Crews knocking down police building, but memories remain
by Paige Rentz
May 23, 2013 | 5472 views |  0 comments | 30 30 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Crews on Thursday worked to demolish the old Anniston police headquarters to make way for landscaping and a parking lot for the new Sollohub Justice Center next door. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Crews on Thursday worked to demolish the old Anniston police headquarters to make way for landscaping and a parking lot for the new Sollohub Justice Center next door. (Photo by Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
Kenny Bunn grew up in the Anniston Police Department. His father was a motorcycle cop, his mother was a meter maid, and Bunn eventually grew up to work in the department’s old headquarters as a patrol officer in the 1990s.

And while he’s sad to see the building go, he knows it’s long overdue.

Workers Wednesday began knocking down bricks on the western side of the building at the corner of 12th Street and Gurnee Avenue in a demolition process that is expected to take about two weeks.

“I remember one time when I was working warrant division, the bathrooms upstairs leaking into the clerks’ office,” he said. “It was time for it go.”

Decades-old calls by police officers for the crowded, leaky old building to be razed are finally being answered. Demolition has gotten under way after prisoners were moved into the new jail at the Justin Sollohub Justice Center — named after an Anniston police officer killed in 2011 in the line of duty — on May 13, completing the move begun last month.

Robert Hall, whose company Hall Grading is conducting the demolition, said the amount of steel and reinforced concrete in the building, particularly the jail, make the old department especially strong.

“For a normal building this size, we’d have it down and gone in about a week,” he said. “But this thing will take two or three times that.”

“It didn’t get torn down before it needed it,” said Wayne Chandler, now Ohatchee’s police chief, who served as Anniston chief in the old building for more than 25 years. He said the building was recommended to be torn down as early as the late 1970s.

“I know the building was designed and redesigned and offices moved, said Mike Fincher, a former Anniston police captain. “One area was a roll call room, then it became an office, then a crime lab.”

The building that has housed the police department since 1956 was full of memories, despite the sometimes deplorable working conditions it presented for police.

Chandler recalled helping another officer save a life when a mother brought her child into the station after he stopped breathing. The building’s also seen murderers walk in the front door to confess, gun in hand, he said. Chandler’s had live rocket launcher rounds turned in there, and once, a box of dynamite sweating nitroglycerin. “I had a fit,” he said. “If that thing had been dropped, it probably would have blown that building sky high.”

Perhaps the most notorious incident to happen within the walls of the old building was a January 1968 shooting, which left it scarred by bullet holes.

Chandler had just joined the force when the shooting occurred, and recalled how the Arnold brothers, upset over a parking ticket, came into the department, shooting and seriously wounding officer James Reid and grazing two more: Bill Morrow and Cecil Montgomery, chief at the time.

Bunn’s father, Charlie, disabled one of the Arnold brothers, shooting him in the shoulder to defuse the situation.

The incident occurred shortly before Fincher joined the force, but he remembers a telephone booth made of “fancy wood” that sat in the lobby. For years the bullet holes it bore reminded officers of the shooting.

Even though the building will soon be long gone, its legacy will remain.

“The most important thing is the people, all the good men and women that worked in that building,” said Fincher. “The building itself is just a shelter to house all these good people.”

Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.

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