NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The FBI will monitor an investigation by Nashville police after a white officer shot and killed an armed African-American man they say ran a stop sign and then fled on foot, Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said Monday.
The announcement came hours after the NAACP’s local president called for quick movement on an investigation, surrounded by tearful, irate family members of Jocques Scott Clemmons who questioned the officer’s actions and the police’s claims about the incident.
U.S. Attorney David Rivera said his office will work with the FBI and the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice in monitoring the case. The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has been asked to do the same, Anderson said.
A surveillance video released by police appears to show that, after a scuffle, Clemmons was moving away with his back turned to Nashville Officer Josh Lippert when Clemmons was shot and killed Friday. Clemmons appeared to be trying to get in between two parked cars.
The police chief declined to say whether or not he believed the shooting was justified at this point.
“I hate to make any analysis until we know exactly all the details, until we’ve exhausted all means of analyzing that video,” Anderson said at a police news conference Monday.
Police are also looking to identify and interview another person who was in the passenger seat of the pulled-over car.
The potential witness fled the vehicle when Clemmons and Lippert began to scuffle, Anderson said.
On Monday, Nashville NAACP branch President Ludye N. Wallace also called for immediate action from city officials on plans to equip police with body cameras. Mayor Megan Barry plans to propose $12 million for the cameras in the 2017-18 Metro budget.
“If we had on body cameras, I won’t have to tell you what the officer said to me,” Wallace said. “I won’t have to tell you what he did to me. He will not have to say what I said or what I did. It will be there for the protection of the officers and the citizens of the community.”
Clemmons, 31, died at the hospital Friday.
According to police, Clemmons had parked his car outside a public housing development and was getting out when Officer Lippert drove up to talk about him running a stop sign. Clemmons was carrying a pistol and charged at Lippert, then ran through the parking lot.
Police said Lippert caught up with Clemmons, the two had a physical confrontation and Clemmons refused orders to drop his gun. Believing he was in imminent danger, Lippert fired three times at Clemmons, police said.
Police said video from the housing development shows that Clemmons “abruptly charged at Officer Lippert, making full contact with his body.”
Lippert was in uniform but driving an unmarked police car, according to police.
Nashville Police said that “it is not known why Clemmons reacted the way he did to Officer Lippert. The fact that he was illegally carrying a gun in public housing may have been the reason.”
Lippert has been placed on an administrative assignment while the shooting is investigated.
Anderson said Lippert had been suspended 20 days over his five years with the force. The police chief didn’t immediately have specifics on Lippert’s infractions.
Clemmons was convicted of a cocaine felony in 2014 and received an eight-year probated sentence. As a convicted felon, it would have been a violation of both state and federal law to possess the pistol, according to the statement.
Family members said Clemmons’ history shouldn’t have mattered in an altercation that ended his life Friday. They said he was a good father and son.
“Y’all took him from me,” said his mother, Sheila Clemmons Lee. “His background didn’t have nothing to do with what took place on Friday. We all have backgrounds.”