NASHVILLE, Tenn (WKRN) — The local chapter of the NAACP and Landon Eastep’s family are now calling for police reform after the 37-year-old man, who was holding a boxcutter on the side of I-65, was shot and killed by nine police officers Thursday afternoon.
Eastep’s wife, Chelsey, says her husband left their home “agitated” on Thursday morning and went for a walk.
Around 2 p.m. a Tennessee State Trooper spotted him sitting on a guardrail on I-65 north just south of Harding Place. The THP Trooper offered him a ride, and that’s when the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation says Eastep pulled out a box cutter.
As things escalated, the trooper called for backup. While other units were en route, an off-duty Mt. Juliet police officer also arrived on the scene.
Body camera footage released by the Metro Nashville Police Department shows officers talking with Eastep for about 30 minutes and repeatedly asking him to drop the box cutter. He did not comply.
In the videos released, you can also see officers pointing their guns at Eastep, who was pacing back and forth with the box cutter in his hand.
“Come on brother just put your hands up. Drop the knife and lets figure this out,” an officer can be heard saying on the body camera footage. “Let us get you some help though. This is not the answer. You and I know it!”
Eventually, Eastep pulled a shiny, cylindrical object from his pocket and aimed it towards officers. The stance he took looked as if he may have been holding a gun. That’s when six Metro officers, two THP troopers and the off-duty Mt. Juliet officer all fired in his direction and fatally wounded him.
Chelsey Eastep’s lawyer, Joy Kimbrough, said Landon was “executed” by the officers that fired more than 30 shots. She thinks mental health isn’t a priority for the Metro Nashville Police Department.
“I think they should’ve been getting him some type of help. Some type of help. I don’t think they should’ve been standing there with guns drawn waiting to shoot,” Kimbrough said. “It’s sad but it’s not surprising, because mental health isn’t a priority with them. It’s guns, it’s tasers, it’s all about violence. Violence is number one with them. I’m starting to wonder if they need mental health treatment because it makes no sense that wherever they go there’s some bodies laying behind them.”
Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake announced Friday that the pilot co-response program that pairs mental health clinicians with certain officers in the Hermitage and North Precincts will be expanded in the near future to include the Central (downtown) and Midtown Hills Precincts.
“This department regularly reviews critical incidents, and the work on this one has begun. I am saddened by any loss of life, and I send my condolences to the Eastep family,” Chief Drake said.
At least one Metro officer that fired two final shots towards Eastep from a rifle has been decommissioned. Chief Drake says Officer Brian Murphy’s actions are under review.
The other five Metro officers that fired their weapons are on administrative leave for the duration of the investigation.
“Landon was all-around exceptional and he tried to go above and beyond to do anything that he could to make anybody happy,” Chelsey Eastep said.
Kimbrough said Landon may have been schizophrenic and bipolar, but he was not suicidal. Criminal records from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation show he was charged with domestic assault last year in Nashville and Chelsey filed two orders of protection against him. At least one of them has been dropped.
During Friday’s press conference, Kimbrough said Landon and Chelsey sometimes struggled “financially” and “emotionally,” but they were very much in love. They were married in May 2021.
“He loved her and she loves him. She loves him and he was just snatched away too soon,” Kimbrough said.
The TBI is leading the investigation and will eventually present its findings to the district attorney’s office.