Nashville, TN – Authorities are investigating, and one Nashville police veteran has been “decommissioned,” after multiple law enforcement officers opened fire on Thursday on a man who pulled a box cutter out of his pocket and pointed it at police like a gun (video below).
The incident began at about 2 p.m. on Jan. 27 when a Tennessee Highway Patrol (THP) trooper saw 37-year-old Landon Eastep sitting on a guardrail on the side of Interstate 65 at mile marker 76, the Nashville Tennessean reported.
The trooper stopped to see if Eastep needed assistance, according to WSMV.
“Circumstances of this are unusual. State trooper wanted to help give him a ride off the interstate for his safety,” Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (MNPD) Spokesman Don Aaron told reporters.
Aaron said the trooper tried to talk to Eastep, who had previously been arrested by MNPD, WSMV reported.
“Trooper thought the situation was going to be okay. He pushed away from the trooper and showed the box cutter, which escalated the situation,” the police spokesman explained.
He said an off-duty Mt. Juliet police officer was driving by and saw what was happening, so he stopped to assist the trooper, WSMV reported.
Aaron said that the off-duty Mt. Juliet officer and the trooper tried to de-escalate the situation for more than 30 minutes, during which time additional law enforcement officers arrived on the scene to assist them.
MNPD released bodycam video of the incident that showed at least six of that department’s officers were on the scene, several of whom had weapons pointed at Eastep while the Mt. Juliet officer talked to him.
The suspect kept his right hand in his pocket throughout the conversation and ignored the officer’s requests that he drop the knife, the video showed.
“Put your hand up, drop the knife and let’s figure this out,” the Mt. Juliet officer told Eastep in the video.
He told Eastep that there were children in cars nearby watching them, the video showed.
“Please,” the Mt. Juliet officer said in the video. “They’re going to have to live with this, too, not just me and you.”
Mt. Juliet Police Captain Tyler Chandler later told reporters that the Mt. Juliet officer’s family, which included children, witnessed the shooting from the family car stopped nearby, the Nashville Tennessean reported.
Suddenly, Eastep appeared to take something out of his right pocket, the bodycam video showed.
“Landon, please brother. Don’t do it. Don’t do it,” the Mt. Juliet officer told him in a calm voice.
Then the video showed Eastep raised his right arm and pointed it at the officers.
“No, no, no. No, Landon!” the Mt. Juliet officer yelled just as Eastep took a step toward him with his arms raised as if he was holding a gun and pointing it at the officers.
Aaron said the officers saw a glint of metal in Eastep’s hand and believe it to be a gun, WSMV reported.
“[He was] kind of aiming something at them,” he told reporters.
Nine law enforcement officers opened fire on what they believed was an armed and dangerous suspect, according to Aaron.
Multiple shots were fired by at least six MNPD officers, the Mt. Juliet officer, and the trooper, the Nashville Tennessean reported.
Bodycam videos showed Eastep fell to the pavement but continued to reach and flail his arms.
An officer yelled “cease fire” just before two more shots were fired, the video showed.
Police later said that the item Eastep pulled from his pocket and pointed at officers was a box cutter, the Nashville Tennessean reported.
“The metal, cylindrical item Eastep pulled from his pocket was not a firearm,” Aaron said.
Eastep died from his gunshot wounds.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) is heading up the investigation into the officer-involved shooting, the Nashville Tennessean reported.
Law enforcement experts said that the incident appeared to be a clear case of “suicide by cop.”
But the Metro Nashville Community Oversight Board disagreed with that assessment and put out a statement on Friday that called the shooting “gravely disturbing,” WSMV reported.
Then MNPD Officer Chief John Drake announced that he had decommissioned one of the officers involved in the incident.
Chief Drake said that MNPD Officer Brian Murphy, a 25-year veteran of the police force, had lost his police powers pending an investigation of his actions at the scene.
The police chief identified Officer Murphy as having been the officer with a rifle who fired the last two shots at Eastep, WSMV reported.
“While the TBI conducts its investigation of the shooting on behalf of the District Attorney, I have directed that our Training Academy staff thoroughly examine how our officers positioned themselves in this multi-agency response and as well review the tactics and procedures used in relation to those that we teach,” Chief Drake said. “This department regularly reviews critical incidents, and the work on this one has begun. I am saddened by any loss of life, and I send my condolences to the Eastep family.”
Watch the incident unfold in the video below. WARNING – Graphic Content:
WARNING—GRAPHIC: Metro Nashville Police Officers, Tennessee Highway Patrol and an off-duty Mt Juliet officer fatally shot a man waking down I-65 Thursday after he reportedly raised a box cutter.
— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) January 28, 2022