A Birmingham police officer allegedly lied when he made a distress call last month, claiming a suspect had fired shots at his vehicle during a traffic stop on a rural road, police said on Thursday.
Birmingham Police Department Officer Keith Buchanan was relieved of his duties and he could face multiple charges over what the department's chief called "a hoax."
Buchanan used his police radio to put out a call for help at around 1 a.m. on July 21 before he suddenly stopped communicating, sparking a desperate search for him.
Responding officers found Buchanan lying on a side of the road, appearing unconscious, with at least two bullet holes in his patrol vehicle about 30 minutes later, the department said. He was not injured and was taken to a local hospital, where he claimed a suspect fired multiple shots at him.
Dispatchers could hear gunfire in the background, but a weeks-long investigation indicated that he made the whole ordeal up.
Police Chief Patrick Smith said investigators spent hours going over video evidence and witness statements and found no evidence to corroborate the officer's claims.
"Our investigation has concluded that this entire event was a hoax. The radio call, the shots fired, lying injured on the tracks, the damage to the police car -- all a hoax,” Smith said during a press conference Thursday. "We found nothing to support the officer's accounts of this event."
It's unclear why the officer may have staged the shooting, but Smith said he "did a lot that night to present a false image of heroism."
Buchanan is on administrative leave with pay for 30 days. Smith said the department is seeking multiple arrest warrants and vowed to take him into custody “once this goes through the proper channels.”
"He endangered the lives of the community by discharging his firearm, and also other officers, as they responded from all over the city to be at his side and do everything that they can to help,” Smith said, calling case an incident of “stolen honor” and “stolen valor.”
Authorities are looking to charge him with criminal mischief, false reporting and discharging a firearm in city limits. Investigators are also reviewing all his previous reports for signs of discrepancies, Smith said.
Buchanan could not be reached for comment.