Michael Dial was driving his 1976 pickup truck through eastern Tennessee last April, hauling a fully loaded trailer behind him, when officers tried to pull him over for driving with a suspended license, according to authorities.
But Dial, 33, refused to stop his vehicle on April 13 — so officers tried to chase him down around 4:30 p.m. During the 17-mile chase, Dial rammed his pickup into several law enforcement vehicles, drove into oncoming traffic and ran red lights, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
Then the tires on Dial’s trailer flattened, police said, tossing some of the items Dial was hauling off the trailer and into the median of the highway.
At that point, the situation turned deadly: Two officers pursuing Dial fired into his vehicle, sending the pickup careening off the highway and down an embankment into trees — and leaving the driver with a deadly gunshot wound to his head, police said. Bodycam footage from that day, which was obtained by News Channel 5, reveals that White County Sheriff Oddie Shoupe told officers to use deadly force rather than ram Dial’s vehicle: “I told ’em, I said take him out,” Shoupe can be heard saying.
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Shoupe didn’t know a deputy’s body cam was recording the conversation, the TV station reports.
“If they don’t think I’ll give the damn order to kill that motherf---er, they’re full of s--t,” Shoupe can be heard saying on the video. “I love this s--t. God I tell you what, I thrive on it.”
Those comments and others from the bodycam footage have spurred Dial’s widow, Robyn, to file a federal lawsuit against the sheriff, county and officers involved in the shooting. The lawsuit alleges that officers used excessive force against Dial, who was unarmed.
“They said ‘we’re ramming him,’ ” Shoupe can be heard saying on bodycam footage of the incident, the TV station reports. “I said, ‘Don’t ram him, shoot him.’ Ain’t gonna tear up my cars.”
The lawsuit says that the sheriff “preferred to shoot and kill Mr. Dial rather than risk damaging his patrol cars.”
The recording of Shoupe’s conversation about the incident with a deputy contains profane language:
After the shooting occurred last April, Dial’s wife said her husband had been going to a flea market that day, WKRN reports. She added that she wasn’t sure why Dial had run from authorities — but said the incident didn’t need to end in a shooting death.
“Why fire shots? Why shoot?” Dial’s wife, Robyn, said after her husband’s death, WKRN reports. “Don’t they have those things they throw down, they have nails in to pop your tires? Why would they have to shoot him?”
Deputies in DeKalb County, where the chase began before it entered White County, said it was “more like a funeral procession” than a high-speed pursuit, with speeds never exceeding 50 miles per hours, the Guardian reports.
Three officers were hurt in the incident, but their injuries weren’t life threatening, investigators said.
A Tennessee Bureau of Investigation inquiry into Dial’s death found that the officers who fired at Dial were justified. The report said Dial “was a dangerous and unstable subject who posed a serious and immediate risk of serious bodily injury or death to both law enforcement officers as well as other citizens in the immediate area,” the Cookville Herald-Citizen reports.
A toxicology report found methamphetamine, amphetamine and cannabis in Dial’s system when he died, according to the newspaper.
In August, when a local district attorney released video and audio files related to the shooting, Shoupe was defiant in an interview with a local newspaper.
“I hate that this happened, but we are not going to tolerate people coming into this county and running over our citizens and our officers, and we will deal with them severely,” Shoupe told SpartaLive.