A Nashville police officer caught on video shooting a man in the back as he ran away has been charged with criminal homicide.
Officer Andrew Delke was charged Thursday in connection with the July 26 shooting death of Daniel Hambrick, 25, according to an arrest warrant obtained by CNN. Delke’s attorney said he plans to plead not guilty.
Surveillance footage released last month by the Nashville District Attorney’s Office shows Delke, 25, who is white, chasing Hambrick, who is black, until the officer aims his gun. Hambrick falls to the ground within seconds.
Delke said he saw Hambrick holding a gun and asked him to drop it as both men were running, the warrant states, adding that Delke said Hambrick did not drop his weapon. Authorities recovered a handgun from the scene, they have said.
Hambrick’s death has sparked outrage among residents and calls for more police accountability.
Metropolitan Nashville Police Chief Steve Anderson called Hambrick’s death “a tragedy” in a statement Thursday.
Delke, who had been working a desk job since the shooting, has been decommissioned due to the criminal charge, Anderson said.
Delke turned himself in Thursday and has been released on a $25,000 bail, CNN affiliate WSMV reported. Under Tennessee law, criminal homicide includes murder, voluntary manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.
Delke’s lawyer on Thursday said Hambrick had been holding a gun before he was shot and Delke followed the “law and his training.”
“Most people run from danger. Police officers run toward danger,” attorney David Raybin told CNN. “Officer Delke was protecting himself, his backup officers and the public.”
“We certainly intend to vigorously defend the case and put this matter to a jury,” he said.
Hambrick was shot 3 times
The incident began as officers with the department’s juvenile task force, including Delke, were looking for stolen vehicles in North Nashville, the warrant states. Officers said they saw a car several miles away driving in an “erratic pattern,” the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said last month.
According to the warrant, Delke “became suspicious” when a white Chevrolet Impala stopped at a stop sign and “conceded the right of way by not pulling out in front of him.”
Delke ran the car’s license plate, the warrant says, and found the Impala was not a stolen vehicle. But the officer followed the vehicle anyway “to see if he could develop a reason to stop the Impala.”
Eventually, Delke lost track of the car, the warrant states. While searching, he “mistook a different white four door sedan” in the parking lot of an apartment building for the Impala.
As the officer pulled up, Hambrick began to run, and Delke chased him on foot, even though Delke had no reason to believe Hambrick was connected to any stolen vehicles, the warrant says.
In pursuit, Delke saw a gun in Hambrick’s hand, according to the warrant. The officer gave Hambrick several verbal commands, including, “Drop the gun or I’ll shoot,” it states.
Delke decided to fire when Hambrick kept running and didn’t drop the gun, the warrant states.
The officer fired four times, the warrant says. Hambrick was struck in the back of the head, the back and the left torso, with a fourth bullet hitting a nearby building.
Delke initially said he saw the same three men he’d earlier seen in the Impala as he pulled into the apartment complex, the TBI said last month.
In the arrest warrant, however, investigators assert Delke said he was never able to see the driver of the Impala or determine how many people were in that vehicle.
Criminal charge called a ‘necessary’ step
Nashville Mayor David Briley said prosecutors’ decision to charge Delke was “a necessary step.”
“Put simply, we must have laws that are fairly, equally and transparently applied,” Briley said in a statement.
While Briley said he supports his police force, officers accused of misconduct “will be required to account for their actions.”
The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee’s executive director, Hedy Weinberg, called the charge “a crucial first step in setting the wheels of accountability and justice in motion.”
“However, the arrest in and of itself sends an important – yet all too rare – message to the community that nobody is above the law,” Weinberg said in a statement.
CNN’s Tina Burnside, Darran Simon and Dakin Andone contributed to this report.