A Tennessee sheriff has been sued for excessive force for urging his deputies to shoot a man during a car chase rather than risk further damage to their vehicles by ramming him. The man, Michael Dial, who was unarmed, was killed by deputies by a gunshot to his head when he was still in his vehicle.
White County Sheriff Oddie Shoupe was heard rehashing the events leading up to Dial’s death on one of his deputy’s body cameras, according to court documents filed in federal court by Robyn Spainhoward, the victim’s widow.
“I told him, I said, ‘Take him out damn, I don’t give a shit’,” Shoupe said on the recording. “He said, ‘we’ll ram him,’ I said, ‘Don’t ram him, shoot him.’ Fuck that shit. Ain’t gonna tear my cars up.”
“Let me tell you something,” Shoupe said as part of the same conversation. “If they don’t think I’ll give the order to kill that motherfucker, they’re full of shit.”
And then, finally, according to the complaint, Shoupe expressed disappointment that he hadn’t witnessed the shooting himself.
“I love this shit,” said Shoupe. “I thrive on it.”
The incident, which took place on April 13, 2017, began in Smithville, located in the next county over, and about 30 minutes from Sparta, which is the White County seat. Smithville Police, responding to reports of a shoplifting at Walmart, questioned Dial. They discovered he was carrying a suspended driver license and his license plate didn’t match to the 1976 Chevrolet pickup truck, which was hitched to a loaded trailer that he was driving.
Police determined Dial wasn’t a suspect in the shoplifting, but told him he couldn’t drive away because of his license status.Rather than obey their orders, Dial fled. Smithville police contacted Tennessee Highway Patrol. When Dial crossed over into White County, White County Sheriff deputies and Sparta police joined in the 17-mile chase.
During the chase, Dial can be seen in police dashcam video refusing to be pulled over, and ramming several law enforcement vehicles, leaving three officers with non-life-threatening injuries.
In the dashcam footage obtained by WTVF, Shoupe gave orders to use deadly force. Upon receiving the orders, Deputy Adam West unholstered his firearm. Meanwhile, another deputy successfully forced Dial off the highway and into a ditch. He drove down a hill.
West fired at Dial’s vehicle three times, one of which hit Dial. Just seconds after Dial crashed into a tree, “Deputy West reloaded his firearm and fired an additional shot.” He was unresponsive when he was pulled from the vehicle, airlifted to a hospital where he was later pronounced dead.
“There was no imminent safety threat that required the use of deadly force,” the complaint states.
The lawsuit, filed last week in Middle District court of Tennessee, Nashville Division, also names the city of Sparta, White County, Deputy Adam West, and Officer Charlie Sims as co-defendants. The victims and the defendants are white.
White County Sheriff’s office declined to comment due to the fact that the case is being investigated.
Cover: Dashcam video screen shot courtesy of NewsChannel5.com.