Saturday, 18 September 2021
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Cop Involved in 2010 Shooting Now Trains Future MNPD Officers

SheltonOfficer Joe SheltonPhoto: Metro Nashville Police DepartmentOn March 12, 2010, Metro Nashville Police Officer Joe Shelton responded to a 911 call about a home burglary in the Edgehill area. Shelton, a white officer, would later say that as the black suspect, 40-year-old Reginald Wallace, ignored orders to surrender and tried to flee he reached toward his pocket. Shelton saw a shiny metal object and fired on Wallace, striking him three times in the side and the back. Wallace died, and the shiny metal object turned out to be an iPod. 

After an internal investigation, the Metro Nashville Police Department said that Shelton had not violated any policies. No disciplinary action was taken against him. Today, as Nashville is reeling from the second fatal police shooting of a black man by a white officer in less than 18 months, Shelton is working in the MNPD’s training academy, teaching prospective new officers. 

MNPD spokesperson Kris Mumford confirmed to the Scene that Shelton “transferred to the Training Academy in 2010 as an officer in the Training Division after he interviewed for the job.” Mumford said Shelton “is one member of a team consisting of six officers and three supervisors (2 Sgts. 1 Lt.)” and that “duties of this team include teaching all levels of defensive tactics to include conflict resolution, de-escalation techniques, and firearm proficiency.”

In 2015, Metro settled a lawsuit brought by Wallace’s wife for $50,000. The Metro Council approved the settlement, and an analysis of the case prepared by then council attorney Jon Cooper details the MNPD’s account of what took place. 

After arriving at the scene, Shelton — who was then a K-9 unit officer and 21-year veteran of the department — released his dog. The dog found Wallace underneath the deck of a house. From the analysis, on what happened next: 

According to Officer Shelton, he commanded the dog to apprehend the suspect. Officer Shelton ran to the back of the house and got on the ground so he could see the dog and the suspect under the deck. The officer thought it was odd that the suspect was not making noise and was not attempting to fight off the biting dog. The officer saw Reginald Wallace put his hand in his pocket and was afraid he was reaching for a gun. Officer Shelton drew his gun on Wallace and ordered him to surrender. Wallace refused to comply with the officer’s commands. Once Wallace came out from under the deck he no longer had his hand in his pocket. Officer Shelton holstered his gun and continued to command Wallace to stop resisting. 

Wallace then attempted to escape by climbing over a fence. Officer Shelton pulled him off the fence and Wallace struck the officer in the face. Wallace then put his hand back in his pocket. Officer Shelton attempted to trap Wallace’s hand by placing his hands on top of Wallace’s right hand. The officer felt what he believed to be a pistol in Wallace’s pocket and noticed what appeared to be a silver metal object. Wallace continued to ignore the officer’s directions to stop resisting. Officer Shelton felt like he was losing his grip on the suspect so he pushed him away, drew his weapon, and fired three shots in rapid succession striking Wallace in the side and back. The officer stated that he fired his weapon because he was afraid he would be shot. The object in Wallace’s pants turned out to be the iPod he stole during the burglary. Wallace died from the gunshot wounds later that day.

Unlike the recent fatal police shootings of Jocques Clemmons and Daniel Hambrick, the 2010 incident was investigated internally by MNPD. Additionally, unlike today’s shootings, there doesn’t appear to be video of Shelton’s encounter with Wallace. It was reportedly not the first fatal shooting Shelton had been involved in. During a gas station robbery in 2007, Shelton reportedly confronted an 18-year-old suspect attempting to flee the scene. According to media reports, when the suspect pointed a gun at Shelton, the officer fired on the suspect. 

The Scene expressed an interest in interviewing Shelton for this story, and asked MNPD why citizens should be comfortable with him working in the training academy as well as whether he uses his experiences in his training of new officers. Mumford responded by providing the following statement:

“Officer Shelton is one member of an experienced team of instructors who, as mentioned previously, teach a wide range of all levels of defensive tactics to include conflict resolution, de-escalation techniques, and firearm proficiency. Officer Shelton has a wealth of knowledge and experience which he brings to the training process.”

Additionally, the MNPD Training Academy is accredited by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. (CALEA), which recognizes best training practices in the country, at the Gold Standard. (The highest standard.)”

In a story following the Hambrick shooting, WPLN reported that “the guidance that Nashville police currently receive about whether to use deadly force during foot pursuits can be scant.”


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