Sparta, TN – A Tennessee sheriff is facing a federal lawsuit for excessive force after he was recorded bragging that he ordered deputies to shoot a man they were chasing in a vehicle (video below).
A police investigation concluded that Michael Dial was on drugs when he led police on a slow-speed chase in a pickup truck towing a loaded trailer in April of 2017.
Dial drove recklessly on the freeway, passed other vehicles on double yellow lines, ignored stoplights, drove into oncoming traffic, and rammed patrol cars before he was shot and killed by authorities.
Police had attempted to block the suspect's vehicle to stop him, but Dial rammed into the side and rear of police vehicles multiple times during the pursuit, District Attorney Bryant Dunaway told the Herald-Citizen.
At least two deputies were injured in the incident.
Bodycam video footage reviewed after the incident revealed White County Sheriff Oddie Shoupe had made some comments to a colleague about the shooting, during a casual conversation that he didn’t realize was being recorded, according to The Guardian.
“I told ‘em, I said ‘take him out,’” Sheriff Shoupe bragged to another unidentified deputy in the video.
“I heard,” the officer said.
“Damn, I don’t give a sh*t,” the sheriff said.
“I know. It wasn’t long after that I heard shots fired, shots fired!” the officer responded.
“They said ‘we’re ramming him.’ I said, ‘Don’t ram him, shoot him!’ F**k that shit. Ain’t gonna tear my cars up. I got two cars tore up again,” the sheriff continued.
Those comments were part of a long conversation about the shooting that was picked up by a bodycam worn by a deputy at the scene who gave the sheriff a ride home after the shooting.
“I love this s**t,” the sheriff told his colleague in the video.
“God, I tell you what, I thrive on it. If they don’t think I’ll give the damn order to kill that motherf*****r they’re full of s**t,” Sheriff Shoupe said.
“Take him out. I’m here on the damn wrong end of the county,” he said, apparently disappointed he was not at the location where law enforcement were shooting at Dial.
Despite the sheriff's remarks, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) determined that the shooting was justified and the district attorney said that Dial “was a dangerous and unstable subject who posed a serious and immediate risk of serious bodily injury or death to both law enforcement officers as well as other citizens in the immediate area.”
Toxicology reports showed Dial’s blood tested positive for methamphetamine, amphetamine and carboxy-THC, according to the Herald-Citizen.
But when Michael Dial’s widow heard the sheriff’s comments from the bodycam video, she filed a federal lawsuit that alleged law enforcement had used excessive force in shooting her husband.
The lawsuit named Sheriff Shoupe, the county, the city of Sparta, and two officers who fired their weapons as defendants, and claimed the sheriff "preferred to shoot and kill Mr. Dial rather than risk damaging his patrol cars."
“The comments as seen on the video are extremely disturbing. I’m not sure how anybody can thrive on the taking of a life, let alone somebody in law enforcement,” Robyn Dial’s attorney David Weissman told the Guardian.
"I don't know how you can thrive on taking a human life. That's not law enforcement," Weissman said.
Ramming a vehicle and shooting at is are both considered to be deadly force.
Robyn Dial said her husband was running from law enforcement and ramming their cars because he was scared.
"I feel with every part of me that's exactly what they wanted to do was kill him," she told WTVF.
You can hear the sheriff's comments captured on bodycam below: