A police officer is expected to appear in a Nashville courtroom today to plead guilty to manslaughter for the 2018 shooting of Daniel Hambrick.
The deal, which his attorney confirmed yesterday afternoon, will keep Officer Andrew Delke from facing trial for murder. That would have been a first for a Nashville police officer for an on-duty shooting.
WPLN’s Samantha Max has been following the case for more than two years. She tells afternoon host Marianna Bacallao that the deal hasn’t satisfied many of those who wanted to see harsh punishment for the officer.
MB: Explain the deal, how significant is it that he’s pleading guilty for manslaughter?
SM: So, manslaughter falls in the middle of Tennessee’s homicide charges. It’s three to 15 years, potentially, in prison. We’re hearing from the family of Daniel Hambrick that, in this case, Delke is expected to spend three years in prison.
Delke could have faced up to life in prison if he had been convicted of first-degree murder here in Nashville. So, life imprisonment versus three years is a pretty big jump, especially for such a historic case that’s garnered so much local attention.
Because Andrew Delke is the first Nashville police officer to be charged with murder for an on duty shooting. And he’s only the second to face criminal charges for killing someone. And that other officer, who was charged back in the 1970s, he was only fined $10 for killing someone.
So, in this case, there’s still a lot we don’t know about the details of the agreement. But Delke will be in court this morning to formally accept the deal, and that’s when we’ll know more.
MB: Did we have any indication this was going to happen?
SM: Obviously, a plea deal is always possible, and it’s how the vast majority of criminal cases are worked out in this country. But with such a high profile case, I have to be honest that I was not expecting it. Hambrick’s sister, Jasmine Davis, told me her family was also completely caught by surprise.
Davis said the district attorney told her family that he’d offered Delke a deal without any warning. The family is incredibly disappointed. They’ve been waiting three years for this trial and have faced one delay after the next from the pandemic, things with different people that the prosecution was supposed to bring in. So a plea deal is a pretty anticlimactic end to such a long and emotional legal battle for them.
MB: Video clearly showed Officer Delke steadying himself and shooting Daniel Hambrick from behind. Why do we think they’re going the plea deal route?
SM: I mean, this is definitely a murky case. The foot chase and the shooting were both caught on camera. But there is a small portion that was never obtained by state investigators.
Delke has said he pulled the trigger because he became afraid for his life when Hambrick pointed a gun at him. We never see this in the footage that we have. And Delke’s attorneys have argued that it must have happened in the missing piece of video. However, that would have been a tough argument to make because there’s no physical evidence to prove it.
That being said, though, prosecutors would have faced their own challenges. Hambrick did have a gun. The defense says that he was acting suspicious and speeding in his car when Delke decided to follow him. So, prosecutors would have had to find a way to explain that and convince jurors that Delke was still wrong when he decided to shoot.
Plus, we know that these trials bring a lot of attention. They stir up a lot of emotions. And this could have been a way to avoid all of the public scrutiny that comes with a high-profile trial of a police officer.
MB: Well, Andrew Delke has been on desk duty for the past three years while his case was making its way through the courts. What happens to him now, and how is the Hambrick family responding?
SM: So, Delke has resigned from the police department, effective immediately. He is expected to spend a few years in state prison — though if that happens, it will be substantially less than what he would have faced if he’d been convicted of premeditated murder.
Daniel Hambrick’s family, meanwhile, plans to protest outside the courthouse this morning.
There are still a lot of question marks at this point, but we’ll know more after the hearing.
The district attorney’s office confirmed Delke would be accepting a plea but did not further comment. The police department says it will comment after the deal has been signed.