NASHVILLE, Tenn. – A prosecutor secured a warrant Thursday charging a white Tennessee police officer with criminal homicide after surveillance footage appeared to show him chasing a black man and opening fire as the man fled from the officer in July.
In a related development, an affidavit released Thursday says the officer had been pursuing a car that he mistook for another, and wasn't sure the man he killed was connected to either vehicle.
Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk said in a statement that he requested a warrant to charge officer Andrew Delke in the death of 25-year-old Daniel Hambrick. A General Sessions judge found probable cause and signed Delke's arrest warrant Thursday after a magistrate judge ruled earlier Thursday that there wasn't enough evidence, The Tennessean reported .
The incident reignited questions about policing of Nashville's black community last month when the surveillance video from a nearby school was released. The tape shows that the 25-year-old officer chased and shot Hambrick on July 26 as Hambrick ran away on a sidewalk near an apartment complex.
According to an arrest affidavit released by the court clerk, the incident began when Delke tailed a white sedan while looking for stolen vehicles and known juvenile offenders, though he found the car wasn't stolen. He "continued to follow to see if he could develop a reason to stop the Impala," in which he never saw the driver or determined how many people were inside, it says.
Delke turned on his emergency lights as the car pulled onto the interstate, but followed policy and didn't pursue. Instead, he followed from a distance, the affidavit says. Eventually, Delke lost track of the car and pulled into an apartment parking lot and mistook a different white four-door sedan for the one he was seeking, it says. Several people were in the area as Delke stopped near this other car, one of them Hambrick, who began to run, the affidavit says.
Delke chased Hambrick and yelled at him to stop, though the officer didn't know the fleeing man's identity, the affidavit says. Delke believed Hambrick may have been connected to the car Delke misidentified, but didn't know for sure if he was connected to that car or the other car he thought he had found, the affidavit says.
Delke saw a gun in Hambrick's hand as the chase continued, and Hambrick would not drop the weapon when Delke told him to several times, the affidavit says. Delke "stopped, assumed a firing position, and aimed his service weapon," firing four times, it says. One shot hit Hambrick's back, another his torso and a third the back of his head. The fourth shot missed him.
Funk said filing the homicide charge in General Sessions court lets the case be presented in open court as transparently as possible, since grand jury proceedings are secret.
Nashville Mayor David Briley, who announced a comprehensive review of policing procedures when the video was released publicly last month, said he fully supports the police, but officers have to account for their actions when they have been accused of misconduct. He said there must be laws that are "fairly, equally and transparently applied."
"In August, I spoke with Daniel Hambrick's mother to express my condolences for her loss," Briley said in a statement. "I assured her that we would show respect for the life of her son, because his life mattered. At that time, Ms. Hambrick asked for justice for Daniel. The District Attorney's decision to file charges in this case is a necessary step toward that end."
American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee Executive Director Hedy Weinberg called Delke's arrest a "crucial first step in setting the wheels of accountability and justice in motion," while cautioning that Delke must receive due process during proceedings.
"The arrest in and of itself sends an important - yet all too rare - message to the community that nobody is above the law," Weinberg said in a statement.
Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said he couldn't discuss the details of the shooting but offered condolences to Hambrick's family. He also said the July 26th shooting will impact Delke and his family forever.
Anderson said he respects the justice system in Davidson County and the state of Tennessee.
He added that because of Thursday's action, Delke has been decommissioned, which means he has had to turn over his gun but is working at a desk job and is still getting paid by the department.
The release of the video in August prompted demands from the Nashville NAACP that Delke be fired and charged with murder, and that the Federal Bureau of Investigation conduct a civil rights probe and a review of the Nashville Police Department.
In August, Nashville Fraternal Order of Police President James Smallwood criticized the release of the video before the investigation was completed, and said that if Hambrick dropped a pistol he was holding as ordered, he's confident Hambrick would still be alive.