At least nine police officers shot a man who was walking on an interstate highway in Nashville on Thursday, a use of deadly force that left the man’s family “in shock”.
Landon Eastep, 37, was agitated and carrying a box cutter in his left hand, said Don Aaron, a Metropolitan Nashville police spokesman.
Aaron said police tried for about half an hour to de-escalate the situation but nine officers from three agencies fired when Eastep quickly pulled an unknown “silver, shiny cylindrical object” from his right pocket.
Aaron said he did not know what the object was but said it was not a firearm.
“I wasn’t aware there was anything wrong,” Samantha McGill-Barge, Eastep’s sister-in-law, told the Daily Beast. “He loved my sister and my kids very much and, to my knowledge, was a good guy. It’s a very unfortunate situation. I’m in shock.”
In an online fundraiser for Eastep’s widow titled Help get Justice for Landon Eastep, McGill-Barge alleged he had been “murdered by several officers”.
“This man had only a box cutter and had already shown it to officers before they killed him in cold blood,” she said. “He was shot for no good reason at all and he did not deserve to die.”
The Nashville district attorney, Glenn Funk, promised to take “any appropriate action” once the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation had finished its investigation. He also promised to release the TBI report in full.
The mayor of Nashville, John Cooper, said he was “disturbed”, adding: “We will learn from this awful event and continue to do everything we can to prevent similar incidents in the future.”
Video of the encounter obtained by WKRN-TV showed officers surrounding Eastep, who had his back to the berm between the northbound and southbound lanes. The footage showed officers opening fire after Eastep removed his right hand from his pocket.
Eastep was hit multiple times, Aaron said. No officers were injured.
Interstate 65 was closed in both directions for a time during the encounter and afterward as agencies remained on the scene including the TBI.
The agency said a highway patrol trooper first spotted Eastep at about 2pm on the northbound shoulder of the interstate at mile marker 76. An off-duty officer from another jurisdiction, then others, soon arrived.
“The trooper attempted to negotiate with Eastep and soon an off-duty Mount Juliet police department officer also stopped, along with back-up officers from the Metropolitan Nashville police department” and more highway patrol troopers, the statement said.
It said negotiations continued for about 30 minutes before at least nine officers fired. Eastep died at the scene.
Associated Press contributed to this report