|Daniel Crowley's SUV (Trussville Tribune)|
A 31-year-old man from Trussville, AL, is dead after police in Nashville, TN, shot him for . . . well, we really don't know why the cops shot Daniel Turney Crowley. According to press reports, police gave a reason for shooting Crowley, but it's hard to understand why they considered lethal force to be necessary. And we are left with this disturbing question: Why did police initiate an encounter with Crowley when there appears to be no evidence he was doing anything remotely unlawful?
The incident started around 5 a.m.last Wednesday when an officer with a K-9 unit conducted a business check at a shopping center and noticed a black SUV parked near a Cricket store. The officer apparently considered the vehicle suspicious -- possibly because of the time of day -- and approached it, finding Crowley inside, reportedly holding a pocket knife. Much of the incident apparently was caught on body-camera video, although one news report said it has been the practice of Nashville police to edit such footage before it is released to the public. (Video is embedded at the end of this post.) From a report at WPLN, Nashville Public Radio:
The three Metro police officers involved in a fatal shooting near the West Precinct Wednesday morning have been identified. And the man who was killed is tentatively ID’d as a 31-year-old from outside Birmingham.
Police have released edited body camera footage, in what has now become standard practice for MNPD.
The video shows that K-9 Officer Richard Clemmons, who has spent eight years with the department, approached the man (whose face is blurred) as he sat in a Toyota 4Runner outside a Cricket store on Charlotte Avenue near White Bridge Road. Police had deemed the parked vehicle suspicious.
Questions: Why is a vehicle parked outside a store, even at 5 a.m., considered suspicious? Is that in line with Nashville PD policy? Did the "suspicious" designation color everything that happened next?
The video shows Clemmons told the driver to drop a knife, which is not visible from any of the camera angles. If he responded, he could not be heard on the footage. When he didn’t comply, the video shows Clemmons calling for backup. Officers Jonathan Phipps and Colin Blee arrived within minutes.
As soon as they pulled up, the video shows the man started to open the door to his SUV and run toward officers who are still shouting at him. Police say all three fired at the man who fell to the ground.
Everyone involved appears to be white. Police have released photos of a black pocket knife they say the man was holding.
Question: Why did the initial officer call for backup? Why did the officer tell Crowley to drop the knife, when he was alone inside his own vehicle and apparently not threatening anyone? Did calling two additional officers to the scene -- with no apparent crime in progress -- escalate a minor situation into a fatal encounter?
This does seem to answer one of our questions above. The arrival of two additional officers -- with Crowley now facing three officers instead of one -- clearly seems to have escalated the situation. Also, there is this oddity: The account says Crowley was holding a knife while he was inside his vehicle, but it does not say he had the knife when he exited the vehicle and reportedly ran at police. That story changes with this account from newschannel5.com:
Metro Nashville police say three of its police officers shot and killed a man who charged at them with a knife early Wednesday morning.
The call came in shortly after 5 a.m. along Charlotte Pike in West Nashville.
Kristin Mumford with the Metro Nashville Police Department said K9 officer Richard Clemmons stopped at a Cricket Wireless store after seeing a Toyota 4Runner sitting in the parking lot at 5:05 a.m. Police said when K9 officers aren't on an active call, they conduct business checks.
When Officer Clemmons approached the SUV, he saw that the man was armed with a knife. He ordered the suspect to put down the weapon and radioed for backup.
Officer Clemmons can be heard on the bodycam video telling the man to "put the knife down." He continues saying, "C'mon man, I'm just here checking on you. Put the knife down. I'm just here to help you bro. Put the knife down... it's not worth it man."
Two additional officers arrive just before the man gets out of the SUV and charges at officers. That's when the three officers fire at the suspect and he falls to the ground.
The man was taken to Vanderbilt University Medical Center, where he died.
Questions: Let's be charitable to the cops and assume a vehicle parked outside a Cricket store at 5 a.m. looks suspicious, at least a little odd. Shouldn't that suspicion fade when an officer approaches and sees one man, alone, in the SUV, clearly not bothering anyone or anything? The officer says he's there "just checking on you" and adds "I'm just here to help you, bro." If that was the case, why didn't Clemmons say, "Hey, just checking on you, man. You OK?" If that drew no response why not pull a card out of his pocket and say," This is my card, with my name and contact info on it. I'm going to slide it under your windshield wiper, and if you need help of any kind, please contact me. I'll be in the area."
While it might seem strange to see an SUV parked outside a Cricket store at 5 a.m., I can think of several reasons a driver might wind up in such a spot. Perhaps he was driving, realized he was getting sleepy, and pulled into what appeared to be a safe spot for a nap. Perhaps he had been out with friends for a few beers, realized he was impaired, and pulled over to get off the road. Perhaps he just was not feeling well and decided to take a break from driving, in hopes he would start feeling better.
Maybe we will never know if any of these scenarios were in play, but it's hard not to wonder if the cops even considered any of this. They seemed obsessed with two things: (1) The knife, which doesn't appear to be visible at any point in the video; and (2) Shooting Crowley as quickly, and as often, as possible once he exited the vehicle -- even though Crowley never appears to get close enough to the officers to stab any of them -- even if he had a knife, which based on released images, looks more to me like a utility knife than a pocket knife.
Here are the most troubling questions of all: Why did a young man have to lose his life in a situation where, perhaps he was acting outside the norm, but there was no sign of unlawful activity on his part? Why can't cops, in an era of gross police misconduct, handle situations like this in a way that doesn't leave someone dead?