MOUNT PLEASANT, Tenn. (WKRN) – A Mount Pleasant police officer involved in a deadly shooting earlier this year has been cleared of any wrongdoing.
News 2 has obtained a copy of a letter written by Maury County DA Brent Cooper, which says Officer Brian Gray’s actions on that February night were “justifiable and legal.”
Cooper says Officer Gray was protecting himself and had reasonable belief he was in imminent danger of death or serious bodily injury at the time.
While there is video from the officer’s body camera that clearly shows the scene moments after the fatal shots were fired, it doesn’t show the gunfire in that crucial moment.
Police Chief Mike Hay told News 2 it’s because the camera has to be physically switched to record, and it does not automatically come on when an officer activates his blue lights.
In this particular case, in all of the commotion, Officer Gray didn’t turn his body cam on until after the fatal shots were fired. However, it does give a good idea of what happened immediately after.
On the video, Gray is heard saying, “Roll an ambulance. Shots fired. One down,” just after he fired nine shots at Bradley Nelson – a suicidal man who led the officer on a high-speed chase before getting out of his car and pointing a rifle at him.
In the frantic moments, you can see Officer Freddy Hart arrive with his gun out. Both officers are yelling at Nelson, who is on the ground.
As the horrific reality begins to register, Officer Gray is heard saying, “He was going to kill me. Get some medics. We need some medics. He got out and pointed at me. Then he got out and he turned with it and I started shooting.”
“He was looking back at me and he stopped and he brought the gun around and I jumped out and he jumped out and when he turned I screamed, ‘Drop the gun!’ and when he brought it, I started shooting.”
According to the letter written by DA Cooper, Nelson had already threatened to kill his wife, and a BOLO, or be on the lookout, had been issued for his arrest.
An order of protection in Lawrenceburg also states Nelson said he would “put a bullet in her head, then his.” He also reportedly said if an officer stopped him, they “would have to kill him.”
A report indicates there was an open bottle of whiskey in his car, and an autopsy has since revealed his BAC was nearly three times the legal limit.
According to the DA, when Nelson finally stopped his car after running from Officer Gray in a high-speed chase, he got out of the vehicle and aimed his rifle at the veteran cop.
According to the investigation, Gray ordered Nelson to drop his gun and when he didn’t the officer opened fire, striking the man three times.
A report said one of the officer’s bullets even hit Nelson’s rifle once. While there isn’t video of the shooting, ballistics would seem to indicate that the officer’s bullet hit Nelson’s rifle in a location that could only be struck if it were pointed at Gray when the lawman opened fire.
In Cooper’s letter, he noted that if Officer Gray had not stopped Nelson, he was on his way to his wife’s home with the intent to kill her and commit suicide.
Cooper also believes if Officer Gray hadn’t stopped the man, Nelson would have wrecked and killed or hurt himself or someone else.
Police Chief Mike Hay didn’t want to go on-camera but he called the shooting a tragedy for the Nelson family and for the officer involved.
“I want to reiterate what District Attorney Brent Cooper said in his letter,” Chief Hay said. “The death of Mr. Nelson is a tragedy. The events that unfolded on that night were certainly not the outcome we would have preferred. It was without a doubt a sad occurrence but we all must move forward. We continue to keep the family of Mr. Nelson in our thoughts and prayers.”
News 2 has learned Officer Gray is back at work and is coping with the incident.
Chief Hay told News 2 he has asked city council for two more officers and that Gray didn’t have backup up for much of the pursuit. He said he wants each shift to have enough manpower.