Nashville police officer Andrew Delke’s defense attorneys said Monday that District Attorney Glenn Funk has “declared war on the police department.”
Nothing, Funk’s office said, “could be further from the truth.”
Delke, 25, who is white, fatally shot Daniel Hambrick, also 25, who was black, during a July 26 foot pursuit. Funk decided to charge Delke with criminal homicide in September after reviewing evidence collected by the TBI.
Delke is the first Nashville officer to be charged after an on-duty shooting.He is still employed by the Metro Nashville Police Department, defense attorneys confirmed.
Judge Melissa Blackburn filed a written ruling Monday to send the case to a grand jury.
Comparisons to Nuremberg war crimes trials
Defense attorneys David Raybin, left, and John M.L. Brown hold a press conference Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn., after the ruling by Judge Melissa Blackburn that the criminal homicide charge against Nashville police officer Andrew Delke will go to the grand jury for further consideration. Delke is charged with criminal homicide in the on-duty shooting of Daniel Hambrick.
Defense attorneys David Raybin, left, and John M.L. Brown hold a press conference Monday, Jan. 7, 2019, in Nashville, Tenn., after the ruling by Judge Melissa Blackburn that the criminal homicide charge against Nashville police officer Andrew Delke will go to the grand jury for further consideration. Delke is charged with criminal homicide in the on-duty shooting of Daniel Hambrick. (Photo: George Walker IV / The Tennessean)
During the preliminary hearing, which spanned two days, Delke’s defense team said the officer was following his training when he saw Hambrick holding a gun before engaging in a foot pursuit and shooting him in the back.
Delke’s defense team is led by Nashville attorney David Raybin, who also the counsel for the local branch of the Fraternal Order of Police.
Funk compared that defense to an argument “used at Nuremberg” when trials were held against Nazi leaders. Funk pushed back at the defense’s contention that Delke had to shoot Hambrick as he ran away.
“There were a number of options that were available,” Funk said during the hearing, suggesting Delke could have stopped, sought cover and called for help.
Monday, Raybin fought back.
“By making that statement, the district attorney Glenn Funk has functionally declared war on our police because all of our officers are trained in an identical fashion,” Raybin said. “Let me be clear, Nashville police officers are not Nazis.”
He refused to elaborate.
Warning, this video has graphic content Nashville Tennessean
Steve Hayslip, a spokesperson for the district attorney, disputed Raybin’s portrayal.
“General Funk’s comments during the preliminary hearing were that individuals are accountable for their actions and cannot assign blame to their superiors or the department as a whole,” Hayslip said in an emailed statement.
“This case is about Andrew Delke and his actions, not the MNPD.”
Police union responds
Later Monday afternoon, the Fraternal Order of Police released a statement in response to the ruling.
“We believe that the judge made the wrong decision. We remain hopeful that the citizens on the grand jury will see the facts more clearly than the judge did,” local FOP President James Smallwood said in an emailed statement.
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Smallwood also waded into the sparring over the Nuremberg comments, calling on Funk to apologize and requesting that Nashville Mayor David Briley respond.
“Thousands of police families and their supporters were disgusted when District Attorney Glenn Funk compared Nashville police officers to Nazis. Our officers work diligently every day to protect and serve this community. Any suggestion that insinuates our officers are comparable to Nazis is unbecoming of a public official,” Smallwood said.
Training vs. personal decisions
Blackburn expressed sympathy in her order Monday for the life-or-death decisions that officers must make in their jobs. But, she stressed that the evidence did not support Delke shooting at Hambrick.
“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,” Blackburn said in the two-page ruling sending the case to the grand jury. “This does not justify the pursuit of a man suspected of no crime following the trailing of a car not apparently involved in any criminal activity.
“The decision to pursue Mr. Hambrick on foot seems from this proof to have been prompted by mere assumptions.”