A plea agreement that will allow a Nashville police officer to avoid a trial on a first-degree murder charge is drawing sharp criticisms.
“A slap on the hand,” reads a statement from the Tennessee State Conference of the NAACP.
“The decision is a hollow victory if not an admission that privilege, institutional racism, and over-policing are foundational to Nashville’s law enforcement community,” the state’s NAACP wrote Thursday night. “It also conveys a bad message given that thousands of Blacks and poor people in Tennessee have been convicted and have served harsher sentences for lesser criminal offenses.”
The reaction follows the announcement that Officer Andrew Delke would accept a plea deal in court Friday and avoid a trial that was scheduled to begin next week. Delke fatally shot 25-year-old Daniel Hambrick in July 2018. After resigning from the police force Thursday, the former officer pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter.
Although Delke’s sentence is three years on paper, a document from his defense team says “With standard jail credits, he will serve about a year and a half.” At the time of distribution, the statement said Delke would be released without probation or parole.
Hambrick’s family says they were told Thursday that the sentence would be three years. It’s that punishment — substantially less than the potential life sentence if convicted of first-degree murder — that prompted a protest Thursday night followed by another demonstration at the city’s courthouse Friday morning.
The initial protest took place as night fell outside the home of Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk. The Nashville Scene reports there were chants about voting him out of office and speeches on a megaphone decrying local policing and courts.
The demonstration also included a candlelit prayer for the Hambrick family.
Glenn Funk shouldn’t be allowed to step one toe in a Black church, neighborhood, event, etc. for what he put Daniel Hambrick’s family, Jocques Clemmons’ family, and Black Nashville through during his term as district attorney. The blatant disrespect must not be tolerated.
— Gicola Lane (@GicolaLane) July 2, 2021
The Nashville People’s Budget Coalition has been among those rallying.
“Funk — (whose) office routinely railroads Black and Brown people with the harshest, longest sentences possible — shows the inability for the criminal legal system to achieve justice,” the group wrote.
Daniel Hambrick’s sister, Jasmine Davis, told WPLN News that the plea deal surprised her family, and she lamented the outcome in a statement.
“He got just one year for every bullet he put in him,” she said.
Standing outside the NAACP Nashville Branch on Jefferson Street, Sam Hambrick, Daniel’s cousin, also criticized the deal.
“They forced a plea upon us, and said ‘Hey, y’all Blacks, take this, it’s over with,'” he said.
A woman in the crowd shouted, “They didn’t even have the decency to tell her,” referring to how Daniel’s mother, Vickie Hambrick, was blindsided by the plea deal.
“Three years? Why? Why?” Sam Hambrick said. “It’s like, this process, man — we ain’t winning. We ain’t getting no justice.”
He added that if the plea deal was intended to silence the family, it would instead have the opposite effect.
“Dan Dan will live on, man,” he said. “Hambrick Strong will live on. This is a movement, y’all, and we ain’t finished.”
Community rallying continues Friday
Demonstrators met at the Justice A.A. Birch Building before the plea hearing Friday and were hoping Judge Monte Watkins would reject the deal.
So far about 40 people have gathered outside the Justice A. A. Birch Building to protest Andrew Delke’s plea deal for the fatal shooting of Daniel Hambrick. A sign on the building behind them reads “the first duty of society is justice.” pic.twitter.com/wfL5WNSbPc
— Paige Southwick Pfleger (@PaigePfleger) July 2, 2021
“I need you to feel that pain when his parents got the call,” Jamel Campbell-Gooch said to the crowd, who chanted in response “Justice! For Dan Dan. Justice! For Dan Dan.”
“They need to know that the decisions that they are making are not OK with us.”
Campbell-Gooch, an activist and member of the Metro Community Oversight Board, rallied the crowd with criticisms of the local criminal justice system.
“Justice for Dan Dan won’t happen in the courts,” he said. “The DA’s office and courts ain’t good for nothing but locking up Black people.”
This is a developing story that will be updated.