Dramatic Bodycam Video Captures Shooting by Nashville Police Officer — Black Female Motorist Killed

(AP Photo/Brandon Wade, File)

Bodycam and dashcam footage was released late in the day on Friday of an officer-involved shooting in Nashville, Tennessee earlier Friday morning that left a 31-year-old Nashville woman dead.

The entire incident was captured in the two video streams, which were released for the purpose of quelling community outrage before it got started.  As captured by the cameras, the deceased black female fired the first shots after resisting arrest.

The encounter began when the officer ran the plates on a parked 2015 Chevy Camaro and was informed that the registered owner of the vehicle had six outstanding felony warrants for drug-related charges.

A female was driving the car and she immediately exited the car after parking in a marked stall of a parking lot.

The Officer then made contact with a female and learned she was the sole occupant of the vehicle.  Since the registered owner with the felony warrants was a man, the officer knew that she wasn’t the person who was the subject of the warrants.

The driver, Nika Holbert, initially complied with the officer’s directions, and he radioed that everything was under control.

While the encounter continued, Holbert went back to the driver’s side of the car and leaned inside the open door.  You can hear the officer telling her to pull her bag out of the car, and to stop going through it.

As she turned back towards him with the bag in her hand, he took the bag from her. He asked what she removed from the bag while it was inside the car, and she doesn’t answer the question.

The Officer explained to her why he had stopped her, and that his bodycam was recording video and audio of what was taking place.

She then asked if she could go inside the Dollar Store to use the restroom.

All of her conduct is only creating reasonable suspicion that she is attempting to hide or discard something before he finds it.

The Officer then askes for dispatch to send him one more unit to assist, and while he’s doing so Holbert leans back inside the car’s open driver-side door again.  It appears that she grabbed her cell phone, and when the officer asked her to step behind the vehicle closed the driver-side door and began to place a call on her phone.  The officer then looks through her bag and discovers what he suspects to be marijuana and cocaine.

The Officer went back to his vehicle and put her bag and the contents inside.  He then returned to Holbert for the purpose of placing her under arrest.  When he asked her to turn around she began to resist and ran from him.

She refused to follow his instructions and ran from the rear of the vehicle to the driver-side door by going around the passenger side and the front of the car.  She entered the driver-side door with the Officer close behind, and with him telling her to stop or he would use his Taser on her which was in his left hand.  When she seated herself in the driver-side seat, he fired the Taser.  He attempted to remove her from the car by grabbing her left arm but repeatedly failed to obtain a secure hold.

He then applied the Taser in “contact” mode to her upper left arm which froze her momentarily while she was being shocked.  But once the taser was pulled away, she immediately began resisting again.

At this point, the officer backed away from the open driver’s side door and yelled “Put down the gun ma’am”  as he reached for his handgun with his right hand.   At that point, there was an exchange of gunfire.  Nashville PD is claiming that Holbert fired the first shots.  The officer fell backward onto the ground, having taken multiple rounds in the torso.  He was wearing a ballistic vest, but one round struck him in the side where the vest did not provide him protection.

While on the ground he was able to radio for help, and after 6-8 seconds the Camaro backed out of the parking space on left the scene. Just before the car began to back up you see Holbert drop the semi-automatic handgun she used outside the car on the ground.

Holbert ran off the road less than a mile away and crashed into a culvert/ditch along the side of the road.  She later died in the hospital of her gunshot wounds.  The Nashville Officer was hospitalized in stable condition.

Here are two versions of the video released Friday afternoon by the Nashville PD.

As for the legalities, my initial impressions are that I don’t see anything obvious that the officer did wrong.  The initial car stop was based on warrants for the arrest of the owner.  That was sufficient to justify the car stop.

The next issue arises with regard to the Officer’s actions after Holbert gives him a reason to take certain steps for his own protection while engaged in lawful detention such as a car stop.

After exiting the vehicle without him asking to do so, Holbert leaned back inside the vehicle and began to handle items insider her bag.  Her body shielded the Officer from being able to see what she was doing.  When she turned back towards him with the bag in her hand, he was entitled by Supreme Court precedent to take the bag away from her for his own protection during the detention.  That same justification allowed him to search the bag for anything that might harm him — he did not know if she had placed something inside the bag, or taken something out of the bag when she was going through it while leaning inside the car.  Because searching the bag was legal, anything illegal that she had inside the bag was lawfully seized.

Once he found the contraband inside her bag, he now had probable cause to arrest her and search the vehicle. There is no requirement to obtain a search warrant before searching a vehicle when the officer has probable cause based on his observations.

Holbert refused to cooperate, she resisted arrest, she continued to resist as the Officer used non-lethal methods to secure her compliance and arrest, and she then drew a handgun which placed his life in danger.

Even though she protested she did nothing wrong, that is objectively untrue.  She had illegal drugs in her bag, and she refused to comply with the Officer’s lawful commands.