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Here’s what we know about the latest shooting by Nashville police — the ninth in 2021

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Body camera footage of a shooting by a Nashville police officer Monday shows how a roadside encounter quickly turned to gunfire.

In the edited video released by the Metro Nashville Police Department, the officer pulls the trigger less than a minute after he gets out of his car.

The video begins with School Resource Officer Byron Boelter parking his car and running toward a Nissan Altima that’s smoking on the side of the road. Paramedics have already arrived, and they’re pulling a young girl out of the car.

Then, Boelter keeps walking toward a Chevrolet Camaro that has veered off the road into a grassy field. He sees a young man sorting through his belongings from the open passenger door.

“Hey, just leave that stuff in there, man,” Boelter tells him. “Just go ahead and go.”

The young man walks away. But then another comes over. The officer and the two young men are all Black.

“Go ahead and go, man,” Boelter says again.

That’s when 20-year-old Rod Reed leans in and reaches toward a gun on the dashboard. Almost immediately, the officer fires.

This is a concept from Nashville’s police training called “action beats reaction.” If someone has a gun, officers are taught to shoot first.

But once Boelter pulls the trigger, there’s a young man writhing in pain on the ground. The officer is shouting orders one moment, then asking questions and telling him it’s going to be OK. He calls Reed “buddy” and “kid” and asks him why he reached for the gun.

“I was just trying to get it out of the car,” Reed says.

“I know, man,” the officer replies, before the footage fades to black.

In this case, Reed survived. Metro Police says he’s in stable condition and will be arrested on federal gun and drug charges.

Boelter, who joined the department in 2005, has been placed on administrative duty while the case is under investigation. Police records show Boelter was suspended three days in 2016 for violating the use-of-force policy.

The ninth shooting by Nashville Police this year

The shooting raises questions about the department’s use-of-force training and policies, in a record-setting year for shootings by Nashville Police. Officers have shot nine people — six fatally — in 2021. Two others killed themselves during encounters with local law enforcement.

MNPD updated its use-of-force policy this summer, to incorporate recommendations from the Community Oversight Board and the mayor’s Policing Policy Commission.

The revised document places more of an emphasis on de-escalation and instructs officers to consider 13 factors before they resort to violence. But it doesn’t explicitly require officers to de-escalate; rather, it says they “shall” do so when “feasible.”

Earlier this year, training Commander Scott Byrd told WPLN News that officers can only de-escalate if the people they’re interacting with “afford us the opportunity to be able to have conversations.” Those conversations rarely happen when someone is armed, though. The other person had a weapon in every shooting this year.

In a few cases, officers talked them down for minutes or even hours before firing their weapons. In others, they pulled the trigger within seconds.

The police department is reviewing all of the shootings to see if officers followed proper protocols. Metro Nashville Community Oversight and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation have also launched independent probes.

Prosecutors have not filed criminal charges in any of the cases. Only one Nashville officer, Andrew Delke, has ever been charged with murder for a shooting in the line of duty. He pled guilty to a lesser charge this summer and is serving a three-year sentence in the local jail.

Samantha Max covers criminal justice for WPLN and joins the newroom through the Report for America program. This is her second year with Report for America: She spent her first year in Macon, Ga., covering health and inequity for The Telegraph and macon.com.
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