A routine traffic stop tragically turned deadly in Nashville shortly before midnight on Friday in an officer-involved shooting of a man reportedly brandishing two butcher knives.
According to police, the incident started when Officer Christopher Royer ran the tag of a white Mercedes and it came back to a green Chevy, prompting the officer to pull over the vehicle. Body-cam footage appears to show the passenger emerging from the vehicle with the knives.
While keeping the dispatcher aware of what was going on, Officer Royer told the man to stay in the car and repeatedly ordered him to drop the knife, adding “I don’t want to shoot you.” The subject even appears to briefly get into Royer’s squad car.
The subject, however, rushed toward the officer, who had backed away 25 yards from his cruiser according to police spokesman Don Aaron, speaking at a press conference. Royer appeared to fire three rounds.
“Dude, what are you doing, man? Come on! I did not want to have to do that,” the officer can be heard telling the man who had collapsed to the ground.
Calling for backup, Officer Royer notified the dispatcher that shots were fired. Five officers at the scene rendered aid to the man who later died at a local hospital.
At the presser, Police Chief John Drake indicated that the officer had no choice given the circumstances, describing the deceased man’s behavior as “bizarre.” He also noted that the driver was cooperative at all times, including telling his companion to drop the blades as the incident unfolded.
A person can be heard in the video footage yelling, “What are you doing? What are you doing?”
Drake pointed out that about 3,000 cars are stolen in the Nashville area each year, so officers on patrol routinely check tags as standard operating procedure.
The chief said that he assumed that Royer was armed with a taser, “but in those situations, that’s a lethal situation. He deescalated by retreating, he moved backward, again ordering the individual to drop the weapon. In those situations, it’s lethal, and you can’t use less lethal force if someone’s attacking you with a knife.”
“This [incident] appears to possibly be justified. We’ll find out once the investigation moves forward,” Drake concluded.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Davidson County District Attorney’s Office are probing the incident as is the PD’s internal affairs group. In the meantime, four-year-veteran Royer is on administrative assignment. The city’s Community Oversight Board is also investigating.
Watch the press conference embedded below, with the body-cam footage starting at about the two-minute mark, and draw your own conclusions.
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