Video shows officer fatally shooting ax-wielding woman
Gallatin, Tenn. — Authorities in Tennessee have released video in which a police officer fatally shoots a woman approaching him while wielding a medieval-style ax.
The video, released Thursday, shows Gallatin police Officer James Spray telling 40-year-old Laronda Sweatt, who was holding the ax, multiple times to stop approaching him before shooting her, The Tennessean reported.
The suspect was black; the officer is white. The shooting comes amid a national debate and increased scrutiny over police treatment of black people and several deaths that have made international headlines.
“As (Sweatt) continued advancing and making aggressive movement with the ax toward our officer, Officer Spray fired two shots, striking Sweatt both times,” a news release from Gallatin police said.
Gallatin police spokesman Bill Storment said one of the bullets struck the handle of a sword that Sweatt was carrying in her belt. She was also carrying a ninja star and a folding knife, he said.
The footage was captured from a camera on Spray’s vest as well as from another officer’s vehicle.
Sweatt had become combative when Sumner County sheriff’s Deputy Gary Pickard accompanied housing authorities to serve an eviction notice on her Wednesday, authorities said.
Sweatt had injured Pickard before Gallatin officers showed up, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Susan Niland said.
According to Sweatt’s daughter, Alainna Sweatt, the 40-second video has been edited and doesn’t tell the full story.
“Before they start judging, people should see the entire, unedited video, so they can make their own conclusions,” Alainna Sweatt said.
Storment said the rest of the video footage shows officers driving to the scene and their efforts to revive Sweatt. The captured video was immediately handed over to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation at the scene before it was returned to the police department, he said.
Spray is on administrative leave pending an internal investigation. Storment said Spray had no disciplinary history or complaints since joining the department three to four years ago after working for other law enforcement agencies, including Nashville’s Metro Parks Department.