As would be inevitable, epidemic-level police violence finally crossed the Thin Blue Line on Wednesday, when an off-duty Tennessee sheriff’s deputy in the midst of his birthday celebration was shot and killed — by fellow cops.
Two off-duty female officers with the Chattanooga Police Department were celebrating with Hamilton County Deputy Daniel Hendrix, when he reportedly became distressed, pulled his weapon, and refused to follow commands from officers responding to the quickly deteriorating situation to drop his gun.
Although details remain murky, Chattanooga police officers fired several times, killing Hendrix mere hours after he turned 26 — unwittingly, and quite ironically, adding the name of a law enforcement officer to a shamefully lengthy list of police victims.
Media reports and statements from authorities did not make clear whether Hendrix actually pointed the firearm at the off-duty officers attending his birthday, or at Chattanooga officers summoned by dispatch — only that a gun had been drawn and he refused to relinquish control.
“For reasons still under investigation,” a statement from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation reads, “Hendrix appears to have changed his demeanor, became agitated, armed himself with a personal firearm, and threatened the two women, who later managed to flee the home during the exchange.”
Josh DeVine, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokesman, explained the corrections deputy — for reasons unknown — became “enraged,” brandished his firearm, and proceeded to menace the women present.
“Both women fled the home and one called 911 at 1:26 a.m.,” the Times Free Pressreports. “Two additional Chattanooga police officers arrived on scene and found Hendrix holding the weapon, but he refused to comply with verbal commands to drop the weapon and one of the responding officers fired at him at least four times.”
Neighbor Anita Franklin had just returned home from work when ‘five or six loud gunshots in rapid succession’ shattered the calm in the ordinarily sleepy neighborhood.
“It sounded like it was right in my yard,” she told the Times Free Press. “I didn't even look out the window.”
Emergency services rushed to the scene and rendered first aid until Hendrix could be transported to a nearby hospital — where he succumbed to his wounds a short time later.
A gun recovered from the scene is believed by authorities to have belonged to and been brandished by the deputy, but whether or not he ever fired the weapon has either not been determined, or not been made public. It should be noted, however, that if Hendrix had indeed fired the gun, authorities almost certainly would have made that crucial detail public.
Why Hendrix’ temper suddenly boiled over is still unclear — but, with so many questions yet unanswered, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation has now stepped in, at the behest of Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston, to parse together the details.
Identities of the two responding Chattanooga Police officers have not been released, but both have been granted the obligatory paid vacation known as administrative leave, per departmental policy, until the conclusion of the investigation.
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“He was a young man, about 26 years of age, had his whole future ahead of him,”lamented Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond during a press conference on the fatal shooting yesterday afternoon. “[He] was on the path to a good career. It is a tragedy, we certainly reach out to the family, this is a tough time for them, we know.”
Hendrix, employed as a corrections officer since 2013, once faced charges over an incident involving a female inmate, which seemed also to evince latent aggression and hostility.
In 2015, the deputy struck Leslie Hayes in the face multiple times during a struggle during processing at Silverdale Correctional Facility, for which the sheriff’s department arrested and charged — but ultimately cleared of wrongdoing. Hayes had since filed an unnecessary force lawsuit, claiming Hendrix’ actions were not only excessive, but recorded inaccurately in official incident reports.
“We would have done some retraining, we would have probably noted in his file what the situation was,” Hammond, the Sheriff, remarked Wednesday of the deputy’s alleged transgression, “but there was no reason for us to think that that incident had any bearing on what happened last night.”
For a top cop to beseech the public to dismiss any past wrongdoing by Hendrix and focus solely on the details of the incident in question might certainly be reasonable, justifiable, and indeed right — but also exposes an odious irony.
In fatal encounters with law enforcement, so frequently dotting headlines in the U.S., it is the victim’s history and character that becomes subject to malicious scrutiny, scorn, and ridicule — while any past wrongdoing by involved officers and questions concerning uses of force fall by the wayside in the court of public opinion.
That an incident for which authorities found he had done nothing wrong has now been examined in media reports proves Hendrix might not be an exception to this demented practice of victim-blaming.
Whatever TBI determines led to the fatal shooting, and whether justified or not, the fact an officer took another officer’s life is indicative of the expansive nature of brutal policing in the U.S.
Perhaps the unnamed responding officers truly believed theirs or other lives were in danger, thus shooting eliminated an imminent threat — but there can be no question better avenues for police to deal with complex and tense situations should be mandatory during training.
Hendrix’ killing marks the 15th fatal police incident investigated by TBI this year — which TBI spokesman, Devine, called an “appreciably higher number than what has been typical in years past.”
In fact, Tennessee and the nation have experienced a marked uptick in deadly encounters in 2017 — a distressing trend showing no indication of slowing down.
“We're on track to work 90 of these, we estimate, which is pretty high for us,” DeVine, the TBI spokesman, asserted. “We have some data over the past couple of years that suggest about a 45 percent increase over a five-year time frame in the number of officer-involved shootings that we've investigated.”
Now, Hamilton County Deputy Daniel Hendrix has joined the sizeable list of those killed by cops.
This — in every sardonic sense — is what it’s like to be a police officer celebrating a birthday in a Police State.