By Bruce C.T. Wright, NewsOne
A police shooting that led to the death of a Black woman last week has sparked a larger debate about best practices by law enforcement and who was in the wrong first in the fateful encounter in Nashville.
Nika Holbert crashed her car after Nashville Field Training Officer Josh Baker shot her at close range following a traffic stop on Friday morning. The 31-year-old woman later died from her injuries. Baker is expected to recover. But it was everything else that led to the shooting that was being scrutinized.
If you believe that the shooting was justified, then we can discuss that as adults: personally, he was right to shoot in that instance BUT, his poor police work is what led to the shooting. But, if you're talking "she deserved it" based on racial bias, then just log off.
— Nicki Millennium (@MillenniumNicki) March 16, 2021
Baker initiated a traffic stop in a strip mall parking lot because the car Holbert was driving was registered to a man who has outstanding rug warrants, according to the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department. The rest was captured on Baker’s body camera as well as the camera on the dashboard of his police vehicle.
#UPDATE: Metro officer Josh Baker approached car on Brick Church Pk./Ewing Dr. because owner had 6 outstanding drug warrants, police said. Officer Baker learned owner was not person driving; shootout happened with woman driving vehicle, IDed as Nika Holbert, 31. pic.twitter.com/oqLPy6F4oW
— Josh Breslow (@JoshBreslowWKRN) March 12, 2021
The footage showed Baker approaching Holbert, who was initially compliant and allowed the officer to search her bag, ultimately turning up a small baggie of marijuana. Baker took it, turned his back on Holbert to walk to his car to secure the bag of marijuana before he returned to the driver, who was standing there waiting for him.
Why did he grab her bag? Why was he handcuffing her? Why did he taser her in the arm after she was sitting in the car? So many unnecessary escalations. I have questions. #PoliceReform #NikaHolbert https://t.co/TyV4ABYwS7
— INFP-T (@SuttleBuddy) March 13, 2021
Baker allowed Holbert to use her cellphone and make a call to tell someone she had been pulled over. But it was when Baker went to handcuff Holbert — purportedly after finding an additional small bag of “powder” that is not seen on the video footage — that she resisted and ran away, around her car and then back to the driver’s side, where she entered.
With the door still open, Baker used his Taser to unsuccessfully stop her. That’s when the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said Holbert reached for a gun, prompting Baker to pull out his firearm and shoot at her from about two feet away. The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said Holbert also fired a gun and hit Baker in the abdomen with a shot that went under his bulletproof vest.
IT'S TIME FOR JUSTICE #nikaholbert
NIKA HOLBERT. SAY HER NAME. NIKA HOLBERT.
BLACK LIVES MATTER. HOW MANY TIMES DO WE NEED TO TELL YOU? pic.twitter.com/g2YWjSuKAT
— Rai Cortez (@RaiCortez3) March 14, 2021
The camera from Baker’s dashboard showed Holbert throw a gun out of her and drive off before crashing nearby. It was not immediately clear if her deadly injuries were sustained in the crash or from Baker’s gunshots.
The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department released the footage later the same day on Friday. It follows below and is extremely graphic.
Viewer Discretion is Advised
While consensus is likely that Holbert should have complied with Baker when he tried to handcuff her, critics on social media suggested there was no need for the traffic stop to have escalated that far.
My heart is broken for the family of Nika Holbert. I worked with her and found her to be a sweet loving person and a hard worker. I understand the police expect compliance, but why was it necessary to tase her like a rabid dog on the attack? If I was being electrocuted over and 1
— Bear’s Momma (@BearsMomma1) March 13, 2021
The Nashville District Attorney’s Office announced last summer that it would no longer prosecute for possession of less than a half-ounce of marijuana. The weed Holbert had on her appeared to be a minuscule amount. Since Holbert was not the person Baker suspected was driving — Baker can even be heard saying on the police radio lamenting that “he’s not in here” — those same social media critics suggested the officer should have let her go with a warning or at most written a ticket and let her go on her way.
Nika Holbert was trying to defend herself, she did nothing wrong. She was gunned down by MNPD. She’s a another casualty of our racist police dept. https://t.co/MlYr7BvP5w
— Dylan Lancaster (@DjLancasio) March 13, 2021
Others argued that Baker missed multiple opportunities to adequately and safely detain Holbert instead of allowing her to do as she pleased, such as go in and out of her car on several occasions before the shooting happened.
nika holbert did not deserve to be shot wtf
— laur (@laurschronicles) March 15, 2021
According to the city of Nashville, drivers “must remain in your vehicles at all times unless told to do otherwise” and cannot “become argumentative.” Both are grounds for handcuffing, but Baker decided against doing so multiple times. The argument is that had Baker restrained her properly and in a timely manner then she never would have been able to flee, let alone enter her car, withstand getting Tasered, reach for a gun and fire it at him.
I’m sorry but that officer baker and Nika Holbert situation crazy. Now ma’am what you thought was going to happen when you shoot at a police officer first and he told you twice to drop your weapon. He was being generous.
— AC (@Acxallxday) March 14, 2021
It didn’t help matters that the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation decided to make Holbert’s criminal record public on the same day she died, subliminally suggesting there was a link between the incident and her rap sheet.
UPDATE: At the request of several media outlets, we're making available the Tennessee adult arrest record of Nika Holbert, the woman involved in this morning's officer-involved shooting in Nashville.
— Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (@TBInvestigation) March 12, 2021
Holbert’s family has also reportedly asked the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department to investigate Baker for “using excessive force while making a traffic stop,” pointing to the video footage as proof.
The family of Nika Holbert is asking Chief John Drake of the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department (@MNPDNashville) to open an internal affairs investigation against Officer Josh Baker after using excessive force while making a traffic stop. The proof is on the videotape. https://t.co/h2INAgiTcu
— Terrence L. Blackwell (@TBlackwe85) March 14, 2021
The shooting in Nashville came days after the release of a report finding that most of the instances of deadly police violence in the U.S. last year occurred during a suspected non-violent encounter or cases where no crime was reported — like with Holbert’s case. More than 120 people were killed after an officer stopped them over a traffic violation in 2020.
This story will be updated as additional information becomes available.
This article originally appeared on NewsOne.