Officers open fire during traffic stop, man killed - WMC Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Officers open fire during traffic stop, man killed

Dmario Perkins (Source: Facebook) Dmario Perkins (Source: Facebook)
TBI investigating officer-involved shooting in Memphis (Source: WMC Action News 5) TBI investigating officer-involved shooting in Memphis (Source: WMC Action News 5)
MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) -

A man died immediately following a traffic stop in South Memphis.

The traffic stop happened on Mitchell Road near South Third Street around 9:30 p.m. Wednesday.

Memphis police officers who pulled over Dmario Perkins, 29, said he pulled out his gun and threatened to kill himself. 

Both officers opened fire after Perkins fired his weapon, according to investigators. The back window of Perkins' blue Pontiac sedan was shattered in the gunfire.

Perkins suffered at least one gunshot wound. He was taken to Regional Medical Center where he later died from his injuries.

It's unclear if Perkins shot himself, or if the officers' shots ended Perkins' life.

Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is the leading agency looking into what happened.

"We always like to remind the public in these types of matters that TBI solely acts as a fact-finder, so we gather the facts and turn them over. The interpretation of those facts--in other words whether the officers actions were justified--that's a decision that rests solely with the district attorney general," TBI spokesperson Josh DeVine said.

An autopsy is being performed on Perkins' body. Investigators hope it will shed light on which shot killed Perkins.

"This all happened very quickly. The officers got here, identified to dispatch that they had arrived, and then moments later is when all of this transpired," DeVine said.

Memphis Police Department confirmed both officers were wearing body cameras at the time of the traffic stop. WMC Action News 5 has requested footage from those cameras.

The names of the officers involved have not been released at this time. 

TBI is still investigating whether the bullet that killed Perkins came from an officer's gun or the gun that investigators said Perkins fired. 

MPD said both officers have been relieved of duty with pay pending the outcome of the investigation, as according to policy.

Wednesday night's officer-involved shooting isn’t the first in Memphis.

Memphis Police Association said Memphis police officers respond to more than one million calls every year.

“It happens in a split second, you have to be able to react,” said MPA President Mike Williams, who is also a 20-year MPD veteran.

Williams said the two officers who opened fire now go through a highly-regulated process.

“Because they're involved in a critical incident, they actually have to stand down for 48 hours,” Williams said. “It's mandatory. Stand down. No contact with anybody or anyone you can't question them for 48 hours.”

After the 48-hour decompression period, the officers will be interviewed by investigators.

They will not return to patrol until after TBI hands over its findings, and District Attorney Amy Weirich decides whether the shooting was justified.

“They're debriefed; they have the ability to go see counselors; we have psychologists on staff with the police department and you can also use outside individuals if that's what you want to do to be able to receive counseling,” Williams said.

This is the fourth officer-involved shooting in Memphis in 2018 and the second time this year an officer-involved shooting turned deadly.

The other deadly shooting happened in April when an officer shot 25-year-old Terrence Carlton twice, killing him. 

According to MPD, Carlton threatened the officer's life and reached for his waist. No gun was found at the scene.

TBI's investigation into that case is ongoing.

Will MPD body cam video be released? 

According to MPD policy, officers are supposed to turn on their body-worn cameras at the start of their shift.

It’s a surefire way to calm the public's concerns about what happens with officers while they're on patrol, especially when force is used.

However, MPD is slow to release body cam footage to the public, which doesn't seem to be the case in other jurisdictions.

After a deadly shoot-out at a Los Angeles Trader Joes Saturday, LAPD released their officer's body cam footage just three days after the incident.

In Las Vegas earlier this month, police released their body cam video less than a week after an officer seen shooting through the windshield of his cruiser.

Meanwhile in Memphis, an officer shot and killed a suspect in the Berclair area in April.

More than three months after WMC Action News 5 made a formal request to view the officer's body cam video, it still hasn't been released. MPD cited a state statute that doesn't require the release of video during an ongoing investigation.

“If it's hard for the major news networks in our city to get access to this information, can you imagine how difficult it is for the man on the street or Joe Blow citizen to get that information?” said Paul Garner with the Mid-South Peace and Justice Center.

Garner works with a number of citizens wanting to see police cam footage and undeniable evidence of what actually happened on the scene.

“But if the police department controls the flow of that information and it's not accessible to civilians that are involved in these incidents, we're still at a place where we still have no tools to hold people accountable,” Garner said.

An in-depth investigation by WMC5 back in November found of 94 public requests for MPD body camera footage, only 37 requests were fulfilled.

That number includes a request by WMC for video of an officer shooting and killing a dog last June.

It took MPD six months to release the video and charged the station more than $500 for a copy of the footage.

Garner said he has found that his clients have been charged similar amounts of money for copies of body cam footage, which he said is unreasonable.

WMC5 reached out to Memphis police for an interview with Director Mike Rallings about this issue and has yet to hear back.

Copyright 2018 WMC Action News 5. All rights reserved.

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