• Wed. Dec 1st, 2021

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Tennessee courtroom erupts in chaos when former police officer pleads guilty to manslaughter

The grieving mother of a Black man killed by a white police officer during a 2018 shooting that was captured on video told him Friday he better watch his back in jail, prompting chaos in a Tennessee courtroom where the ex-officer pleaded guilty to voluntary manslaughter.

“I hate you. I hate you. I don’t accept no apology,” Vickie Hambrick screamed at Andrew Delke, a former officer with the Metropolitan Nashville police. “You better watch your back in jail, motherf—–.”

Hambrick, the mother of Daniel Hambrick — who Delke killed when he shot him three times with his service weapon as Hambrick ran away from him on July 26, 2018 — had to be restrained as she screamed through tears.

The scene continued to spiral when other Hambrick family supporters also began shouting. The hearing was temporarily stopped and the courtroom was cleared.

Vickie Hambrick was vehemently opposed to the manslaughter plea deal her lawyer, Joy Kimbrough, described in court before the explosion of emotions. Hambrick was not told about Delke’s pact with prosecutors to plead guilty in exchange for a three-year sentence, Kimbrough said.

Delke was expected to begin trial this month on a charge of first-degree murder.

A group of about two dozen protesters gathered outside the courthouse and chanted “no racist police.” Others wore shirts with messages about police and white people receiving light penalties.

Aug. 9, 201802:07

Court returned to session about 30 minutes after the outburst. Judge Monte Watkins then accepted the plea and told Delke he would not be allowed to petition for early release.

Before the pandemonium, Delke, 27, taking long pauses with his voice sometimes quivering, apologized for killing 25-year-old Hambrick.

“I am pleading guilty today because I recognize that my use of deadly force was not reasonably necessary under all the circumstances,” he read from a statement. “I recognize what happened on July 26, 2018, was tragic. Mrs. Hambrick lost her son that day. And I am responsible for her loss. … I am deeply sorry for the harm my actions caused and I hope that Mr. Hambrick’s family will obtain some comfort for my acceptance of responsibility and my guilty plea today.”

Assistant District Attorney Ronald Dowdy said in court that had Delke gone to trial, the facts would have shown the “shooting was not reasonably necessary.”

Security video from a nearby school recorded Delke chasing Hambrick and taking a shooting stance. A spokesman for Nashville police said Delke resigned from the department Thursday. Delke had been decommissioned, meaning he had to turn over his gun but could work a desk job and still get paid. Following his arrest in September 2018, he was released from custody on $25,000 bond.

Delke was working on a juvenile crime task force the night Hambrick was killed, Dowdy said. In his role, Delke was to look for stolen vehicles and “known juvenile offenders,” Dowdy said.

Delke began following a white Chevrolet Impala that he became suspicious of when the driver didn’t pull in front of Delke’s patrol vehicle. Delke ran the vehicle’s license plate information and learned the Impala was not stolen, Dowdy said. But he continued to follow the vehicle, even though he was not able to see who was driving. Delke eventually tried to stop the vehicle by turning on his patrol vehicle’s blue lights, which began a pursuit that was not at high speeds, according to the assistant district attorney.

Delke lost track of the Impala and began to look for it in neighborhoods. The officer eventually pulled into the parking lot of an apartment complex after spotting a white, four-door sedan, that “was not the Impala,” Dowdy said.

In the parking lot, there were many people in the area, Dowdy said, one of whom was Hambrick.

Hambrick began to run and Delke, now on foot, chased him. During the chase, Delke saw Hambrick was holding a gun, and ordered him several times to “drop the gun or I’ll shoot,” Dowdy said.

“When Mr. Hambrick continued to run away and did not drop the gun, the defendant decided to use deadly force. He assumed a firing position. He aimed his service weapon and then fired four shots,” at 51 feet away from Hambrick, Dowdy said. Three of the bullets hit Hambrick.

The trial was going to center on Hambrick’s handgun that Delke claimed was pointed at him for a moment, but prosecutors have disputed that and that was not seen on video footage.

Hambrick family attorney Kimbrough, before the hearing was stopped, pleaded with Judge Watkins to reject the plea deal because Vickie Hambrick had waited three years for a trial.

“That’s the only bit, the only semblance of any justice she may receive for the three bullets that struck and killed her son,” Kimbrough said.

Kimbrough read a statement from Vickie Hambrick, who is legally blind, about what her deceased son meant to her and how she viewed a plea as an injustice.

“He was my only child and the love of my life. Daniel recognized at an early age that I had a disability. But he was never ashamed of me or embarrassed by me. He loved me unconditionally and constantly said he would always take care of me,” the statement said. Kimbrough continued reading it: “I am angry, mad and disgusted. … I am against the way the state and the defense joined hands to protect this racist, biased, anti-Black criminal system. My son was murdered on video by Nashville police. My son has a right, he has a right to a public jury trial.”

The Associated Press contributed.