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Civil Lawsuit Possible in Nashville Police-Involved Shooting

One noted attorney says it would be possible for the family of Jocques Clemmons to pursue a civil penalty in connection to his death. (Brandon Anderson/Flickr)
One noted attorney says it would be possible for the family of Jocques Clemmons to pursue a civil penalty in connection to his death. (Brandon Anderson/Flickr)
May 25, 2017

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – There will be no criminal charges against the white police officer involved in the fatal shooting of a black Nashville man, but one noted attorney says a civil lawsuit is possible.

Jocques Clemmons, 31, was shot in February after a traffic stop.

Subodh Chandra was the Cleveland, Ohio-based attorney for the family of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old shot by police who mistakenly believed he had a gun.

Chandra explains U.S. Supreme Court rulings require that to establish civil liability, a plaintiff has to prove that what went wrong was part of a "custom or practice" by a municipality, which he says may not be hard in this case.

"In this situation, because the DA has been critical of the police and has said that the investigation itself into unconstitutional policing was so wrong, and that there are bad policies and biased policies, that does give the plaintiffs in this case a leg up in their efforts to try and hold the city accountable," he says.

Clemmons' family says he was shot as he was running away from the officer, who was not in physical danger at that time.

The officer claims Clemmons had picked up a gun that he had dropped before running away, an account confirmed by an eyewitness.

This week, a Nashville judge ordered the release of the TBI file on the investigation of the shooting.

Chandra says in Clemmons' case and other police-involved shootings around the country, the truth must be uncovered to prevent similar incidents in the future.

"People need answers,” he states. “People need to know whether or not police followed proper procedures, and whether they were acting in the name of the public or, at a minimum, recklessly."

Representatives for the group Justice for Jocques stress city officials should do more to ensure the safety of Nashville's minority communities.


Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - TN