Mentally Ill Black Man Fatally Shot By Police, And He Live-Streamed The Whole Thing

Mentally Ill Black Man Fatally Shot By Police, And He Live-Streamed The Whole Thing
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Authorities are investigating the death of an unarmed, bipolar Tennessee man who was fatally shot by police Thursday afternoon as he recorded the entire encounter on Facebook Live.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation told NBC News that Rodney James Hess, 36, started acting oddly after parking his SUV along a highway off-ramp.

After Crockett County police arrived on the scene, authorities claim Hess refused officers' commanders and "attempted to use his vehicle to strike the officers at least twice," according to CNN.

In one of the two videos of the encounter, which Hess recorded and posted on Facebook, he can be heard asking to speak with "the higher commands" before he makes some sort of movement.

"During the escalation of events," according to officials, at least one sheriff's deputy fired shots through Hess' windshield. In his second video, Hess can be heard yelling in agony as shots ring out; he drives a short distance after being shot before appearing to crash the vehicle.

Hess was later airlifted to a hospital, where he died of his injuries. He leaves three children behind, ages 14, 3, and 18 months, and a fiancée, according to USA Today.

"He was not on a suicide mission," said Johnisha Provost, his bride-to-be. "He was not trying to harm anybody. He was asking them for help and they shot him down."

Provost said Hess suffered from bipolar disorder, and that she had told him to ask for a person in charge — "higher commands" — if he was ever in a situation where he needed assistance.

Though one of Hess' cousins told NBC that the video is legit, a representative for the state Bureau of Investigation said it can't confirm its authenticity yet. 

"As with anything that might potentially be evidence, we will examine (the video) to determine if it has probative benefit," said TBI Public Information Officer Josh DeVine.

Hess' family said he was a New Orleans native who had been living in Texas; he was in Tennessee last week to visit his mother.

"Rodney was a father, a son, and hard worker," said his cousin, Donald Hess III. "Rodney suffered from mental illness but was a functioning member of society. He often traveled for work — mostly construction work — and he did everything for his children."

This is so sad. Not only does Hess' shooting death addresses issues of police brutally but also raises the question of how police officers are interacting with mentally ill people. 

We hope the Hess family can get some closure and that the police in Tennessee are held accountable.

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