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Here's Why the Nashville Police Shooting Wasn't a 'Government-Sanctioned Murder'

Today the city of Nashville is on edge following the July 26 police shooting death of Daniel Hambrick. As is all too often the case, the racial calculus of the incident is as much a part of the story as is the question about whether the shooting was justified. The New York Post headline from August 9 exemplified the media coverage: “The moment a black man is shot dead while running away from a white officer.”

The scant information conveyed in that headline is, for some, all one needs to know about the shooting to draw a conclusion. A white police officer has shot and killed a black man, so it goes without saying that the shooting was not only improper but illegal. Indeed, Hambrick’s family and friends, along with members of the racial grievance industry, have branded the shooting as a “murder.” Rep. Harold Love, Jr., a Democrat who represents Nashville, appeared with Nashville mayor David Briley at a Wednesday news conference, but later sought to place some distance between himself and the mayor. “The shooting of Daniel Hambrick,” said Love, “once again opens the decadeslong wound of the appearance of government-sanctioned murder.”

Strong words, but are they fair? As the video linked above shows, Hambrick was running down Jo Johnston Avenue being chased by Officer Andrew Delke. Delke can be seen stopping, taking aim, and firing at Hambrick, who falls on the front lawn of the townhouse apartments lining the street. A more complete version of the video can be seen here. In this version, the shooting occurs at the 5:28 mark, and the first rescue personnel arrive at 9:47. Hambrick was taken to a hospital but soon pronounced dead.

CBS News aired a video clip of the events that preceded the shooting. That video show Delke pull his unmarked car into the parking lot to the rear of where the shooting would occur. Hambrick immediately ran through the parking lot toward the street. Though it isn’t clear in any of the videos, police have said Hambrick was carrying a gun, which was recovered on the lawn where Hambrick fell. Neither Delke nor his car was equipped with a video camera.

So, if we assume that Hambrick was indeed armed with a gun as he ran (allegations that it was planted are sure to follow), what legal conclusion can be made about the shooting? To those who maintain that because Hambrick was shot in the back it was therefore automatically unlawful, the response is simple: You are mistaken.