NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Two days after a Metro Nashville police officer shot and killed a suspect who was holding his housemate hostage at knifepoint in Antioch, a retired police chief with more than 30 years of law enforcement experience broke down the police body camera video.
Metro police said 30-year-old Joshua Kersey’s family called 911 Monday evening after he allegedly stole his sister’s car keys and was driving around drunk. When he returned home, he got into a heated argument with his family, according to officers.
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News 2 obtained 911 calls where a woman identifying herself as Kersey’s mother told the operator her son was severely mentally ill.
“He’s my son and well, he has severe mental issues,” she said. “When he drinks, he gets violent. He’s in the house with the kids right now, and I’m really scared.”
Troy Riggs, a retired chief of police for two major departments and retired public safety director for three cities, watched the events unfold on body camera after police arrived on scene.
“It’s a troublesome time when you’re dealing with someone you’ve been told is on alcohol and has a mental health issue. That is a deadly combination in many cases,” Riggs said.
Officers are shown on body camera video negotiating with Kersey for 40 minutes while Kersey was threatening to kill his housemate he was holding hostage at knifepoint.
“Open the door and I’ll slit his [expletive] throat,” a man, presumingly Kersey, was heard yelling behind the bedroom door. “You got a choice. You open the door, and you kill me and you kill him, or you go away,” he added.
“Josh, right now you’re not in trouble buddy,” an officer said.
“We’re concerned for you, alright?” another officer said.
“[The officers] were showing amazing restraint during that entire thing,” Riggs said. “The little snippets that we’ve been provided here I think show the officers were doing their best to de-escalate the situation.”
After officers heard a scuffle from behind the door, they made entry into the bedroom, according to the video.
“They didn’t go into an aggressive posture until the individual seemed to be attacking someone behind the closed door. They made that decision with the best information they had at the time, and just looking briefly at this video, you can see why they would make that decision,” Riggs said.
The body camera video then shows the moment Metro officer Cole Ranseen shot Kersey who was lying on his back next to the hostage.
Riggs told News 2 having a hostage can complicate an already tense situation because officers have a duty to protect their lives too. He said investigators will consider many elements in addition to the body camera video to determine whether the shooting was justified, including what officers heard and saw outside of the video and the threats made by Kersey.
“The officers have the responsibility to protect themselves obviously, but they also have the responsibility to protect the victim, so where was that knife accordingly close to the victim, were they scuffling, were they thinking that this individual’s life was in danger, all that is going to be brought out in the investigation,” Riggs said.
Riggs encouraged the public to refrain from making any conclusions about the case until the investigation is complete, and if there are any wrong-doings, he said people should hold the department accountable.
He added people who find themselves in a similar situation should call for help as soon as possible.
“A lot of times officers get to this situation because individuals didn’t think about calling police sooner because they love someone. If you have someone you know or you are around someone that’s acting strangely, they’re argumentative, they’re angry, you know they have a mental health issue, they’re drinking, call police early. You may be saving someone’s life. You could be saving your own life by doing that,” Riggs said. “The best thing you can do is get them help early before it gets out of control.”
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation will conduct an independent investigation into the officer-involved shooting, and the District Attorney’s office will determine whether charges should be filed.