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No charges for white officer in Nashville who shot and killed black man

No charges for white officer in Nashville who shot and killed black man
Nashville District Atty. Gen. Glenn Funk said Officer Josh Lippert had a sufficient claim of self-defense when he shot and killed Jocques Scott Clemmons following a traffic stop. (George Walker IV / Associated Press)

The Nashville district attorney general said Thursday that a white officer wouldn't faces charges for shooting and killing an armed black man after a traffic stop in February.

At a news conference, District Atty. Gen. Glenn Funk said Officer Josh Lippert's actions met the legal definition of self-defense when he shot and killed Jocques Scott Clemmons following a traffic stop.

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"Based on the facts of this incident and application of the law of self-defense in the state of Tennessee, Officer Lippert has a legally sufficient claim of self-defense, and therefore the state will not pursue criminal charges against Officer Lippert," Funk said.

The decision drew swift outcry from the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People, some clergy, Clemmons' family and other community members.

"We do not accept that this investigation was unbiased and we will continue to fight for justice for Jocques," said Michael Hoskins, a lawyer for Clemmons' family.

Nashville NAACP President Ludye Wallace said black men were getting killed like this all over the country. He was critical of how Clemmons had been shot in the back.

"In the Western days, when everybody has guns, you didn't shoot them in the back, Wallace said.

At one point during the altercation, the gun Clemmons was holding was pointed in Officer Lippert's direction, Funk said.

"Jocques Clemmons never drew down on the officer and pointed it at him," Funk said. "He had a gun in his hand. He picked it up in the middle of an altercation. Had he kept running and this was an unarmed person that was shot in the back, it would be a completely different situation."

Lippert shot Clemmons three times, striking him twice in the back and once in the left hip.

Clemmons was convicted of a cocaine felony in 2014, and as a convicted felon, he was violating state and federal law by possessing the pistol, according to police.

Authorities maintain that the incident happened within seconds. Funk said Clemmons was holding the gun when he was shot.

The public outcry after the shooting resulted in major changes in policing in Nashville.

Funk announced that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation would investigate all fatal police shootings going forward, instead of the Metro Nashville Police Department investigating itself.

After the shooting, Nashville's Metro Council called for the "immediate purchase of police body cameras. Mayor Megan Barry has proposed spending $23 million to equip police officers with body cameras and install dash cams in their vehicles.

Barry spoke at the news conference of the shooting's effects on the community.

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"Two families were impacted that day. And those families and their lives will never be the same," sje said.

At the news conference, Funk also said he was instituting new policies aimed at helping black community members charged with low-level crimes, including a plan to let them avoid jail time and be released on their own recognizance while awaiting trial; reviews to ensure convictions are justified; and a proposal to help kids avoid being locked up. He also suggested minority hiring in law enforcement, among other ideas.

Funk's office determined that aspects of the Police Department's review of the shooting could be perceived as biased, pointing out that an initial incident report filed hours after the shooting listed the offense as "justifiable homicide" and the investigation status as "completed," among issues in other police investigative documents.

Funk said that he had spoken with Police Chief Steve Anderson, who did not attend Thursday's news conference, and that the chief will soon decide whether to discipline or fire Lippert.

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