Nashville, TN – A Metropolitan Nashville police officer who fatally shot an armed man after the suspect refused to drop his weapon has been charged with criminal homicide.
He will plead not guilty at his Oct. 30 preliminary hearing, the officer’s attorney, David Raybin, told The New York Times.
School surveillance footage showed Officer Delke as he fatally shot 25-year-old Daniel Hambrick on July 26, after the armed man jumped out of a vehicle with a gun in his hand and took off running.
Officer Delke radioed for backup, then chased Hambrick through the residential area.
Although Hambrick was running away from Officer Delke, he was also running towards other officers arriving at the scene, and was still holding a handgun as he fled, Raybin told The New York Times.
“Tennessee law permits a police officer to use deadly force when there is a danger to others,” Raybin said. “Officer Delke was protecting himself, his backup officers and the public.”
According to court documents, Officer Delke was part of a task force working to locate stolen vehicles, and was driving an unmarked patrol unit when he spotted a white Chevrolet Impala, NBC News reported.
The driver of the Impala conceded the right-of-way to Officer Delke at an intersection, which the officer found to be “suspicious,” the arrest warrant read.
The vehicle’s plates did not come back as stolen, so the officer followed the Impala “to see if he could develop a reason to stop” the car, according to the warrant.
The Impala drove onto an interstate, at which point Officer Delke turned on his blue lights.
The driver failed to stop, so Officer Delke turned his lights off and followed the vehicle at a distance until he ultimately lost sight of it, NBC News reported.
Just after 7 p.m., Officer Delke was patrolling in the area of the John Henry Hale Apartments when he spotted a white four-door sedan in the parking lot, WSMV reported.
The officer mistakenly believed it was the same vehicle he had been following earlier, and pulled in to investigate.
According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Hambrick “emerged from the vehicle with a firearm in his hand,” and immediately fled the scene, KMOV reported.
Surveillance footage showed Officer Delke as he chased after the armed suspect through the parking lot of the housing complex.
A different camera angle showed Hambrick as he rounded a corner and sprinted across lawns with the officer following close behind.
Officer Delke repeatedly ordered Hambrick to drop the weapon, but he refused, Nashville Fraternal Order of Police President James Smallwood told KMOV.
"When Mr. Hambrick continued to run away and did not drop the gun, Officer Delke decided to use deadly force," the warrant said, according to NBC News.
Hambrick was hit twice in the back and once in the back of his head, and the fourth round struck a building nearby.
Investigators later recovered the suspect’s weapon at the scene, they confirmed in a tweet.
Despite the fact that the armed suspect could have easily shot at the officer at any time, Hambrick’s family claimed he posed no risk to anyone and that it's legal to run from the police, according to the New York Post.
“I don’t care if I have a hand grenade in my pocket,” his uncle, Sam Hambrick said, according to the New York Post. “If I’m running away, I can’t be a threat to you.”
“Daniel runs, which is still not illegal – you can run," the Hambrick family’s attorney, Joy Kimbrough alleged during a press conference. “The police officer chases him with his gun drawn, and at some point, he slows down, and executes him.”
“I just want justice for my son,” added Hambrick’s mother, Vickie Hambrick. “That’s all I’m asking. And for all the young black guys and young women, I want justice for them. I love them all.”
Officer Delke, who graduated from the police academy in December of 2016, was “decommissioned” by the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department at the time of his arrest, Raybin told The New York Times.
Although he is not allowed to perform any active law enforcement duties, he is still a paid officer, Raybin said.
Nashville Mayor David Briley said he supported the charges against Officer Delke, and called them a “necessary step forward” in the Hambrick family’s quest for “justice,” NBC News reported.
"In August, I spoke with Daniel Hambrick's mother to express my condolences for her loss. I assured her that we would show respect for the life of her son, because his life mattered,” Briley said.
“At that time, Ms. Hambrick asked for justice for Daniel,” he continued. “The District Attorney's decision to file charges in this case is a necessary step toward that end."
Protests organized by Black Lives Matter Nashville and other groups erupted throughout Nashville after prosecutors released surveillance footage of the officer-involved shooting in August, The New York Times reported.
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and other organizations demanded that the city create a civilian board to oversee investigations into allegations of police misconduct – a measure that will be voted on in November.
"Let us say that we are excited that at last Lady Justice is truly blind, and at last a person that has committed a crime that wears blue has been" charged, NAACP Nashville President Gloria Sweet-Love told The Tennessean on Thursday.
District Attorney Glenn Funk said he decided to charge Officer Delke in General Sessions court in order to present the case against him “in as transparent a manner as possible, because the Grand Jury proceedings are secret and not open to the public,” The Tennessean reported.
Night Court Magistrate Even Harris refused to issue the warrant, and said prosecutors did not have enough evidence to support a homicide charge.
Prosecutors then took the matter to General Sessions Judge Michael Mondelli, who signed off on the warrant less than two hours later.