Crowd Gathers At City Hall To Protest Speedway Shooting; 3 City Officers On Administrative Leave; NAACP Asks Full Probe

  • Tuesday, August 15, 2023

Several hundred people protesting the shooting of Roger Heard at the Speedway on Third Street overflowed the City Council chambers on Tuesday night. Police said Heard was shot after he pulled a gun. A city officer was struck by bullets in both arms, it was stated. Heard died, while the officer was treated and released.

During time for the public to speak at the close of the meeting, most in the crowd walked out, saying city officials were not providing any answers.

They moved to the City Hall steps, where Marie Mott and longtime protester Lorenzo Ervin exhorted the crowd.

At the start of the council meeting, Police Chief Celeste Murphy expressed her condolences to Heard's family and friends.

She said she had met with his mother, and she said when it is available she would share a video of the incident first with the mother.

She asked for "patience" as the TBI investigates the case. Its report will be submitted to District Attorney Coty Wamp.

The injured officer and two others are on paid administrative leave per protocol when an officer is involved in a shooting.

Officer Celtain Batterson was wounded in the gunfire and is on leave. He is a nine-year veteran of the department. Also on leave are Nicholas Ayres, who has been with the department for five years, and Officer Christopher Dyess who has been with the department since 2019.

Police said officers were on scene for a street crime related detail and encountered the 34-year-old Heard at 9:41 p.m. on Friday. Police stated, "At some point during the stop and attempt to serve outstanding warrants, gunfire was exchanged and Batterson and the suspect were both shot. The suspect was pronounced dead after being taken to the hospital.

Officials said the TBI "is the independent, fact-finding state agency that handles the investigations into most of the state’s use-of-force cases.

"TBI agents are working independently to determine the series of events leading to the shooting, including collecting evidence and conducting interviews. Throughout the process, investigative findings will be shared with the District Attorney General for her review and consideration. The TBI acts solely as fact-finders in its cases and does not determine whether the actions of an officer were justified in these types of matters; that decision rests solely with the District Attorney General."

“This is a terribly tragic incident for a lot of people,” said Chief Murphy. “It’s tragic for the Chattanooga Police Department, the officer who was wounded and other officers who responded to the scene, certainly the family and friends of the man who lost his life, for people who were nearby at the time, and for people hearing and reading about it now. This is something we never want to happen and something we take very seriously. We are in full cooperation with the TBI investigation and have turned over all available footage and other evidence to them so that they can quickly and impartially determine the facts of this incident. My priority is to do everything above board and to follow procedure, and I urge the community to let the process run its course and to not jump to conclusions. We will continue to provide updates and share any new developments as appropriate and as we are able as TBI conducts its investigation."

The Chattanooga Hamilton County Branch of the NAACP issued a statement, "While we do not know all the facts as it pertains to this incident, we do believe it is in the best interest of the community to have a full and transparent investigation into this unfortunate occurrence.

"The investigation should include: an immediate release of convenience store videos of Speedway cameras, unedited dash camera videos, body camera videos, any known cellular phone videos, pole camera video and any local business or government videos. In addition, there should be a timely release of the identity of the officers involved and the medical examiner's report.

"We do recognize the unique role of law enforcement in protecting and serving the community and acknowledge that most encounters between law enforcement and the citizenry have peaceful outcomes. It is for this very fact that the public must be assured that in these types of incidents officers acted appropriately in the performance of their duties, and within the full compliance of all state and constitutional laws.

"We are also mindful of the family of Mr. Roger Heard are grieving at this time and pray they may be comforted in their time of grief. Therefore, it is imperative that Mr. Heard’s family have the information needed to work toward closure.

"Let us finally say, that this incident serves as a stark reminder of the need for continued discussion with the community and law enforcement to mitigate these types of incidents. The need for civilian oversight boards, despite the Tennessee State Legislature's recent order to dispose of them and meaningful legislation aimed at reducing gun violence.

"When we all humble ourselves and work toward truth and justice, we can begin to heal our land. We call on the elected officials of the city of Chattanooga, who are elected by the people, to serve in a manner that puts the people’s needs first."

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