HICKMAN COUNTY, Tenn. (WKRN) – The 32-year-old man shot and killed by a Dickson police officer on Sunday was no stranger to law enforcement in western Middle Tennessee, but still his friends say the person committing those crimes was far from the actual man.
“He’s not a monster; he’s not a monster,” said Jennifer Pate, a lifelong friend.
With tears in her eyes, Pate sat on her mom’s front porch remembering Kyle Lankford after he died in Hickman County when police say he led officers on a chase in a stolen Jeep.
“He was one of my best friends, and not just one of my best friends; he was part of my family,” she told News 2.
Pate says Lankford was a childhood friend, and she will never forget his laugh.
“He was happy, but he was also a tortured soul. He was torn between who he wanted to be and what his life had become,” she explained.
Unfortunately, she admits it took a different tone years ago when drugs began running his life.
“Drugs, meth, had a grip on him and he didn’t know how to stop it,” Pate said.
His first run-ins with the law go back as far as 2004. Most recently, in 2015, he ran away from a rehabilitation facility, stole two trucks, and then hit a Dickson County patrol car. His arrest led to deputies finding several meth labs in a trailer near Vanleer.
“The last thing that I told him was that there were people counting on him to come home,” said Pate.
She said she knows Lankford was not perfect but she wants him to be remembered for what he was before his life of crime.
“He made a mistake, but I don’t think that his mistake should define him,” Pate said.
Jennifer adds that Lankford’s family wants to use him as an example of how drugs can ruin your life.
As for the officer, the Dickson Police Department says they will not release the officer’s name until after the TBI finishes their investigation but he is on administrative leave.