An unarmed black man suffering from bipolar disorder live-streamed his own police shooting on Thursday.
Rodney James Hess, 36, appeared to be having some type of psychological episode while driving through Tennessee after visiting his mother in Memphis. Officers were called when he parked at a perpendicular angle and blocked traffic on a highway offramp.
Officers claim that Hess refused commands, made “erratic statements,” and that he attempted to hit officers with his vehicle. Officers then fired into his car multiple times.
Hess’s Facebook Live video, however, seems to tell a different story. It’s difficult to decipher what is happening in the footage, but Hess can be heard requesting to speak to the officer’s supervisors, quietly saying “I would like the higher commands to come out.” Hess seems to attempt to get out of the car, and then multiple gunshot are immediately heard.
Hess tried to drive away after being shot, but quickly stopped again and died in his vehicle. The video can be seen here:
“At the time there was no threat,” Hess family lawyer Don Rouzan told CNN. “He was asking for a supervising officer and they opened fire.”
“During the escalation of events, at least one Crockett County deputy fired his service weapon through the front windshield of the vehicle driven by Hess, striking him,” said Tennessee Bureau of Investigtion spokesman Josh DeVine. “At this time, we do not believe Hess used a firearm in connection to this incident.”
TBI is currently investigating the shooting, though Devine noted that “The decision as to whether the deputy’s actions were justified rests solely with the district attorney general.”
“I found out as it was happening,” his fiancee told reporters for The Commercial Appeal. “I was at work and my aunt called me and was like, ‘Rodney is in trouble.’ He was on Facebook and I logged on and I watched it…
“He couldn’t get his mind together. That’s why he asked for a higher command. I always told him, ‘Babe, if you are ever in a situation where you need help, ask the person in charge for the higher command to help you,’ and that’s what he kept saying…
“He was not on a suicide mission. He was not trying to harm anybody. He was asking them for help and they shot him down.”
Nathan Wellman is a Los Angeles-based journalist, author, and playwright. His less-political Youtube channel can be found here. Follow him on Twitter: @LightningWOW