Rodney Hess, 36, was in Tennessee to visit his mother in Memphis. A visit cut short as his life was ended by three shots that were fired into his vehicle. And Rodney Hess captured it on Facebook Live.
Crockett County deputies responded to calls of a vehicle parked perpendicular to traffic off of a freeway ramp. Backup was called in when Hess refused to comply with the first responding officers and began making “erratic statements”.
An earlier Facebook Live video just under half an hour before the incident took place shows Mr. Hess positioning his vehicle in the middle of the road.
What the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) asserts is that Hess attempted to assault responding officers with his vehicle twice. During the exchange, at least one officer fired three shots through Hess’ windshield striking the man. He was airlifted to Regional One Hospital where he would later die.
The video does not show the initial interaction with officers and only picks up seconds before Mr. Hess was shot as he demanded to see the “higher command”, an obvious request to speak with a supervising officer. No officers were injured in the exchange with Mr. Hess.
Rodney Hess’ Fiance Speaks Out
Hess’ fiance was watching her soon-to-be husband’s interaction with officers on his Facebook Live video as she saw him shot three times.
“He was not on a suicide mission,” Johnisha Provost, Hess’ fiance, said. “He was not trying to harm anybody. He was asking them for help and they shot him down. I always told him, ‘Babe, if you are ever in a situation where you need help, ask the person in charge for the higher command to help you,’ and that’s what he kept saying.”
According to The Blackloop, other members of Mr. Hess’ family said he was off his medication when the incident took place.
What we do know so far is that many law enforcement officers are poorly trained in dealing with the mentally ill. Mr. Hess did not need to die. Whether this was an attempt at suicide by cop remains to be seen. If dash cam footage confirms the TBI claim that Mr. Hess indeed tried to assault officers with his vehicle, then regardless of how citizens may feel, the shooting will be ruled as justifiable.
However, before Mr. Hess is gunned down he seemed to simply wish to speak with a supervising officer which would indicate that whatever was happening before had been deescalated. To many, this will seem like overzealous officers allowing their emotions to get the better of them and shooting Mr. Hess out of rage as opposed to protection.
Watch the deeply disturbing video below and you decide.
(featured image of Rodney Hess and his fiance via Facebook)