Metro Nashville plans to pay $2.25 million to the family of Daniel Hambrick, a Black man killed by a white police officer during a foot chase in July 2018.
Hambrick’s family sued the city for $30 million. He was shot in the back while running away with a gun in his hand.
The shooter, Officer Andrew Delke, is slated to stand trial for first-degree murder this July. That trial has faced multiple delays because of scheduling conflicts and the COVID-19 pandemic. The civil settlement, which will have to be approved by the Metro Council, is completely separate from the criminal case. Delke’s attorney, David Raybin, said in an email that “the civil settlement would have no impact on his client’s criminal trial.”
“Neither the Metropolitan Government nor Officer Delke admits wrongdoing or liability and there have been no court findings as to the merits of the lawsuit,” Mayor John Cooper’s office said in a prepared statement.
The city’s legal director, Bob Cooper, added that a court fight would have been “expensive and time consuming with the risk of an adverse decision.”
Attorneys for Hambrick’s family say they also support the settlement.
“While money can never make up for the loss of Daniel’s life, we are proud to have delivered some measure of justice for Daniel’s family,” said attorneys Joy Kimbrough and Kyle Mothershead, the Hambrick family’s attorneys.
Police Chief John Drake also expressed support for the settlement, adding that the “department continues its strong focus on building trust and partnerships with Nashville residents through community engagement and, when possible, alternative policing strategies.”
The mayor’s office says Drake has agreed to meet with Hambrick’s mother, Vickie Hambrick, after the settlement is approved.
The lawsuit, which was filed almost exactly two years ago in March 2019 alleges that the Metro Nashville Police Department instills a “culture of fear, violence and racism” that teaches officers that “if a citizen with a gun ‘glances’ at an officer, the citizen should be treated as an imminent lethal threat and should be repeatedly shot in the heart and lungs until they are ‘neutralized.’ ”
Officer Delke cited his training in an interview with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation two days after the shooting. He said Hambrick looked at him with a “targeting glance,” which made him believe that Hambrick planned to shoot him, and fired four bullets in his direction.
The suit also claims MNPD cultivates a “Thin Blue Line” culture, which attorneys say highlights a divide between police and Black Nashvillians.
Attorneys also cite the independent Driving While Black report, disparities in how the department investigates civilian complaints and the city’s lack of body-worn and dash cameras, which could provide evidence to support or deny claims of misconduct. (MNPD is in the midst of its camera rollout and has since equipped several precincts and specialized units with body and dash cameras).
Further, the lawsuit argues that Delke was following his training when he shot Hambrick and that the city should be held liable for teaching him to pull the trigger.
“As retired MNPD ‘Use of Force’ trainer Robert Allen testified at the General Sessions court preliminary hearing, by gunning down Mr. Hambrick, Delke ‘followed his [MNPD] training and did what he was trained to do,’ ” the attorneys write.
Large police settlements rare in Nashville
If the Metro Council approves the settlement, it would appear to be one of the largest payouts for an allegation of police misconduct in recent history.
The multimillion dollar sum dwarfs a 2018 settlement of $130,000 for another federal civil rights lawsuit related to a claim of police misconduct, which WPLN News reported at the time was one of the biggest in about a decade. Between 2012 and the spring of 2017, the city spent a total of nearly $550,000 on lawsuits alleging police misconduct.
More recently, the city agreed last April to pay $35,000 to Shaundelle Brooks, whose son, Akilah DaSilva, died in a mass shooting at a Waffle House in South Nashville. Brooks claimed that mistakes made by Metro Police and dispatchers — including sending an officer to the wrong Waffle House — delayed care for her son that could have saved his life. The city acknowledged multiple “significant errors” in the handling of the case and agreed to consider Brooks’ recommended policy changes.