An Alabama cop was wearing a body camera that was not turned on when he fatally shot a man who held a “large metal spoon in a threatening manner” as he approached the officer, according to Tuscaloosa County officials.
Police killed Jeffory Tevis, a 50-year-old white man, on Thursday evening after responding to a reported assault at his residence in east Tuscaloosa. A fight between Tevis and the officer ensued, during which the officer used a Taser before shooting Tevis with a gun.
Authorities said they believe Tevis was “suffering from a mental episode” or under the influence of illegal drugs at the time of the shooting.
“He was just undergoing an extremely violent mental episode we believe,” police captain Gary Hood said in an interview. Hood is the head of the Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit, which is investigating the shooting.
The officer was wearing a body camera but did not have it turned on, investigators have confirmed to the Guardian.
Tuscaloosa police require all officers to have body cameras on “any time there’s going to be enforcement action taken”, Captain Brad Mason said. When asked whether the officer violated protocol by having his camera turned off, Mason declined to comment, citing the privacy of personnel matters.
Hood confirmed that Tevis had only the spoon in his possession and wasn’t armed with any additional weapons. Hood estimated that the spoon was “maybe 10-12 inches” in length.
Tevis was described by the attending officer, who has not yet been identified, as “very upset and agitated”. Tevis reportedly told the officer that he had been attacked by someone inside his apartment, while another man told the officer that Tevis had threatened him. The officer saw blood on Tevis’s face and legs, according to a Tuscaloosa County press release.
Police later said that they don’t believe Tevis was assaulted and that his wounds were self-inflicted.
The officer and Tevis were talking on the balcony outside Tevis’s residence when Tevis hit the officer and the two began fighting, police said. During the struggle, the officer used his Taser on Tevis to no effect, according to police. According to this account, Tevis “began charging” toward the officer and ignored verbal commands to stop.
Tevis then “raised his hand over his head holding the large metal spoon in a threatening manner and rushed toward the officer”, the Tuscaloosa county press release continued. The officer fired two shots and Tevis was pronounced dead at the scene. The officer, who has been with Tuscaloosa police for nearly 16 years, was treated for minor injuries related to the incident, Hood said. Hood estimated that the interaction between the officer and Tevis lasted less than a minute.
Tuscaloosa police released a statement about the shooting but declined to comment further on the case, referring questions to the Tuscaloosa County Homicide Unit. Hood said six witnesses were present at the shooting. A grand jury will review the unit’s findings and determine whether the shooting was justified, Hood said.