NASHVILLE, Tenn. – The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and a district attorney have taken the unusual step of asking a court to release a TBI report on the death of an armed African-American man shot by a white officer in Nashville.
Under Tennessee law, all TBI investigative files are confidential and can't be released to the public unless ordered by a court or subpoenaed.
"It is in the best interest of the public that this file be made immediately available," the petition filed Friday by TBI Director Mark Gwyn and Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk says. However, it does not say why.
Funk would not comment further, said Dorinda Carter, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office. However, she said he would announce this week a decision on whether to bring charges against the officer who killed 31-year-old Jocques Clemmons. Authorities say Officer Joshua Lippert shot him in the back after a traffic stop in February.
Police initially said Clemmons was shot after he "abruptly charged at Officer Lippert, making full contact with his body." But police said video footage later made available to them showed no initial physical confrontation between Clemmons and the officer. Instead, they said the video from a different angle shows Clemmons ran toward Lippert to get around him, stopped short of the officer and then turned and ran in the opposite direction.
The Associated Press left a phone message for Lippert's attorney.
A spokeswoman for members of the Clemmons family said they have no idea what's inside the TBI report.
"Our hope is that the investigating agency was honest, that they were thorough and objective," said Joy Kimbrough, an attorney who is related to Clemmons.
The public outcry after his death was followed by major changes in how Nashville police operate.
Metro police had previously investigated their own officer-involved shooting cases. Funk announced the TBI would be investigating all officer-involved shooting deaths going forward.
"We are in favor of the investigative material being released," Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron said of the TBI report.
The death also led Nashville's Metro Council to call for the "immediate purchase" of police body cameras.
Nashville Mayor Megan Barry has put forth a budget proposing that $23 million be spent to equip police officers with body cameras and install dash cams in their vehicles, The Tennessean reported. It's nearly half of the $50 million Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson said would be required to equip all 1,400 officers with body cameras and install the cameras in nearly 900 vehicles.