Landon Eastep was agitated and carrying a box cutter in his hand along I-65 in Nashville on Thursday afternoon when police shut traffic on the busy highway and pleaded with him to turn himself in. Finally seeing him as a threat, officers gunned him down in a 30-minute standoff.
Defense or Murder
Eastep died from wounds suffered due to a hail of bullets pumped into him along Interstate 65 on Thursday afternoon following a standoff with officers from Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD), Texas Highway Patrol (THP) troopers, and an off-duty Mt. Juliet Police officer.
Shocking bodycam footage of the incident shows police trying to pacify Eastep as he stood with a box cutter on the freeway. "C'mon brother, just drop the knife, get your hand out your pocket," Mt. Juliet Police officer James Kidd is heard saying in the bodycam video released later that day.
Kidd tells him multiple times to take his right hand out of his pocket and to drop the box cutter. Officers can be seen forming a semicircle around Eastep and begging him to take his hand out of his pocket.
Following a long standoff, Eastep finally can be seen drawing his hand out of his right pocket and pointing something in the direction of the officer.
According to the bodycam footage, Eastep appears to pull an unknown "silver, shiny cylindrical object" from his right pocket. "I don't want you dead on the side of the interstate. Nobody wants that," Kidd can be heard saying in the eight-minute video released by the Metro Nashville Police Department.
"These folks right here they've got kids. Look, I've got kids in the car, kids standing by. Don't give them that show, brother."
However, Eastep refuses to comply when several rounds of gunfire ring out and the 37-year-old falls to the ground.
Misjudgment Costs Life
It is understood that the police knew Eastep's name before shooting him down. "Landon, c'mon brother. Landon, please brother, don't do it. No no no no!" Kidd can be heard saying in the bodycam footage officers fired as many as 20 bullets.
MNPD spokesperson Don Aaron said that the officers opened fire because Eastep acted as though he had a gun. However, he had only a box cutter and nothing else.
"Nine law enforcement personnel fired their weapons after Eastep took a stance as if he had a firearm," he said. Aaron also confirmed that the "shiny cylindrical object" in Eastep's hand was not a firearm.
Friends of Eastep later told that he had battled mental health issues earlier. Estep was pronounced dead at a local hospital, with no officers injured in the incident.
Eastep was first spotted by a Tennessee Highway Patrol trooper. He was spotted in jeans, a green long sleeve top and a baseball hat around 2 pm on the northbound shoulder of the interstate at mile marker 76.
Officials said that the trooper stopped to offer to give the 37-year-old a ride home in order to get him off the busy road but, after a brief interaction, Eastep allegedly pulled out a box cutter.
This is when cops were informed and he was shot dead in a 30-minute standoff.
The MNPD has launched an internal review of the shooting and an investigation into the incident has also been launched. According to Nashville court records, Eastep had an outstanding charge of domestic assault with bodily injury from November and was due to appear in court in April.
In GoFundMe for Eastep's widow titled Help get Justice for Landon Eastep, McGill-Barge alleged he had been "murdered by several officers".
"This man had only a box cutter and had already shown it to officers before they killed him in cold blood," she said. "He was shot for no good reason at all and he did not deserve to die."
Eastep's sister-in-law Samantha McGill said that his widow is in contact with a lawyer but does not have plans to take legal action. The couple dated for nearly four years before marrying nearly a year ago.