NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Nashville NAACP president, Venita Lewis, called out the Metro Nashville Police Department Tuesday in response to the latest officer-involved shooting on Buchanan Street Sunday.
Police released multiple 911 calls from people who told the operator there was a man waving a gun in the air, threatening people with at least two businesses in the immediate area.
Police body camera video shows the officer arrive on scene and approach the man with the gun, telling him to drop the gun multiple times before shooting.
A surveillance camera video shows the 47-year-old man throw something, then reach in his jacket. The officer shot the man who then died at the hospital.
Lewis told News 2 she wasn’t surprised when she saw the video because the Black community is used to seeing events like this.
“If you are a Black man with a weapon, you’re a dead man,” Lewis said. “It doesn’t matter if there could have been less force used. We’re not looked at as a human being. We’re looked at as a target.”
She added she believes the officer didn’t take enough time to try to deescalate the situation or consider his possible mental health issues, which she said is an issue throughout North Nashville.
“Prior to the police officers answering the call, he had not shot anyone,” Lewis said. “You have to see which is the larger balance here. He had not shot at anyone; the caller said it looked like there was mental issues. That should have been the priority. All of that didn’t matter.”
Lewis admitted that someone waving a gun in the air could be a threat to public safety. When asked if she believed the officer may have feared for his life in that moment, Lewis responded, “Maybe, maybe not,” and added the man’s mental health should have been considered.
“If you’re having a mental moment, maybe had a drink or two, and you decide to let people know you have a gun, I’m pretty sure that nobody would have got shot, except he’s a Black man with a gun so he gets 10 bullets or gets shot at 10 times.”
Lewis plans to meet with Chief John Drake to build a working relationship and come up with a solution to address the issue.
She added she supports police, but said something needs to change.
In response, Metro police told News 2 the focus was on the man with the gun. A spokesperson added the officer responded to multiple 911 calls concerning a man waving a gun and yelling in the street with at least two open businesses in the immediate area.
The officer who was involved has been reassigned pending the result of the investigation.