham apartment during a drug bust, state corrections officials said.

Nathaniel Woods, 43, was pronounced dead at 9:01 p.m. central standard time at the Holman Correctional Facility in Atmore, Alabama, said Samantha Rose of the state’s department of corrections. The condemned man did not make a final statement, she said.

Woods and his friend Kerry Spencer were convicted for the 2004 murders of Birmingham police officers Carlos Owen, Harley Chisholm and Charles Bennett.

On the morning of July 17, 2004, Woods and Spencer got into a “hostile, profanity-laced” argument with Owen and police officer Michael Collins and threatened them, court documents showed.

Later that day, the officers went to Woods’ apartment along with Chisholm and Bennett to serve him a warrant and arrest him for dealing drugs and were met by a spray of gunfire. Owen, Chisholm and Bennett were killed and Collins was wounded, according to court documents.

Prosecutors said it was Spencer who had opened fire, but accused Woods of being an accomplice to the murders. In December 2005, both men were convicted of capital murder and attempted murder and sentenced to death. Spencer remains on death row.

The case has garnered the attention of Martin Luther King III, the son of the late civil rights leader, who wrote a letter to Alabama Governor Kay Ivey, asking her to intervene.

“Killing this African American man, whose case appears to have been strongly mishandled by the courts, could produce an irreversible injustice,” he wrote in the letter he posted on Twitter on Wednesday.

The office of the governor did not comment.

Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; Additional reporting by Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Sandra Maler, Peter Cooney & Shri Navaratnam