Officer Jason Eckes

Announcer's son sought in police death probe
News staff writers

April 21, 2005 — As Birmingham police mourned the loss of yet another West Precinct officer Wednesday, investigators searched for the son of a well-known radio personality in connection with the patrolman's death.

Murder, attempted murder and leaving the scene of an accident warrants had been issued for Doug Layton Jr., 38, a law enforcement official said. Authorities said they believe Layton, the son of longtime University of Alabama football announcer Doug Layton, struck and killed off-duty Officer Jason Eckes, who was cycling in Homewood Tuesday night.

The accident happened shortly after a police chase. Layton's father, who spent more than 25 years as part of the Crimson Tide football radio broadcast team, said police came to his home looking for his son Wednesday morning. "I really don't know what's going on," Layton said. "They asked me where he was, but I haven't known where he was for quite a while."

Eckes, 32, died three years to the day after he took his sworn oath to become a police officer. 
Friends described him as an exercise enthusiast who loved policing, studying and training tirelessly to learn as much as he could about law enforcement.

"The officers here think they were better off by knowing Jason," West Precinct commander Capt. Hollis Crutchfield said Wednesday afternoon. Eckes worked the evening shift at the West Precinct, which lost three police officers - Carlos Owen, Harley Chisholm III and Robert Charles Bennett - in June 2004 when they were shot to death while serving a warrant at a reputed drug den.

Eckes and Bennett were classmates in the police academy; Owen and Chisholm were Eckes' two field training officers. "It's surreal, like a dream you hope you will wake up from," Crutchfield said. "Everybody's hurting, but they're sharing the pain and working through it together - that's a testimony to the strength of this shift."

Eckes joined the force April 19, 2002, after graduating from University of Alabama at Birmingham with two degrees, one specializing in forensics.

Loved learning, teaching
He was hand-picked by police administrators as an instructor at the police academy where, as a recruit himself three years ago, he won the academic trophy. At the time of his death, he was teaching DUI and radar classes to new recruits.

"He was always interested in learning more, passing it on to others," Police Chief Annetta Nunn said. "He loved his job." Eckes left work early Tuesday night so he could attend a day-long advanced Spanish class beginning early Wednesday. One of his close friends, Sgt. Bruce Smith, said that's why he was home and riding his bicycle instead of on patrol. The two friends recently ran a half-marathon, and were preparing to run this weekend's Statue to Statue 15k race from Vulcan to Liberty Park. Eckes ran cross-country track at UAB, Smith said.

Lost on Southside

Authorities continued their search for the man they believe was driving the truck that struck Eckes in an odd chain of events Tuesday night.

The pursuit began at 10:07 p.m. when a North Precinct officer attempted to stop a pickup truck in the 1100 block of Fourth Avenue North, Nunn said. The truck was being stopped because the area is known for drug traffic, the chief said. Sometime during the pursuit, a woman either got out of the truck or was pushed as the officer chased the truck near the Fourth Avenue ramp of Interstate 65 South.

Nunn said the pursuit was called off after officers lost the truck near Collum Street in Southside. The truck was driven to Homewood, where it struck Eckes at 10:13 p.m., Homewood Police reported.

Authorities said he was dragged at least 50 feet. Eckes died at UAB Hospital. 
Nunn said the driver had no way of knowing the man he hit was a police officer. "He was just a guy out riding his bike." Nunn said she's confident damage will show the truck that police chased was the same truck that hit Eckes. "We should be able to tie it together," she said. Authorities found the truck about 4 p.m. Wednesday at a Vestavia Hills apartment complex, Homewood police Sgt. Kent Baker said.


University of Alabama Announcer's Son 
Arrested in Fatal Hit-and-Run of Cop

April 22, 2005

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) -- The son of an Alabama sports announcer was arrested and charged with murder Thursday in the fatal hit-and-run of a Birmingham police officer.

Doug Layton Jr., 38, son of longtime University of Alabama football announcer Doug Layton, was arrested about 3:10 p.m. Thursday in a north Birmingham neighborhood, authorities announced at a news conference.

Doug Layton Jr. was taken to a nearby hospital after he was wrestled to the ground during the arrest, said U.S. Marshal Marty Keely. Terri Harrison Whitt, 42, who was with Layton, was charged with receiving stolen property and possession of narcotics. Police said Layton struck officer Jason Eckes, 32, of Homewood, Tuesday night—just minutes after fleeing a police chase down Interstate 65 from Birmingham.

Homewood Police Lt. Phillip Dodd said Layton had been served with a federal warrant for theft before the chase ensued. A champagne-colored Chevrolet pickup truck, believed to have been driven by the Layton during the chase, was recovered Wednesday in Vestavia Hills.

Police Chief Annetta Nunn said she's confident the damage on the truck will prove that it's the same one from the chase. During the chase a woman, a friend of Whitt who either jumped or was thrown from the truck, landed at the Sixth Avenue South exit ramp along the interstate, officers said. She was treated at a hospital and later questioned by Homewood police. The woman, whose name was not released, helped lead investigators to Layton, Dodd said. Eckes worked the evening shift at the West Precinct, which lost three police officers—Carlos Owen, Harley Chisholm III and Robert Charles Bennett—in June when they were shot to death while serving a warrant at a reputed drug den.

''It's surreal, like a dream you hope you will wake up from,'' precinct commander Capt. Hollis Crutchfield told the Birmingham News. According to court records, Layton has a lengthy criminal record that includes obstructing justice, theft, driving under the influence, and drug possession.

Grand jury to hear murder case
against Douglas Layton Jr.

May 23, 2005—Jefferson County District Judge Robert Cahill today said a grand jury will hear the case against a man suspected in the hit-and-run death of an off-duty Birmingham police officer. Douglas Layton Jr., 38, son of longtime University of Alabama football broadcaster Doug Layton, is charged with murder in the death of West Precinct Officer Jason Eckes.

Eckes, 32, was hit in April while off-duty and riding his bicycle in a Homewood neighborhood. Eckes was struck only moments after Layton had been involved in a chase by Birmingham police. A Homewood sergeant testified for more than an hour this morning, outlining the case against Layton.

Layton is charged with murder, attempted murder, leaving the scene of an accident, receiving stolen property, breaking and entering of a vehicle, and fraudulent use of a credit card. The judge denied a request from defense attorney John Robbins to set bail for Layton, who has remained jailed without bond since his April 21 arrest.