A slow-speed car chase in rural Tennessee ended with a sheriff’s deputy fatally shooting the driver of a pickup truck hauling a fully loaded trailer.
The events that led to the death of Michael Dial, whom officers tried to pull over for driving with a suspended license, weren’t clear until NewsChannel 5 obtained video from a camera that White County Sheriff Oddie Shoupe didn’t realize was recording from the backseat of a patrol car.
The sheriff’s stunning words while giving the order for officers to use deadly force are now at the center of a federal lawsuit filed by Dial’s wife, Robyn Dial.
As Dial repeatedly failed to pull over, Reserve Deputy Adam West became involved in the chase in his personal pickup. With the chase rarely exceeding 40 mph, officers pushed Dial’s truck off the mostly vacant Highway 111. Shoupe was not part of the chase, but he gave the order to the radio dispatcher telling the pursuing officers to open fire.
West got out of his truck and immediately opened fire. Another officer, Charlie Simms, also started shooting.
Dial, found to be unarmed, was fatally shot in the head. Robyn Dial is distraught over the incident and can’t believe her husband was killed. She is suing White County, Shoupe, West and Simms for excessive force, and her lawsuit focuses on what Shoupe said to an unnamed deputy after the shooting, when he didn’t know a camera was capturing his words:
Sheriff Shoupe: “I told em, I said take him out.”
Deputy: “I heard.”
Sheriff Shoupe: “D**n, I don’t give a s**t.”
Deputy: “It wasn’t long after that I heard ‘shots fired.'”
The lawsuit also claims Sheriff Shoupe “preferred to shoot and kill Mr. Dial rather than risk damaging his patrol cars.”
That allegation stems from another part of the recording, in which Shoupe says: “They said, ‘We’re ramming him.’ I said, ‘Don’t ram him, shoot him.’ F**k that s**t. Ain’t gonna tear up my cars. If they don’t think I’ll give the d**n order to kill that m**********r, they’re full of s**t. [Laughter] Take him out. I’m here on the d**n wrong end of the county.”
Shoupe then seems to regret that he wasn’t there to witness the shooting.
“I love this s**t. God, I tell you what, I thrive on it,” he says on the recording.
Robyn Dial said her husband didn’t pull over because he was scared.
“When I wake up every day, and he’s not there, it’s like going through it all over again,” she told NewsChannel 5.
Shortly after the shooting, West is seen on the video as being clearly upset. Shoupe, having arrived on the scene, consoles him, telling him he did the right thing and followed orders.
“You don’t have to worry about this. I made the decision. You don’t have to worry about it. I took that away from y’all,” Shoupe said. “You don’t have to worry about nothing. Everything’s cool. You done exactly right.”
District Attorney Bryant Dunaway had ruled the shooting was justified, and he later stood by his ruling, but he did so before the body camera footage of Shoupe’s comments emerged. Shoupe has not commented on the shooting or the lawsuit.