The wife of a motorist shot dead during a police pursuit is suing a Tennessee sheriff for excessive force after dashcam footage caught him telling officers he would rather they shoot the suspect than risk damage to patrol cars.
In new footage released on Tuesday, White County Sheriff Oddie Shoupe appeared unfazed and even jubilant about the death of Michael Dial, who police fatally shot as he was trying to outrun them on April 13 last year.
“I said don’t ram him ― shoot him,” Shoupe is heard telling officers in the dash cam video. “F**k that s**t. Ain’t gonna tear my cars up.”
Local police say they stopped Mr Dial in a car park earlier that day while investigating a reported shoplifting incident, according to county officials.
The officers discovered that Mr Dial had a suspended licence and told him he could not drive. Police later observed him driving on a state highway that same day. A high-speed pursuit began after they attempted to pull him over and he fled.
Smithville police officers, as well as deputies from DeKalb County and White County, initially attempted to stop Mr Dial’s ute and attached trailer by ramming into it with their cars.
But Shoupe can be heard instructing his deputies to stop hitting the vehicle and start using “deadly force”, according to dashcam video from one of the patrol cars.
White County Deputy Adam West opened fire on Mr Dial’s ute from his vehicle and again as the vehicle drove into an embankment on the side of the highway.
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Sparta police officer Charlie Sims stopped his patrol car as he witnessed Mr Dial’s vehicle crashing and fired several shots at the vehicle.
During the shootings, Dial was struck in the head and killed. He was unarmed.
Separate body-cam video, obtained by News Channel 5, in Tennessee, later recorded Shoupe talking to officers as he arrived on the scene.
In the footage, the sheriff appeared to brag to officers about his willingness to order the suspect’s killing and how much he enjoyed the pursuit.
"I told him, I said, ’Take him out',” Shoupe can be heard saying.
"Damn, I don’t give a s**t."
An officer responded: "It wasn’t long after that I heard 'Shot fired. Shots fired'.”
Shoupe continued: "They said we’re ramming him. I said don’t ram him ― shoot him ... F**k that s**t. Ain’t gonna tear my cars up ... If they don’t think I’ll give the damn order to kill that mother f****r, they’re full of s**t.
"Take him out. I’m here on the damn wrong end of the damn county ... I love this s**t. God, I tell you what, I thrive on it."
Shoupe ordered the use of deadly force “solely to prevent damage to patrol cars, and for no legitimate law enforcement purpose,” according to a Friday complaint Mr Dial’s wife Robyn Spainhoward filed.
The lawsuit contends the defendants used excessive force that was “not reasonably necessary because Mr Dial "did not pose a threat of serious physical harm to anyone at the time".
“They could have let him go 10 more miles down the road, he probably would have run out of gas,” Ms Spainhoward told News Channel 5.
David Weissman, lead attorney for Spainhoward, called Shoupe’s comments “very disturbing.”
“I don’t know how anybody can appear excited about taking a human life,” he told Huffington Post.
“Mr Dial left behind a wife and a daughter who loved him very much.”
District Attorney Bryant Dunaway ruled in May 2017 that the shooting was “justified” based on witness interviews, evidence gathered, and the dashcam and patrol car videos, according to a press release his office issued at the time.
“I feel with every part of me that’s exactly what they wanted to do was kill him,” Ms Spainhoward told News Channel 5. “I just hope he knows I loved him.”
This story originally appeared on Huffington Post and is republished here with permission.