Jan 31, 2022 - News

Outrage intensifies after nine officers open fire in fatal shooting

Photo: Adam Tamburin/Axios

Photo: Adam Tamburin/Axios

Multiple parallel investigations are underway after at least nine officers fatally shot Landon Eastep last Thursday on Interstate 65. Critics compared the police shooting to a "firing squad."

  • Scrutiny mounted over the weekend as graphic video of the shooting continued to spread. Nashville's police watchdog agency described the case as "gravely disturbing."

Why it matters: The shooting drew renewed outrage from activists and some elected officials who said it was the latest example of local police improperly leaning on lethal force, especially during encounters with people struggling with mental health issues.

  • Nashville police responded Friday by pledging to review the incident and expand a pilot program pairing officers with counselors.

Driving the news: Authorities said a Tennessee Highway Patrol officer first encountered Eastep, 37, sitting on a guardrail on I-65. Eastep allegedly had a box cutter, according to investigators. An off-duty Mt. Juliet officer and Nashville officers also responded to the scene.

  • Snippets of released body camera footage show officers talking with Eastep with their guns drawn. At one point, Eastep extended his arms and clasped his hands in front of his chest — police said he was holding a "metal cylindrical object," not a firearm.
  • Six Nashville officers, two THP troopers, and the Mt. Juliet officer opened fire, investigators said. After Eastep was on the ground, a voice called out "cease fire," but two more shots rang out.

State of play: Nashville police said Officer Brian Murphy, the 25-year department veteran who fired the last two shots, has been stripped of his police authority pending an internal investigation. The five other Nashville officers are on administrative assignment.

  • The TBI is investigating and will share its findings with the district attorney, who will decide if criminal charges are warranted. The Community Oversight Board and Nashville police are also investigating.

What they're saying: Local attorney Joy Kimbrough, representing Eastep's wife, told reporters police "are not equipped" to help people in mental anguish.

  • "This is what it looks like when you get trigger happy," Kimbrough said Friday as Eastep's wife wept. "This is what it looks like when you don’t know how to deal with mental health issues."

Between the lines: Kimbrough also represented the family of Daniel Hambrick, a man fatally shot by police officer Andrew Delke in 2018. Delke pleaded guilty to manslaughter last year.

  • In both cases, grim video footage intensified calls for systemic change.
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