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Questions remain on why MNPD officers did not call crisis counselors during tense standoff

Metro PD deadly shooting
Posted at 8:08 PM, Jan 28, 2022

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Law enforcement officers from three separate agencies believed Landon Eastep experienced a mental health crisis, but at no point did they call mental health professionals at the Mental Health Cooperative for help.

Metro Nashville Police would not elaborate on why but would only tell us that all six of their officers had the training to handle this type of crisis.

That includes:

  • Verbal Defense and Influence: “Provides officers verbal tools that they can use for de-escalation.”
  • Incident Decision Making Model: “This system is designed to help slow down any incident to help promote better decision making.”
  • Law Enforcement Response to Mental Illness: “The course provides clues that officers can identify to help them determine the type of mental health crisis that might be in front of them which helps these personnel work to identify the best course for resolution.”
  • Force and De-escalation Practicum: “Places officers in evolving use of force situations to allow this personnel to exercise the use of force continuum.”

We know officers requested negotiators right after they responded to the call. By then, Mt. Juliet Officer Fabjan Llukaj was already attempting to talk Landon Eastep out of using the boxcutter in his hands. There was also an unnamed THP trooper who initially stopped Eastep as he walked alongside I-65.

Robin Nobling of the National Alliance on Mental Illness Davidson County said she appreciated the words from officer Llukaj and heard “his desire for a different outcome.”

Llujak was a new hire to the Mt. Juliet Police Department but spent three years with MNPD. He was promoted to corporal last May and received 13 hours of de-escalation and mental health training. Llujak also received a Meritorious Service Award in December 2021 for his quick action in a standoff involving a man threatening suicide with a knife.

The man was not cooperative, but Llujak managed to build a rapport with the man and eventually convinced him to drop his knife. Command staff later recommended Llujak for his award.

While Nobling says she doesn’t question officer tactics in the heat of the moment, she knows Eastep was already in a heightened state of anxiety.

Nine officers from three departments surrounded the 37-year-old man as he held the boxcutter. MNPD Chief John Drake directed the Training Academy to begin an immediate review of the officer’s response.

“The department regularly reviews critical incidents and the work on this one has begun. I am saddened by any loss of life, and I send my condolences to the Eastep family,” Drake said.

Drake also directed that Officer Brian Murphy, a 25-year MNPD veteran be decommissioned and lose police authority pending a review. They identified Murphy as the individual who fired the final two shots from a rifle, long after Eastep was on the ground.

The other five officers were placed on routine administrative leave. Nashville District Attorney Glenn Funk directed the TBI to investigate the shooting and says he won’t take any action until their investigation is complete.

Some have asked why officers did not deploy their new co-responding model called Partners in Care to the scene. Nobling says the program is still in its pilot phase where counselors are only partnered with officers in select precincts.

While it’s not clear when the program will fully deploy across the Metro, Nobling says this tragic case shows why the need exists. She says for there to be real change, we need to see mental health from a different perspective.

“If we would look at that in this country as a health condition that’s not stigmatized, more people would be willing to get help sooner,” Nobling said.