A lawsuit is being brought against a Tennessee sheriff after footage revealed him encouraging other officers involved in a vehicle pursuit to shoot the suspect with deadly force rather than attempt to subdue him.
The widow of suspect Michael Zennie Dial II brought the case against Sheriff Oddie Shoupe of White County. In the aftermath of the shooting, Shoupe can also be heard in body cam footage taking great pleasure in Dial’s killing. “I love this shit,” Shoupe said. “God, I tell you what, I thrive on it. If they don’t think I’ll give the damn order to kill that motherf--ker, they’re full of shit. Take him out.”
During the course of the pursuit, Shoupe provided instructions to the police dispatcher. Audio on the dash cam footage reveals that his order to kill was also motivated by a desire to keep patrol cars dent- and scratch-free. “They [other officers] said, ‘We’re ramming him;’ I said, ‘Don’t ram him, shoot him.’ F--k that shit. Ain’t gonna tear up my cars,” Shoupe said. Videos of the incident can be found here and here.
Police began pursuing Dial after reports of shoplifting at a Wal-Mart in the nearby town of Smithville. The suspect, believed to be 33-year-old Dial of nearby Clarksville, had a revoked driver license, while his license plate did not match the vehicle he was driving, a 1976 Ford pickup.
The pursuing officers were able to successfully run Dial off the road, at which time Reserve Deputy Adam West and Officer Charlie Simms fired at least three shots at Dial, killing him as his truck slid down a nearby embankment.
There is nothing about the incident which could in any way be interpreted as an act of self-defense by the officers. It was, in fact, as the sheriff’s comments make especially clear, a barbaric act of deliberate state murder.
Nonetheless, an investigation conducted by the Tennessee District Attorney’s Office last June cleared the officers of any wrongdoing. The investigation found that Dial “was a dangerous and unstable subject who posed a serious and immediate risk of serious bodily injury or death to both law enforcement officers as well as other citizens in the immediate area.”
At the time, he was driving a 1970s-era pickup truck with a fully loaded utility trailer behind it. Sherriff’s deputies later said this pursuit that had supposedly posed the risk of innocent casualties more closely resembled a “funeral procession,” with speeds topping out at 50 miles an hour.
Robyn Spainhoward, Michael’s widow, is currently suing White County Sheriff Shoupe, Deputy West and Sparta Officer Simms for use of excessive force. The lawsuit contends that Shoupe himself “preferred to shoot and kill Mr. Dial rather than risk damaging his patrol cars.”
Spainhoward herself believes her husband drove away because he was scared. “They could have let him go 10 more miles down the road, he probably would have run out of gas. I just hope he knows I loved him,” she said. She contends that Dial was on his way to sell goods at a flea market when police hunted him down.
When interviewed about the shooting after it occurred in April of last year, Spainhoward wondered why other non-lethal means couldn’t have been used. “Why fire shots? Why shoot?” she said. “Don’t they have those things they throw down, they have nails in to pop your tires? Why would they have to shoot him?”
Shoupe became a notorious figure in the Central Tennessee area after residents complained in 2016 of his policy of entering residences without a search warrant on the pretext of searching for individuals under arrest. In many of these cases, individuals who had no knowledge of the individuals under arrest were aroused in the middle of the night in their bedrooms by police officers with guns drawn.
Central Tennessee lies in the Appalachian region, with notoriously high levels of poverty and unemployment. The official poverty rate in Tennessee is 15.8 percent, according to a 2016 report of the US census bureau. The rate in the Appalachian region where Dial was from is approximately 2 percent higher.
Recent reports also found more than one-fourth of Tennessee children living in poverty, an increase since the start of the “Great Recession” in 2008. The percentage of children whose parents lack secure employment also worsened over the same period, standing at 34 percent.
With a state population that is 78.7 percent white, according to the US Census Bureau, such indices of social devastation provide an unanswerable indictment of identity politics and the concept of “white privilege” incessantly peddled by the Democratic Party and its pseudo-left accomplices. They demonstrate that the fundamental issues behind police killings of individuals such as Dial, a white man himself, are those of social class.
According to the web site killedbypolice.net, 133 individuals have been killed by police thus far this year. Nearly 1,300 have also been killed since Donald Trump assumed the presidency in January 2017. Trump, building on a record of unchecked police violence under the previous Obama administration, had notoriously encouraged police to mistreat suspects. “Don’t be too nice,” he said in a public speech to supporters. He encouraged police to treat detainees “rough.”
In a development related to the issues in the Dial lawsuit, an audience at an emergency town hall meeting in Los Angeles, California erupted in anger on Wednesday. On Sunday, Los Angeles sheriff’s deputies shot and killed 16-year-old Anthony Weber after a foot chase. They said they had spotted a handgun tucked into his pants, although no gun was found at the scene.
Weber’s father held up a picture of his son’s body on the ground. “Where’s the gun?” he said. “I know where the bullets are, they’re right in my baby’s back.” When Weber’s brother John, also present at the meeting, asked the assembled police commissioners if his family and community was “due something,” a police captain replied, “Absolutely not.”