A judge has made a decision about the future of the case against a Metro officer who shot and killed a black man in North Nashville last summer.
Davidson County General Sessions Judge Melissa Blackburn has sent the case to a Grand Jury for consideration.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys spent two days arguing evidence in the case against Officer Andrew Delke.
“The court is mindful of the fact that police work is stressful; that officers must make split-second decisions and often act in a heroic manner,” Judge Blackburn wrote in her decision.
Shortly after the judge’s decision was made, an attorney for Hambrick’s family released a statement, saying, “The family and supporters of Daniel Hambrick 100 percent agree with Judge Melissa Blackburn and her rationale for binding this homicide over to the grand jury. We applaud her courage while recognizing that it cannot be easy when the FOP attempts to intimidate and influence the system.”
Delke shot and killed Daniel Hambrick on July 26, 2018 after Hambrick ran from the officer.
Prosecutors emphasized that Hambrick was shot in the head while the defense maintained Delke followed police protocol and his training.
“The decision to pursue Mr. Hambrick on foot seems from this proof to have been prompted by mere assumptions. While this behavior was sufficient to cause Mr. Delke to exercise caution for his own safety, it did not justify the foot pursuit and the killing of a man suspected of no crime known to the defendant at that time,” Judge Blackburn wrote.
The judge’s decision means a grand jury will hear the case and determine if Delke should be indicted.
An indictment would send the case to criminal court and begin the path to a possible trial.
The prosecution maintains Delke’s use of force was unjustified, highlighting time and again that Hambrick was shot in the back while running away from the 25-year-old officer.
Meanwhile, District Attorney General Glenn Funk argued in his closing statements that inconsistencies in Delke’s interview with the TBI are a sign he did something wrong.
“People who say things that are obviously false are conscious of their own guilt,” said Funk.
Funk noted Delke is not seen in any surveillance video taking steps to “take cover,” and is intentional in his decision to shoot Hambrick – stopping and getting in position before firing, adding, “that’s not someone afraid of an imminent threat.”
In the end, Funk said, “Any person in Davidson County who shoots someone who is running away from them, shoots him in the back and kills them, needs to be held accountable for his actions.”
Late Monday afternoon, the Nashville Fraternal Order of Police issued a statement that read in part, “Obviously we believe the judge made the wrong decision. We remain hopeful that the citizens of the grand jury will see the facts more clearly than the judge did. Several hours of expert testimony proved that Officer Delke had good reason to fear that his life was in danger when this convicted felon, armed with a military grade semiautomatic weapon, pointed that loaded weapon at him. While it’s tragic that Mr. Hambrick’s actions caused his own death, many more people could have been killed that day, including Officer Delke.” Read the full statement here.