A Tennessee widow is suing White County Sheriff Oddie Shoupe after the disclosure of a body camera recording in which Shoupe ordered the shooting of her husband so not to “tear up” the cars of his deputies. Michael Dial was unarmed and moving at only around 50 miles an hour in his truck (which was pulling a trailer). Shoupe’s orders and comments on the tape are highly disturbing.
Dial was driving on a suspended license and unarmed last April when he took officers on the 50 mile an hour chase in his 1976 truck.
Shoupe’s deputies were preparing to ram Dial to end the chase when Shoupe can be heard telling them to kill the driver instead: “They said, ‘we’re ramming him.’ I said, ‘Don’t ram him, shoot him. F— that s—. Ain’t gonna tear up my cars.’” Shoupe told the radio dispatcher to tell the officers to “take him out.” The operator immediately said “Per 59 (the sheriff), use deadly force, if necessary. Take the subject out by any means necessary.” Deputy Adam West and Officer Charlie Simms then opened fire, killing Dial.
When Shoupe arrived on the scene, he was heard on a recording celebrating the shooting: “I love this s—. God, I tell you what, I thrive on it.” He is also heard laughing and boasting: “If they don’t think I’ll give the damn order to kill that motherf—– they’re full of s—, Take him out. I’m here on the damn wrong end of the county.”
Shoupe remains unapologetic for his unprofessional language and questionable order. He later told the media that, while he hated that it had to happen, “But we are not going to tolerate people coming into this county and running over our citizens and our officers, and we will deal with them severely.” That does not answer why he would prefer to shoot a driver than force him off the road at the cost of dents to his vehicles. While Dial was clearly continuing the chase after earlier attempts, it would not have been difficult to force him off the road while towing a heavy trailer.
The District Attorney cleared the shoot as justified but now Robyn Dial has filed a federal wrongful death action based on the use of excessive force. It is a valid case though by no means an easy one. Continuing the chase in the truck can be viewed as putting officers and citizens at sufficient risk to justify lethal force. It will depend if this is viewed as within the zone of discretion for the sheriff.
What is clear is that Shoupe should not be sheriff in this or any county. It was the wrong call. His deputies were right to say that they going to ram the truck. Had Shoupe not intervened (without being on the scene), Dial would likely be alive. Moreover, the sheriff’s unprofessional and callous statements after the shooting should be enough to raise serious questions over his fitness. The boasting and joy displayed at the scene is deeply disturbing.
Watt do you think?