In July last year, a 25-year-old black man, Daniel Hambrick, was shot dead while walking a white Nashville police officer. Now the Hambrick family has filed a federal lawsuit arguing that local officers are too quick to use deadly coercion and that the police have a culture of & # 39; fear, violence, racism and impunity & # 39; encourages.
Submitted on March 11, the unlawful death case argues that the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department "encourages" a belief that without constant vigilance from the police and the threat of police violence, the black community of Nashville would degenerate into violence and anarchy. "
Because of this alleged culture of paranoia, the trial says, city officials overregulate black neighborhoods and stop aggressive black motorists – practices that the family says have contributed to the fatal shooting of Hambrick.
The Hambrick family is looking for $ 30 million in damages.
Although the officer who shot Hambrick, Andrew Delke (also 25 years old), became the first Nashville officer to be charged with an on-duty shooting when he was charged with a first-degree assassination attempt in January, the lawsuit accuses the Department of the evade accountability for its broader practices. The family claims that the department has avoided running programs to reduce racial inequalities in traffic congestion and has opposed the adoption of a body-borne camera program, despite the fact that local officials have allocated money to camera & # 39; s.
The local police union said Delke & # 39; s shooting at Hambrick was justified, while community activists and the Hambrick family say Delke unnecessarily escalated the meeting and only killed Hambrick because he ran away.
This lawsuit is in line with a long line of recent federal lawsuits filed by the families of black men killed in shootings. Together, these lawsuits claim that recent high-profile police admissions cannot be removed from a larger context: the policies of the departments that train officers.
Since convictions in police shootings are still rare, these lawsuits have become an important mechanism for families seeking both official recognition of misconduct and a permanent change in the functioning of these police forces.
The police claim that the shooting at Daniel Hambrick was justified. His family does not agree.
On July 26, 2018, Delke, when an officer of the city's youth work group, searched for stolen vehicles when officers saw a white Chevrolet Impala driving in a "whimsical pattern."
According to a sworn statement last year, the officer became suspicious after the car did not pass officers despite having the right of way. When Delke looked up the license plate of the vehicle, he noticed that the car had not been stolen – but he continued to follow it, "to see if he could develop a reason to stop the Impala."
Delke later lost sight of the car but came across another white car in a parking lot. It was wrong for the Impala, Delke stopped and Hambrick, one of the people at the car, ran away. Delke chased him.
The sworn statement states that the officer at that time had no reason to believe that Hambrick was involved in any form of criminal activity.
Delke later said that during the chase he saw a gun in Hambrick's hand, and the officer claimed that he gave "different orders" to Hambrick to drop the gun, according to the sworn statement. Delke shot Hambrick four times and hit him in the head, torso and back. The fourth bullet hit a nearby building.
The shooting immediately caused indignation, with local members of the community and the Hambrick family claiming that he had not committed a crime and had been shot unnecessarily. The police claimed that Delke had a reasonable fear that Hambrick would shoot.
The prosecutor in Nashville has released a surveillance video of the shooting last August. It shows that Delke stops and shoots Hambrick while the man runs away. The police said Hambrick raised his arm to shoot, but due to the haziness of the video, this claim is difficult to confirm.
The local police union has claimed that the shooting was justified and has created a website that pays attention to Hambrick & # 39; s arrest report, repeatedly referring to the man as a "convicted criminal," pointing to his earlier beliefs about theft. and abuse. At the end of last year, a judge ruled that the defense could discuss parts of this history in court, despite the fact that Delke was not aware of it at the time of the shooting.
The union also emphatically opposed an activist-led effort to create a civilian supervisory board in the aftermath of the shooting, arguing that citizens lacked the knowledge to judge officers' behavior. Nevertheless, the Nashville voters agreed last year with a ballot paper to make the board with a margin of 59 to 41 percent, and the new 11-member panel is expected to meet in the near future.
The lawsuit argues that the policy of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department played a role in the shooting
Delke claimed he was not wrong in shooting Hambrick, and his lawyers said the officer was following his training when he fired.
The lawsuit from the Hambrick family does not dispute this, but rather uses the claim to claim that Nashville officers have been trained to rely on deadly coercion and to treat black people as criminals.
The lawsuit focuses in part on Metropolitan Nashville police policy on traffic stops, stating statistics from the department's annual reports on stopping places to say the department is stopping a disproportionate number of black drivers, a difference that cannot be explained by crime levels in predominantly black neighborhoods.
Delke, who had worked as an officer for less than two years at the time of Hambrick's death, is known for much blacker drivers than white ones. "The ratio of black and white drivers that agent Delke subjected to traffic stops was consistently higher than the average of other MNPD officers patrolling in the same geographic zones," the case says, referring to data about Delke's traffic.
The allegations of the Hambrick family are not the first time that this kind of inequality has been criticized in Nashville. The Tennessean notes that a 2016 report from a local non-profit organization called Gideon & # 39; s Army suggested "serious and institutional racial discrimination against troops" when it came to stopping for traffic. A report from 2018 at the request of the Nashville police and conducted by the NYU School of Law police station also found racial differences in traffic stops.
The lawsuit argues that the department has largely ignored these reports and claimed that it "continues to deny that there are improper racial differences in intermediate stops and has done nothing to reduce such inequalities."
The department, for its part, says it looks "to defend this lawsuit vigorously and to correct the abundance of disinformation it contains".
The Hambrick family says that the suit not only leads to a recognition that what happened to their loved one was wrong and should not have happened, but also to a change in police practices.
"We want the responsible parties to be held responsible," Joy Kimbrough, a lawyer representing the Hambrick family, told reporters on Monday. "We don't think this was just misconduct."