A white Nashville police officer won’t face charges for shooting and killing an armed black man after a traffic stop in February, a district attorney said.
At a news conference Thursday, District Attorney General Glenn Funk said Officer Josh Lippert’s actions met the legal definition of self-defense when he shot and killed Jocques Scott Clemmons following traffic stop.
The report also says Lippert was justified in putting Clemmons’ gun in his own pocket after the shooting. Though department policy says officers should not remove evidence from a crime scene, Lippert was justified because he needed to preserve his life and Clemmons could have used the firearm if it was not removed, the report says.
“Refusing to obey the commands, Mr. Clemmons turned clockwise away from Officer Lippert to run away, looked back over his [Clemmons’] left shoulder, and raised the gun up about waist high in Officer Lippert’s direction,” the report reads. Lippert then shot Clemmons three times.
The report also reveals that a woman who lives in the James A. Cayce Homes said she saw the altercation between Lippert and Clemmons. Police detectives investigating the shooting interviewed her Feb. 13.
The woman was in her vehicle, getting ready to return to work about 12:30 p.m., the report states.
She noticed two people run by in her rearview mirror. At first, she thought the two were just children playing, but then she realized it was a police officer and a man.
She saw the officer throw the man to the ground, the report states.
She said she saw Clemmons resisting Lippert. The officer told Clemmons to stay down.
Clemmons got back up and ran in the opposite direction, the report states.
As Clemmons stumbled, the witness said she saw his gun fall.
She said Lippert then tried to kick the gun, but Clemmons reached down and grabbed it. She said she saw Clemmons put the gun in a pocket, but she was unsure which pocket.
Then Clemmons continued to run, she said.
The decision drew swift outcry from the NAACP, some clergy, Clemmons’ family and other community members.
The Justice for Jocques Coalition also organized a protest in response to the decision.
“We do not accept that this investigation was unbiased and we will continue to fight for justice for Jocques,” Michael Hoskins, a lawyer for the family of Clemmons said.
Nashville NAACP president Ludye Wallace said black men are getting killed like this all over the country. He was critical of how Clemmons had been shot in the back.
“Jocques Clemmons never drew down on the officer and pointed it at him,” Funk said. “He had a gun in his hand. He picked it up in the middle of an altercation. Had he kept running and this was an unarmed person that was shot in the back, it would be a completely different situation.”
Lippert shot Clemmons three times, striking him twice in the back and once in the left hip.
Dressed in black and carrying a coffin on their shoulders, a group of Nashvillians marched silently through Hillsboro Village to Mayor Megan Barry’s house Friday evening.
About 70 people marched behind members of the Clemmons family, carrying signs that accused the mayor and chief of police of being complicit and calling for Lippert’s termination.
They started in Fannie Mae Dees Park, also known as Dragon Park, which organizers chose for its location in a part of town known for being affluent and predominantly white.
“Although the MNPD has obstructed the process from the beginning, that is no excuse for ignoring the evidence which clearly shows that Jocques Clemmons posed no threat to Officer Lippert and that Officer Lippert’s actions were wrong and wantonly and capriciously violent. We do not need trigger happy officers running amok in our communities,” the Justice for Jocques Coalition said in a statement Thursday.
The police department apologized several times at the news conference Thursday for the bias in the initial investigation and for calling Clemmons a “suspect” and Lippert a “victim” before even finishing their investigation.
The Metro Council’s Minority Caucus says they are “disheartened” their members did not receive notice from District Attorney Glenn Funk in advance of his announcement
The nine-member minority caucus, chaired by East Nashville Councilman Scott Davis, issued a statement late Monday that said they had “paused’ in the immediate aftermath of Funk’s decision last week not to prosecute Officer Joshua Lippert.
At least one positive outcome came from this and that’s the fact that Funk announced that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation would investigate all fatal police shootings going forward, instead of the Metro Nashville Police Department investigating itself.
After the shooting, Nashville’s Metro Council called for the immediate purchase of police body cameras. And Mayor Megan Barry has proposed spending $23 million to equip police officers with body cameras and install dash cams in their vehicles.
Barry also issued a statement on Twitter after the march; “I appreciate and respect the right of Nashvillians to voice their opinion through peaceful protest.” Barry said. “I am glad to see that everyone remained safe and I appreciate the Metro Nashville Police Department doing their part to ensure that happened.”