A man died last week shortly after Nashville police arrested him, but unlike past in-custody deaths, nearly the whole incident appears to have been caught on body camera.
Reporters were shown the footage at police headquarters Thursday.
This is the second high-profile incident to be caught on video since Metro Police started rolling out body cameras in July, and it’s the first one that was fatal. Body cameras had previously recorded a wrongful raid at an apartment in Edgehill this summer.
In both cases, Chief John Drake said video helped to answer questions about what happened. And, as more and more officers are equipped with cameras, he said he’s committed to sharing their footage with the public in the name of transparency.
“Imagine if we didn’t have this tool, if we didn’t have this video, what could possibly be said now. You know, what would the thoughts be of the public?” he said at a press briefing Thursday morning. “At least we can release this to show transparency, to show that we are trying to do the right thing.”
The video shows three different officers as they struggle to handcuff a man and Tase him twice. It also shows them recovering a gun and saying that they think he’s on drugs. Then paramedics take the man to a hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Police say they think the video shows officers acted appropriately.
“In this particular case, the officers de-escalated, and they did everything they could,” Drake said. “I’ve seen in other cities where this might have had a different outcome. And so, I applaud our officers.”
Instructors from Metro Police’s training academy also said the video showed officers following department protocols to de-escalate the situation. According to the trainers, those actions include asking the man to talk with them and using a Taser to subdue him, rather than punching or kneeing him. When asked if they would consider adjusting their training to avoid using Tasers on individuals who may be under the influence of drugs, instructors said they would have to “look at it more.”
At this point, Drake said, the officers will remain on active duty. However, he said the department is waiting for the TBI to finish its investigation before drawing any conclusions.They’re also waiting on an autopsy from the medical examiner’s office, which will include a toxicology report.
Metro Nashville Community Oversight Director Jill Fitcheard said in a text message that her department is also waiting for state agents to look into the incident. Her office viewed the body-worn camera footage last week and also responded to the scene.
“Any loss of life is a tragedy,” she said. “Being able to view the BWC footage from the incident was tremendously helpful in understanding how things transpired in real time.”
Samantha Max is a Report for America corps member.