Violent incident sparks debate on safety on Broadway

Posted at 5:10 PM, Sep 09, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-09 20:43:16-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Lower Broadway is the heart of Nashville's entertainment district, but questions about the safety of the area were brought up after a violent incident over the weekend.

Just after midnight on Saturday, police said a man waved a gun in his car, prompting police to surround the vehicle, at which point the man in the car rammed into other cars to escape, nearly hitting pedestrians, and hitting a police officer.

That police officer fired a shot at the suspect and hit him, and while the suspect was able to get away in his car to the area of 12th and Broadway, he was taken into custody and taken to the hospital in critical condition shortly after the initial confrontation. The police officer was taken to the hospital as well, but is expected to recover.

The incident has sparked a debate on how to make Lower Broadway safer, with some people suggesting that Broadway be closed to vehicular traffic and only allow pedestrians.

“If this is about safety, that’s going to be kind of an illusion," Metro council member Freddie O'Connell said of closing the streets of Broadway. "We have plenty of other issues we need to address from just a plain public behavior kind of standpoint that have nothing to do with closure of the street.”

Business owners on Broadway largely agree, including Steve Smith, who owns Tootsie's, Honky Tonk Central, and many other venues on Broadway.

“It’s gonna kill tourism," Smith said, if Broadway were to be closed. He said, along with other owners, that it would make Broadway into a Beale Street or Bourbon Street environment, and could actually increase crime.

Smith said instead, there should be more of a focus on policing and enforcing laws on Broadway, which he said had been done in the past.

"When Karl Dean was in office, it was clean down there. We didn't have all these smelly streets, we didn't have all these bums lying around bumming money from people. We just didn't have that, we didn't put up with it," Smith said.

Police have stepped up patrols in the entertainment district, and many have said it's improved the safety of Broadway, but many business owners said more needs to be done for Broadway to be a safe place for locals and visitors alike.