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Mark Capps, a Grammy-winning sound engineer, was killed by police in January. On Monday, his wife filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Nashville and police Officer Ashley Coon.
Three officers of the law, one being Coon, claimed that Capps was fatally shot after brandishing a gun at them. However, Capps’ family argues that details from the video footage captured by a body camera indicate that he did not aim a weapon. The lawsuit asserts that Coon used excessive and unreasonable force by fatally shooting Capps when he was not actively posing a threat of immediate harm. It also contends that the city is responsible for Capps’ death due to its allowance of a “culture of fear, violence, and lack of accountability” within the Metro Nashville Police Department.
According to Allison Bussell, the Associate Director of Law-Litigation for Metro Nashville, the city did not provide a statement regarding the lawsuit.
“We have not received the Capps lawsuit and have not examined or looked into the accusations,” she stated in an email.
The legal case is requesting a trial by jury to determine the amount of damages.
According to police records, Capps, a four-time Grammy winner for his contributions to polka music over ten years ago, was feeling depressed and had thoughts of suicide in the weeks before his passing. These feelings were intensified by the recent loss of his brother on January 3rd. In the early morning hours of January 5th, after consuming alcohol and medication, Capps retrieved two firearms from a nightstand and began verbally abusing his spouse.
Afterwards, he entered the living room and held his wife, her adult daughter, and the daughter’s boyfriend hostage with a gun, making threats to harm them and their dogs. Capps eventually agreed to put away the weapons at 5 a.m. Returning to his bedroom, he verbally mistreated his wife, Tara Capps, for several hours until he fell asleep. Tara Capps and her daughter, McKenzie Acuff, sought assistance from their nearby police station.
According to the lawsuit, Officer Patrick Lancaster spoke with the women and, guided by the domestic violence unit’s counsel, suggested visiting the residence and requesting Capps’ arrest without first obtaining a warrant.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in the Middle District of Tennessee, states that Lancaster did not appear afraid of potential harm or death when stating and acting on his intention to go to Capps’s home to arrest him.
Ultimately, Lancaster was instructed to acquire warrants, and a SWAT team consisting of 13 members was dispatched to execute them, as stated in the legal proceeding. The Nashville Police department has a program known as Partners in Care, which pairs counselors from the city’s Mental Health Cooperative with officers to handle mental health crises involving firearms or other potential threats. However, these counselors were not summoned to the location.
The police had initially intended to set explosive charges at both the front and back entrances of the house before announcing their presence. However, Capps unexpectedly opened the front door while the police were still in the process of placing a charge there. Coon, a member of the SWAT team, fatally shot him.
The three officers in close proximity to the door all stated during the investigation that Capps had a gun pointed at them, with Coon specifically mentioning that Capps’ finger was on the trigger. The investigation concluded that the shooting was deemed necessary and no charges were filed.
The legal claim states that the event at the entrance occurred in a different manner.
The lawsuit claims that Capps was not holding a gun or doing anything else that would cause immediate harm to others. There is some footage from body cameras, but it is not very easy to see. However, Coon and another officer can be heard shouting, “Show me your hands!” The lawsuit implies that they would not have said this if Capps’ hands were visibly empty.