Officer Josh Baker thought he pulled over a wanted man. So why did he search Nika Holbert's bag?

Legal expert explains search protocol
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Posted at 6:56 PM, Mar 15, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-15 21:40:45-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A review of the actions of Metro Nashville Police Officer Josh Baker and 31-year-old Nika Holbert is taking place after they exchanged gunfire and Holbert died.

The police officer searched Holbert's bag after he pulled over the black Chevrolet Camaro she was driving.

According to MNPD, Officer Baker expected to encounter Demond Buchanan at the wheel. He is the owner of the car and has six outstanding drug warrants, but Holbert was behind the wheel instead.

If that's the case, why was she detained?

After the incident, the police department released a shortened version of their exchange captured on the officer's body-worn camera and from his cruiser. On Monday, NewsChannel5 obtained the uncut video of the police stop.

In the uncut video, Officer Baker establishes with Holbert that Buchanan is not in the car. Holbert tells the officer it is her car now and she hasn't seen him recently. When asked if there is anything illegal in the vehicle, Baker tells the officer there is weed.

NewsChannel5's Hannah McDonald asked legal expert Nick Leonardo about the officer's decision to conduct a subsequent search.

Leonardo said if officers see something in plain view or have reason to believe there is something that needs to be investigated in the car, a bag search is not out of the question.

"In this case, you walk up to the vehicle, you're looking for a male, there's not a male there, but you approach the vehicle, you see a firearm or a weapon or drugs in plain view... you would have the duty as a police officer to conduct further investigation," said Nick Leonardo.

Video of the incident shows the officer pulling out substances from Holbert's bag. The department said he found marijuana and a powdery substance.

When Officer Baker attempted to put her in handcuffs things turn violent. The officer used his taser on Holbert before she shot him with a gun and he returned fire, according to police.

"I think it's too early to say whether or not the officer made a mistake. Obviously, this is a horrible situation for this young lady and her family as well as for this officer. It's just a tragic situation all around but that's why we have investigations," Leonardo said.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation is still looking into the case, but it will ultimately be up to District Attorney General Glenn Funk if any legal action will be taken.