Judge Sends Delke Case to Grand Jury

Vickie Hambrick receives some comfort in the courtroom last Friday as she watched her son die several times on video. Courtesy of the Tennessean.

 

NASHVILLE, TN – On Monday Judge Melissa Blackburn ordered the Hambrick murder case bound over to the Davidson County Grand Jury. Blackburn said there was sufficient proof and probable cause to believe that Officer Andrew Delke was guilty of Criminal Homicide. Blackburn kept Delke’s bond in place.

The Grand Jury will likely indict Delke and there will be a jury trial. Blackburn noted a jury may not reach the same conclusion she did. But clearly, Round 2 was a big win for the prosecution.

The ruling came after six hours of testimony last Friday at the preliminary hearing in the shooting death of Daniel Hambrick on July 26, 2018 at the Henry Hale apartment complex in North Nashville. The hearing spilled over into Saturday morning.

Blackburn’s courtroom on the third floor of the Justice A.A. Birch building was packed. Blacks filled one side and whites the other. Hambrick’s mother and family filled the first row of seats on the prosecution side. Members of Delke’s family, witnesses, and three rows of MNPD officers in civilian clothes sat on the defense side.

Both sides played video from surveillance cameras mounted on six poles at the apartment complex and one from the roof of MLK Magnet High School that captured the fatal shooting from a block away. Each side played the same scenes that captured Hambrick’s last minute as he fled from Delke. They played it in real time, they played it at half speed, they played it with split screen, they played it frame by frame. They played it over and over again.

Both sides had witnesses identify things in still pictures captured from the video. They had diagrams and a 3X5 ft. satellite photo of the complex. The defense even photoshopped the parking lot where the foot chase began, taking out cars that weren’t there at the time and inserting ones that were there on that fateful summer evening.

The video established Officer Andrew Delke shot and killed Hambrick after he rounded the corner of an apartment and fled down Jo Johnson Avenue towards 17th Ave N.

Delke claimed in his TBI interview, which the defense played in the courtroom, that he knew Hambrick was carrying a gun and that he shouted to him several times to drop it. Delke said he warned Hambrick to drop the gun or he would shoot. Then he stopped and shot Hambrick three times in the back. Hambrick fell dead near a tree in front of 1615 Jo Johnson Ave. The foot chase and shooting lasted less than 60 seconds.

The pathologist said two of the shots were probably fatal and the third would likely have paralyzed Hambrick because it entered his spinal column. Officer Trevor Colbert testified he found a black semi-automatic Baretta pistol in Hambrick’s left hand when he turned him over to handcuff him.

The defense spared no effort pointing out that Delke had followed police procedure, that he was a 2016 graduate of the police academy and had been assigned to the Juvenile Crime Task Force two weeks before the shooting. That special unit is a 16-person squad that hunts criminals anywhere in Davidson County. In 2018, the task force seized 187 guns and 158 stolen cars.

After investigating the case, TBI investigator Steven Kennard noted some inconsistencies in Delke’s story. Delke apparently mistook a white car pulling into the parking lot for the one Hambrick drove. He and two passengers bailed from the second white car as Delke pulled up and Hambrick took off running.

The defense claims Hambrick was distracting Delke from finding a backpack full of drugs by taking off down the parking lot while another man disappeared in the opposite direction with the backpack. Investigators did not retrieve the backpack.

At trial, the prosecution will have to prove Delke didn’t have probable cause to kill Hambrick. The defense says he did. The video clearly shows Hambrick running away the whole time.

Delke said Hambrick looked back a couple of times as he ran. He said Hambrick was targeting him and Delke told TBI he had no doubt Hambrick was about to shoot him. The video doesn’t show that but there are three seconds missing in the chase that no camera caught.

Besides probable cause—a definite maybe– there is also the question of reasonable doubt, and Raybin questioned Davidson County forensic pathologist Dr. Miguel Laboy about the trajectory of the bullets that killed Hambrick.

“Doctor, bullets travel in a straight line, don‘t they, at this range?” Raybin asked Laboy.

“Most likely,” Laboy answered.

“So if you’re looking here at Mr. Hambrick. And this is the weapon.” He picked up an orange toy pistol.

“He is not firing this way is he, Doctor?” Raybin waved the gun. “Mr. Hambrick is turning slightly to the left when the projectiles hit him,” Raybin said.

“And what direction was Mr. Hambrick turning if Mr. Delke was right behind him?”

“He was turning, what, to his left?”

“It would all depend on what position somebody is running from someone,” Laboy answered. “The body is not straight so it all depends on the position that he was at the time of the firing,” he added.

“Correct but you can tell from the position in relationship to the angle he had to have been turning because if he was right behind him like this, the bullet would have gone straight through,” Raybin said.

Raybin had Laboy confirm the bullets travelled from right to left through Hambrick’s body.

The video does not show Hambrick turning at any time during the foot chase. And Delke was running on the sidewalk just before he shot Hambrick who was on the lawn to Delke’s left. Delke moved onto the grass just before he stopped and shot Hambrick. From their relative positions, the bullets would have travelled from right to left if Hambrick was running away from Delke with his back turned.

Judge Blackburn noted in her order that the video did not demonstrate Delke was in imminent danger for his life when he shot and killed Hambrick.

Blackburn went even further. She said Delke’s suspicion “did not justify the foot pursuit and killing of a man suspect of no crime known to the defendant at that time”.

At trial, the defense will argue Delke did what he was trained to do. In that sense, the MNPD and its use of deadly force policy will also be on trial. After the ruling, Raybin said District Attorney General Glenn Funk has “declared war on the police department” which Funk denied.

Regardless of the trial’s outcome, MNPD will face scrutiny from the nascent Community Oversight Board once it is established later this month.

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