Rodney James Hess, a man who parked his SUV on a Tennessee highway off ramp to block traffic was shot by at least one responding Crockett County sheriff’s deputy after he first made a bizarre statement about wanting to speak with “the higher commands,” and then apparently making some sort of movement.
Police in Tennessee on Thursday fatally shot a driver who authorities said tried to hit officers with his vehicle, and who recorded the shooting on Facebook live.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation said Rodney James Hess, 36, parked his sport-utility vehicle on a highway off ramp at around 2:15 p.m., was acting erratically and at one point “attempted to use his vehicle to strike the officers at least twice.”
“During the escalation of events” at least one Crockett County sheriff’s deputy fired through the windshield, the agency said in a statement. Hess was airlifted to a hospital and later died.
In one of two videos posted by Hess on Facebook, he tells the officer outside his window that he would like to speak with “the higher commands.”
“I need the higher commands to come out,” Hess tells an officer in the video, before making some kind of movement. Gunshots are heard, and Hess is heard screaming in pain while driving and appearing to crash the vehicle. The video does not capture exactly what happened at the moment shots were fired.
A cousin confirmed to NBC News that the video was taken by Hess. The TBI, which is investigating the shooting, is aware of the video.
“Though we are aware such a video exists, we cannot confirm its authenticity. As with anything that might potentially be evidence, we will examine it to determine if it has probative benefit,” Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Public Information Officer Josh DeVine said.
There’s simply not enough context in the video for me to make any judgments over whether or not the shooting may have been justified. We can’t see Mr. Hess’s hands, nor do we have any idea what the deputies saw that at least one of them draw his weapon and open fire. There are also obvious gaps of time in the disjointed recordings, so we’re also not getting getting video and audio of the whole event, either.
Due to the ambiguous nature of the video and the fact that Mr. Hess was black and the responding law enforcement officers were white, we can be sure that race-obsessed social justice activists will attempt to portray this as the “murder” of an African-American man by law enforcement without waiting for any other facts or evidence. To these folks, crafting a narrative of race-based brutality by police that they can exploit—no matter how far-fetched or dishonest—is far more important than telling the truth.