Landon Eastep, 37, died in a hail of bullets along Interstate 65 on Thursday afternoon following a standoff with officers from Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD), Texas Highway Patrol (THP) troopers, and an off-duty Mt. Juliet Police officer.
A critical incident video, which includes excerpts of bodycam footage from two officers and commentary from MNPD spokesperson Don Aaron, was shared by MNPD late on Thursday night in order to give “a better understanding of what we know about what occurred up to now”.
It shows Mr Eastep with his hand in the right pocket of his sweatshirt and an item in his left hand – identified as a box cutter by police.
Off-duty Mt. Juliet officer James Kidd is heard repeatedly pleading with Mr Eastep “don’t do it” and reassuring him that he can get him help.
Officer Kidd tells him multiple times to take his right hand out of his pocket and to drop the box cutter.
Following several minutes of dialogue, Mr Eastep then appears to draw his hand out of his right pocket and point something in the direction of the officer.
At that moment, several rounds of gunfire ring out and the 37-year-old falls to the ground.
MNPD spokesperson Aaron said that the officers opened fire because Mr Eastep acted as though he had a gun.
“Nine law enforcement personnel fired their weapons after Eastep took a stance as if he had a firearm,” he said.
Mr Aaron confirmed that the “shiny cylindrical object” in Mr Eastep’s hand was not a firearm.
The fatal encounter unfolded when a Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper spotted Mr Eastep sitting on a guardrail on the shoulder of Interstate 65 shortly before 2pm on Thursday afternoon.
Officials said that the trooper stopped to offer to give the 37-year-old a ride home in order to get him off the busy road but, after a brief interaction, Mr Eastep allegedly pulled out a box cutter.
MNPD officers were called to the scene as backup at 1:55pm.
Officer Kidd was off duty at the time and was travelling north along the interstate with his family and so stopped to assist with the encounter, police said.
Mr Aaron said Officer Kidd attempted to deescalate the situation by speaking with Mr Eastep for around 30 minutes.
All the while, the 37-year-old had the box cutter in his left hand and his right hand in his pocket, police said.
The first bodycam footage released, taken from Officer Kidd’s bodyworn camera, shows the last roughly four minutes of the interaction with Mr Eastep.
In the video, Mr Eastep is seen standing in one lane on the interstate from where Officer Kidd is stood facing opposite him from the other lane.
The officer has his firearm pointed at Mr Eastep and, during the footage, a number of other officers are seen to the left and right of Officer Kidd with weapons drawn.
Officer Kidd is heard urging him to “drop it brother” and “don’t do it, brother” multiple times.
“Landon, come on man. Just drop it brother,” says the officer.
“Landon come on brother, let me help you out ... You will not end up in jail.”
The officer continues to say his name as Landon is seen glancing around him at other officers and taking steps back and forth in the road.
“Landon look at me, look at me,” says Officer Kidd.
“No don’t do it, don’t do it, do not do it, brother.”
The officer reassures him that he can get him help and that “we can fix it” and he “will not go to jail today”.
“I give you my word. My word means something. I keep it,” he says.
“I promise you, you will not go to jail today whatever you’re worried about we can fix it.
“Let us get you some help though. This is not the answer – you and I know it.”
It is not clear if Mr Eastep has previously raised concerns about going to jail during his encounter with the officers.
Court records show that he had an outstanding charge of domestic assault with bodily injury dated from November and was due to appear in court in April.
The officer also repeatedly tells him he doesn’t want to hurt him.
“We don’t want to hurt you, we don’t want to shoot you and you don’t want to hurt us,” he says.
“I got kids to go, I got a family to go home to and I was on my way to do that but God put me here to help you out today and you know it and I know it.”
He continues: “I don’t want you to end up dead at the side of an interstate.”
Mr Eastep is heard responding to Officer Kidd at several points but it is not clear what he says.
At one point, he appears to ask the officer to remove his sunglasses so they are “eye to eye”.
The officer continues to plead with Mr Eastep throughout the footage and offers to get him an ambulance.
“Come on brother, just drop the knife, put your hand up and let’s figure this out,” he says.
“Just drop it brother. That’s all you got to do, I promise you.
“Get your hand out your pocket, drop your knife and I guarantee you I will have an ambulance here to help you out.”
Other officers are also heard on occasion telling him “don’t do it”.
Moments before the shooting, the officer is heard referencing whether Mr Eastep has a gun in his pocket where he is keeping his right hand.
It is not clear if the 37-year-old ever tells officers what is in his pocket.
“Just drop the knife, get your hand out your pocket,” he says.
“If that’s a gun you got in there, don’t worry about it we’ll figure it out, we’ll fix it.
“I’m not too worried about that right now, I’m worried about you, I’m worried about you Landon.
“Just drop it, I know you want to do the right thing here and this is your chance.”
At this moment, Mr Eastep is not visible in the footage from behind the officer’s outstretched firearm.
The officer is heard becoming increasingly concerned saying “no, no, no”.
He lifts his firearm up and Mr Eastep is visible again.
The 37-year-old appears to pull something from his right pocket and point it towards the officer as several shots ring out.
A short clip of bodycam footage was also released from a second officer, MNPD Officer Sean Williams, giving a different angle of the final moments of the incident.
It reveals Mr Eastep taking a sudden step forward and drawing something from his right pocket and moving his arm in the direction of Officer Kidd, before multiple shots are fired.
Mr Eastep was taken to hospital where he was pronounced dead.
MNPD spokesperson Aaron said that nine officers fired their weapons including six MNPD officers, two THP troopers and the off-duty Mt. Juliet officer.
At least one of the officers on the scene had a Taser, he said, but it was not deployed during the encounter.
The MNPD officers were identified as Officers James Kidd, Justin Pinkelton, Sean Williams, Edin Plancic, Sgt. Steven Carrick and Officer Brian Murphy.
They have also been placed on routine administrative assignment as the investigation is under way.
The two state troopers have not been identified and it is not clear if they have been placed on administrative leave during the investigation. The Independent has reached out to the THP for comment.
The investigation into the officer-involved shooting is being led by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and the Nashville District Attorney’s office. MNPD is also carrying out an administrative review of the shooting.
Mr Eastep’s sister-in-law Samantha McGill-Barge said she was baffled to learn he was on the highway and wasn’t aware there was anything wrong.
“He loved my sister and my kids very much and, to my knowledge, was a good guy. It’s a very unfortunate situation. I’m in shock. I was at home with my kids when I found out,” she told The Daily Beast.
Ms McGill-Barge added that Mr Eastep’s wife was in contact with a lawyer but had no plans to take legal action.
In a GoFundMe for Mr Eastep’s wife Chelesey, she wrote that he was killed “with over 20 shots in very close rage by Metro Nashville officers”.
“This man had only a box cutter and had already shown it to officers before they killed him in cold blood.”
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