A Louisiana man livestreamed his own fatal shooting by a police officer on Facebook during a traffic stop on Thursday as his fiancee watched helplessly.
Rodney James Hess, 36, was acting erratically and had attempted to hit cops with his car ‘at least twice’ before he was killed at around 2:15pm, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation told NBC News.
In the video streamed on Facebook Live from a roadside in Alamo, Tennessee, Hess can be heard saying he wants to speak to ‘the higher commands’ before leaving his car.
He then appears to make some kind of movement and is shot several times through his windshield.
Hess, who is from New Orleans and lives in Texas but had been visiting his mother in Memphis, can be heard screaming after being hit, then appears to crash his vehicle.
His phone drops to the floor and begins to ring, while the sound of breaking glass – possibly officers trying to open the car door – can be heard.
He died after being airlifted to hospital.
Hess’s fiancee, Johnisha Provost, said that his request to speak to ‘the higher command’ was a sign that he was asking for help.
‘He was not on a suicide mission,’ she told the Commercial Appeal Friday from their home in Texas.
‘He was not trying to harm anybody. He was asking them for help and they shot him down.’
She explained: ‘He couldn’t get his mind together. That’s why he asked for a higher command.
‘I always told him, “Babe, if you are ever in a situation where you need help, ask the person in charge for the higher command to help you,” and that’s what he kept saying.’
Provost watched his death as it occurred, she said.
‘I found out as it was happening,’ Provost said. ‘I was at work and my aunt called me and was like, “Rodney is in trouble.” He was on Facebook and I logged on and I watched it.’
Hess’ cousin, Donald Hess III, said that the slain man was ‘a father, a son and hard worker.’
‘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,’ he said.
Some livesteam commenters suggested that Hess might have been on drugs. Noey Torres, one of Hess’s friends, responded: ‘He was off his medication he was not on drugs.
‘Rodney wasnt a user. He was a hard working family man who was in need of some medical help all u people talking like yall know something should be ashamed of yallselves.’
Hess also streamed another video, prior to the traffic stop by Crockett County sheriff’s deputies in which he acted oddly.
In the first, 17-minute long video he parks by the side of the road – with no police in sight – before walking around his vehicle, filming it. He then stands by the side of the road, filming passing cars.
A passerby stops to ask if he needs help, but he tells them, ‘Nah, I’m good, go ahead.’ They drive off.
At one point he moves his car so that is parked horizontally across one lane of traffic, then mumbles something about the ‘CIA.’
He moves the car a number of other times before blocking the road again. Police are seen through a rear window pulling up just before the video ends.
A tearful Provost told the Commercial Appeal that Hess was ‘a great person. A great dad. A great provider.’
‘He just suffered from mental illness and people need to be aware of how to deal with mental illness,’ Provost said. ‘They could have just shot his tires out or they could have handled it differently. They didn’t have to kill him.’
It is not clear exactly what happened at the moment the police fired on Hess. The officers’ identities are not being released as the investigation is still active.
‘Though we are aware such a video exists, we cannot confirm its authenticity,’ Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Public Information Officer Josh DeVine said.
‘As with anything that might potentially be evidence, we will examine it to determine if it has probative benefit.’
Once the investigation is concluded, details will be handed to 28th district attorney general Garry Brown, who will decide on whether to send the case to a grand jury.