CLEVELAND, Tenn. — Authorities in Bradley County, Tennessee, Monday showed excerpts of video from two county deputies' body-worn cameras taken Friday during an encounter with a 53-year-old man at a home on Spring Branch Road that ended with deadly gunfire.
The welfare check-gone-wrong ended in the shooting death of Michael Anthony Frederick. Bradley County Sheriff Steve Lawson said deputies tried their best, encouraging Frederick to get help from medical officials after he'd allegedly made statements that he wanted to hurt himself.
"While trying to de-escalate the situation, they attempted to convince him to go to the hospital to seek treatment for over 15 minutes," Lawson said Monday, reading from a prepared statement. "During the conversation, Mr. Frederick suddenly brandished a handgun and advanced toward the deputies, pointing the firearm at them. They then discharged their separate service weapons, fatally wounding Mr. Frederick."
The investigation will now be led by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, he said.
The Bradley County Sheriff's Office also will conduct a review "of the entire situation," Lawson said.
"As law enforcement officers, we hope to never be required to use deadly force," he said.
"Although we will wait for the conclusion of the TBI's independent investigation, in my opinion, I feel as though my deputies had no choice but to respond to the threat created by Mr. Frederick, given what we know at this time," he said.
Lawson said anyone threatening an officer should expect that officer to resist in defense.
"If anyone points a firearm at a law enforcement officer, they can expect that they will defend themselves and will also defend others," he said.
"This is a tragic situation and I would like to express my sympathies to the Frederick family for the loss of their loved one," he said. "I would also like to express my support for my two deputies who I believe acted courageously in a dangerous situation and followed precisely what they had been trained to do."
The investigation "will be aided greatly due to the body-worn cameras utilized by our deputies," Lawson said.
The shooting incident took place about 6 p.m. Friday in the 200 block of Short Branch Road in southwest Bradley County's McDonald community.
Tenth Judicial District Attorney General Stephen Crump echoed Lawson's condolences for the Frederick family as well as his praise for the video evidence collected by the deputies' cameras.
"There are many times where these cases must wait for the complete conclusion of the investigation for forensics or for all of the witnesses to be interviewed before we can make a determination in a use-of-force case," Crump said Monday. "However, in this case, the body-worn cameras worn by the Bradley County Sheriff's deputies indeed do tell this tale."
Crump said some details of the video and the investigation can't be shared yet but when the probe is complete everything will be made available.
"However, it is my sense at this time that these deputies did act courageously, they did act correctly and they did exactly what they had to do in order protect themselves and each other," Crump said.
"In this country we have come to a point where law enforcement officers are more and more frequently called upon to defend themselves, and that is unfortunate as well because it leads to more and more situations like this," he said.
"We don't know what caused Mr. Frederick to take the actions he did," Crump said. "And while they are unfortunate, at the end of the day, when a law enforcement officer is faced with a life-threatening situation, they should defend themselves. These deputies did exactly what they were trained to do and, frankly, they did exactly what we as the public should expect them to do."
As he prepared to show the video excerpts, Crump said the decision was made to show them because it shows many aspects of situations facing law enforcement officers "in today's world," as well as in Friday's incident.
"You'll see that they were called upon to be a crisis intervention person, you'll see that they were called upon to be mental health 'professionals' in some sense, they were called upon to be peacemakers, but ultimately they were called upon to do the most drastic part of their job which is to defend human life," he said.
In the excerpts of video from the cameras worn by the two deputies, whose names have not been released, Frederick stood in a dark area at one end of the kitchen of the home while the deputies stood at the other. A family member could also be seen in the video. The faces were blurred to hide their identities.
One of the two deputies initially warned Frederick to keep his hands out of his pockets, and they continued a relatively calm conversation throughout the exchange.
Frederick told the deputies he was upset and worried about a family member possibly going in a nursing home and what would happen to the household's bills if that happened.
The deputy told Frederick "sometimes you just need somebody to listen, and that's what we're here for."
An ambulance was summoned to evaluate Frederick while he and deputies talked. The family member then stepped outside so Frederick would feel more comfortable talking with the officers about the pressures of life.
Frederick seemed amenable to getting some help from the hospital, and one of the deputies offered to give him a ride.
"Maybe somebody can tell you a better way to cope with this. I'm not qualified to do that, obviously, but I can get you to a person than can — a person that can help you," the deputy urged Frederick, adding that family members he's worried about can get help, too.
As the deputies and Frederick talked about services available at the hospital, he then grew quiet. Then Frederick turned to his right as the deputy began again, "Like I said, if you want to No, no, no "
Frederick suddenly turned with a handgun raised and the deputies began firing.
After the video, Lawson said the department "was about as transparent as we can get" and that the deputies "did everything they could possibly do."
"I'm not sure we're where we need to be on mental health across this country but we put it on officers' shoulders to deal with every day," he said. "What worries me, is this going to be more numerous as we go?"
Lawson noted the discussion Monday could have been about a deputy who didn't go home that day.
"It's tragic for the family. It's tragic for every officer here to think about it," he said.
Lawson said the two deputies have been placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of the TBI investigation and will undergo a debriefing on the incident. Evidence collected by the state agency will be turned over to Crump's office.
Crump said there was no timetable on the TBI investigation.
Contact Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.