NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Metro Nashville Police Department released the full body-camera video of the shootout resulting in the death of 31-year-old Nika Holbert following an investigative traffic stop in North Nashville on Friday morning.
The 14-year veteran officer involved, Josh Baker, was shot by Holbert and is expected to be released from the hospital this week.
News 2 went through the body camera footage with a Nashville attorney to understand how this situation escalated so quickly.
“She made some very, very bad decisions, prior to shooting at the officer. But unfortunately, you just don’t understand her state of mind,” said Ashley Upkins, managing partner at The Cochran Firm.
Upkins has worked on several civil rights cases, including police conduct. She said despite the fact that this was a case of a white police officer pulling over a black driver, she does not believe the shootout was racially motivated. Instead, Upkins suggests the situation escalated due to systemic racial fears.
“I don’t think anyone can watch that video and not believe that she looked terrified and petrified,” Upkins explained.
This is the first time we are seeing an officer-involved shooting play out from MNPD’s new body cameras.
“I do appreciate the MNPD, particularly Chief Drake for releasing footage,” Upkins explained, “That is not as common to do that, and that quickly.”
Officer Baker pulled Holbert over because the plates of the black Chevrolet Camaro she was in were registered to 42-year-old Demond Buchanan, who had six outstanding drug warrants.
The traffic stop occurred in the parking lot of the Dollar General at Brick Church Pike and Ewing Drive at 9:30 a.m. Friday.
The newly-released full version of the video shows Baker pull behind the black Charger and a woman get out before he even exits his patrol car.
Baker realizes Buchanan is not the driver and that the woman is alone in the car. However, when he asks for a driver’s license and if she has anything in the car that he should know about, she immediately admits she does not have an ID and she does have weed.
Baker explains to Holbert why she is being detained, but we see her repeatedly defy his orders to stay out of the vehicle.
“He warned several times, ‘Don’t enter the vehicle, stand at the back of the vehicle,'” Upkins said.
Holbert leans inside the car time and time again, first for her purse, then her phone, later on even a lighter.
“Does she make bad decisions when interacting with the officer? Absolutely,” Upkins exclaimed, “I think in certain other circumstances some officers certainly would have restrained her when she went back into the vehicle.”
After repeatedly asking Holbert to stay out of the car, Baker then attempts to cuff her, but she refuses saying she hasn’t done anything wrong.
She grabs her purse off the hood and runs from him. That’s when he pulls out his taser.
“It’s an officer, he’s now pointing a black object at her. Does she know it’s a taser gun? Not sure,” Upkins explained the taser could be mistaken for a gun.
Holbert screams for help and manages to get back into the driver’s seat of the car. Baker continues to tase her, but she is still moving.
He tries the taser, again and again, even putting it directly on her body. Then, he notices that she’s picked up a gun.
He grabbed his patrol pistol and demanded that she drop the gun.
“Put the gun down!” Baker yells.
Holbert shoots several times and Baker then returns fire.
Baker survived a bullet to his torso. Holbert later died at the hospital.
“I do want to commend the officer for at least taking a non-lethal force first, because we’ve seen so many times in the case of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, the names are countless, those are just my some of the more recent,” Upkins said, “He tried to at least attempt to use non-lethal force first.”
“I also hope in the future, if there is some type of way that the tasers that are used are either a different color or they’re some identifier, I think would go a long way. If they were not silver or black or, look very similar to a gun,” she added.
As of right now, police could not tell us if the taser worked the way it should have. Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is conducting a full investigation. MNPD is also conducting its own investigation.