Tennessee officer fatally shoots woman wielding an ax
Tennessee law enforcement officials released video on Thursday of a white policeman fatally shooting a black woman who threatened him with a medieval-style ax as sheriff’s deputies and public housing officials were serving her an eviction notice.
Footage from the body camera of officer James Spray and a patrol car dashboard camera showed the woman, Loronda Sweatt, 40, who was reported to suffer from bipolar disorder, backing the policeman into a vehicle as she brandished the ax at him.
Spray shot Sweatt twice “as she continued advancing and making aggressive movement,” police said in a statement released with the video.
Sweatt was pronounced dead at Sumner Regional Medical Center in Gallatin, about 30 miles northeast of Nashville.
Spray arrived on the scene with two other Gallatin police officers after a sheriff’s deputy accompanying housing officials to Sweatt’s home was himself attacked by Sweatt, who slashed him with the ax, according to police. The deputy, Gary Pickard, retreated to his squad car and called for back-up.
It was moments after Spray and others arrived that the shooting occurred, according to the police account.
The shooting comes amid heightened national attention and increased scrutiny of the use of lethal force by law enforcement against minorities and the mentally ill, following a string of high-profile fatal shootings of unarmed black people by white police officers.
Spray is white and Sweatt was black. Her mother, Ella Sweatt, declined to comment. But media reported that she said her daughter was bipolar and that the housing authority was aware of her condition.
Spray has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an internal investigation. Spray, 45, has been on the Gallatin force for at least three years, the Tennessean newspaper reported, citing Gallatin Police Chief Don Bandy.
(This story has been corrected to say wielding, not yielding, an ax in headline)
(Reporting by Justin Madden in Chicago; Editing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles, Robert Birsel)