Nashville’s district attorney has cleared Metro Police Officer Joshua Lippert in the fatal shooting of a man in February.
District Attorney Glenn Funk made the announcement Thursday at the headquarters of the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
"In the application of the law of self defense in the state of Tennessee, Officer Lippert has a legally sufficient claim of self defense, and therefore the state will not pursue criminal charges,” Funk said.
The city's top prosecutor said Jocques Clemmons, 31, fled from the officer after a traffic stop. Lippert gave chase, saw that Clemmons had a gun, and ultimately shot him three times in the back.
Funk said the most important evidence came from a witness to the chase and the shooting. He said her account matched surveillance footage.
Mayor Megan Barry, who spoke after Funk, expressed sympathy to Clemmons’ family, but said she's confident District Attorney Glenn Funk made the right decision by opting not to pursue charges. And she said that decision was not influenced by an earlier Metro Nashville Police Department report that said Clemmons' killing was justified.
“General Funk and the TBI investigated this. They had the facts at hand, and the report they made today about whether or not to charge Officer Lippert was done in a fair and unbiased manner,” Barry said.
She went on to acknowledge lingering fear of the police in some communities. She vowed to continue to work toward improved relations, including by bringing body cameras to the department.
Police Chief Steve Anderson did not attend the announcement and spoke later. The mayor said that was to avoid the appearance of bias, as the officer still faces administrative proceedings for the shooting.
Internal Findings Scrutinized By Prosecutor
Earlier Thursday, the police department released its own internal review, exonerating Lippert of any wrongdoing.
The department said he was justified in using deadly force, even though Clemmons never pointed his gun at the officer.
Police had first claimed Clemmons body-checked Lippert before fleeing, but additional surveillance video footage of the confrontation voluntarily released by the police department proved Clemmons never touched the officer.
Police also found Lippert was justified in picking up Clemmons’ gun and putting it in his own pocket to protect himself.
While the district attorney agreed with that police department finding, his team is raising concerns with potential bias in the Metro Police report.
For one, his office notes that police were calling the officer a “victim” from the very beginning. Metro police also didn’t wait for the state investigation to conclude before making their own determination.
Coalition Decries 'Precedent'
Reactions to the decision came quickly Thursday.
The Justice for Jocques Coalition also issued a statement saying the evidence is clear that Clemmons was fleeing when he was shot, and they say Lippert's were wantonly and capriciously violent.
“We do not need trigger happy officers running amok in our communities,” the group said. “They will only be emboldened now that they see that there will be no consequences for their actions.”
Rev John Faison: The culture of MNPD must change. pic.twitter.com/LrSA6olIZ0
— Chas Sisk (@chassisk) May 11, 2017
The director of the ACLU of Tennessee has also released a statement.
Hedy Weinberg said the decision against charging the officer, “leaves behind a cloud of profound and unsettling questions for the city of Nashville. If Officer Lippert did not violate the law, then is anyone responsible for Jocques Clemmons' death?”
Weinberg called for more fairness in policing, including backing the mayor’s move to deploy police body cameras — but also urged Nashville to create an independent community oversight board of the police, which the mayor has resisted.
Weinberg also urged police to review their training tactics.