Updated 10:40 a.m.
A Nashville police officer has fatally shot a man following a traffic stop just before midnight on Clarksville Pike in Bordeaux. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has been called in to investigate.
The Metro Nashville Police Department released video footage of the shooting early Saturday morning. It shows Officer Christopher Royer, who is white, fatally shooting an unindentified man in a one-minute encounter on Clarksville Pike just north of the Cumberland River.
Police say Royer stopped the car, a white Mercedes, because its license plate did not match the vehicle description on file. Moments after the car pulled over, a passenger emerged. Royer yelled at the man to get back in the car and, noting a kitchen knife in his hand, pulled out his pistol.
As the officer and the driver urged the man to stop, the man first got into and out of Royer’s squad car, ran a few yards away from the officer and then turned toward him, a knife still visible in his hand.
As the man drew closer, Royer fired three shots from his service weapon. Police say the man was transported to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. Royer was not injured.
Police Chief John Drake says Royer would have been equipped with less-lethal options, including a Taser, but he believes Royer acted appropriately.
“That’s a lethal situation,” he said. “You can’t use less-lethal if someone is attacking you with a knife.”
Police say they recovered two knives at the scene. They released photos of a pair of chef’s knives that appear to be roughly the same size and shape as the one visible on the video.
The shooting occurred days after a pair of fatal shootings in the area that claimed the lives of a community activist and a 3-year-old girl. Those deaths, as well as the trial of a Minnesota police officer for killing George Floyd, have led activists to organize a day of demonstrations downtown and in North Nashville to protest police and community violence.
Drake alluded to that climate as he released the body camera footage.
“When I got the call this morning, I had mixed emotions, especially with all that’s going on around the nation and in this city,” he said. “No officer wants to deal with this situation. … He did everything he could, I felt.”
Drake says police have not determined why the Mercedes’ tag did not match what they had on file. He says the driver was released without any charges.
Royer, who was hired by MNPD in 2016, has been placed on administrative duty while the TBI investigates. The TBI posted about its involvement on Twitter.
Meanwhile, the Nashville’s police oversight board detailed in its own statement on Twitter that a few of its members had been escorted to the location of the shooting and given access to the body-worn camera footage of the incident at police headquarters Saturday morning. The Community Oversight Board acknowledges the TBI investigation and says it will be conducting its own administrative investigation “to determine if MNPD policies and procedures were followed.”
This is a developing story. Some information that gets reported early on, by the media or law enforcement, could later turn out to be wrong. We will update as the situation develops.