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Lawyer: Ex-officer reaches plea deal in Black man’s death

July 2, 2021 GMT
FILE - In this Nov. 13, 2019, file photo, Nashville Police Officer Andrew Delke sits in court as attorney David Raybin debates a new trial location at the Justice A. A. Birch Building in Nashville, Tenn. Prosecutors in Tennessee who are preparing for the first-degree murder trial of Delke, a Nashville police officer, next month may try to call a law enforcement expert witness who served similarly in the case against Derek Chauvin in George Floyd’s death. (Courtney Pedroza/The Tennessean via AP, File)
FILE - In this Nov. 13, 2019, file photo, Nashville Police Officer Andrew Delke sits in court as attorney David Raybin debates a new trial location at the Justice A. A. Birch Building in Nashville, Tenn. Prosecutors in Tennessee who are preparing for the first-degree murder trial of Delke, a Nashville police officer, next month may try to call a law enforcement expert witness who served similarly in the case against Derek Chauvin in George Floyd’s death. (Courtney Pedroza/The Tennessean via AP, File)

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A white former Nashville police officer will plead guilty to voluntary manslaughter Friday just ahead of his first-degree murder trial, three years after he fatally shot an armed Black man from behind during a foot chase, his attorney confirmed Thursday.

Attorney David Raybin made the confirmation on behalf of 27-year-old former Officer Andrew Delke, who was about to face trial for a first-degree murder charge over the death of 25-year-old Daniel Hambrick in July 2018. The shooting occurred before the death of George Floyd and the trial would have come after the conviction and sentencing of Derek Chauvin in Floyd’s murder.

Delke submitted his resignation Thursday, Metro Nashville Police Department spokesperson Don Aaron said. Delke had been decommissioned, which means he had to turn over his gun but was able to work a desk job and still get paid.

The attorney for Hambrick’s family, Joy Kimbrough, said Hambrick’s mother, Vickie Hambrick, was not contacted or consulted and did not know about the plea deal until after it was done. Kimbrough said the deal includes a three-year prison sentence. Raybin declined to comment on any sentence length.

“She’s very upset about it. She’s distraught about it. And she has said it’s like losing her son all over again,” Kimbrough said of Hambrick’s mother.

A spokesperson for District Attorney Glenn Funk said he could not confirm anything.

After COVID-19 delays and pretrial back-and-forth, jury selection was slated to start next week in the case. The trial was going to center on a handgun Hambrick was holding that Delke claims was pointed at him for a moment, which prosecutors dispute and video footage doesn’t show.

Prosecutors focused on surveillance footage that captured the shooting, in which Delke stops chasing and shoots the fleeing man. Defense attorneys have contended there was a 36-foot blindspot and plenty could have happened there. There were dozens of cameras, and defense attorneys contended that it was possible that more footage was caught of that blindspot, but wasn’t reviewed by investigators before it was automatically overwritten on the system.

The month after the shooting, Funk released surveillance footage of the shooting publicly, sparking wider attention and outcry. Delke was charged in September 2018, and the shooting caused enough backlash that voters that November installed a community oversight board for Nashville’s police department.

Convicting an officer for an on-duty death remains a tall order. Since 2005, there have been 143 nonfederal sworn law enforcement officers with arrest powers arrested for murder or manslaughter resulting from an on-duty shooting throughout the U.S., with only 45 convicted of a crime resulting from the on-duty shooting, according to a tally from Bowling Green State University criminal justice professor Philip Stinson.

Criminal cases for 53 of the officers ended in a non-conviction, while 45 cases are still pending, according to the findings.

Nineteen of those 45 convicted were through a guilty plea — similar to what is planned in Delke’s case — while the rest were through a jury conviction, according to Stinson’s research.

In only 25 of the 143 arrests did the person who was fatally shot have a gun; just five were convicted, according to Stinson’s tally. He said there’s always risk for prosecutors that a case like this could end in an acquittal or a mistrial with a hung jury.

“It’s not uncommon for the case to end in a guilty plea and it’s not uncommon for the case to end in a guilty plea on the eve of trial, either,” Stinson said.

Delke’s attorneys argued the officer followed his training and Tennessee law in response to “an armed suspect who ignored repeated orders to drop his gun.” Funk argued Delke had other alternatives, adding that the officer could have stopped, sought cover and called for help.

On the day of the shooting, Delke was in his patrol car as part of a juvenile-focused unit looking for stolen cars and known juvenile offenders. He followed a car despite learning it was not stolen and never saw the driver or determined how many people were inside, according to an arrest affidavit. The car didn’t pull over as it headed onto the interstate and Delke put on the sirens. He followed from a distance and lost track of the car for some time.

Delke later pulled into a public housing complex and Hambrick was standing outside the car and began running. Delke chased Hambrick and yelled at him to stop, though the officer didn’t know Hambrick’s identity or if he was connected to the car he had been pursuing, the affidavit says.

Hambrick wouldn’t drop a gun despite Delke’s instructions, the affidavit says. Delke “stopped, assumed a firing position, and aimed his service weapon,” firing four times, it says. One shot hit Hambrick’s back, another his torso and a third the back of his head. The fourth shot missed.

Nashville’s Metro Council has approved a $2.25 million settlement to resolve a lawsuit by Hambrick’s family.