Metro Nashville Police Department Officer Christopher Royer was on routine patrol in the city’s North precinct shortly before midnight on Friday, April 23. As is the case in a city with vehicle theft on the rise, Officer Royer called in to check the tags on a white late-model Mercedes. The plate came back registered to a 1998 green Chevrolet, so he turned on his blue lights and continued his investigation by stopping the vehicle. The stop ultimately resulted in Officer Royer shooting and killing a passenger in the car. 

According to police spokesman Don Aaron, the driver of the car immediately pulled over and “presented no issues at any time,” adding that the passenger, however, “immediately got out of the Mercedes with two large butcher knives, one in each hand, and began running around erratically.”

Less than 24 hours after the incident, MNPD released bodycam footage showing officer Royer getting out of his vehicle after the Mercedes came to a stop. Right away, Royer saw the passenger outside of the car and yelled, “Hey, stay in the car.” The passenger ignored Officer Royer and began approaching him. Officer Royer called for reinforcement, then yelled, while moving backward away from the passenger, “Drop the knife.” 

Meanwhile, the driver of the white Mercedes can be heard yelling, repeatedly, at the passenger, asking, “What are you doing… What are you doing,” as the passenger gets in the driver’s side of Royer’s patrol car. Officer Royer yells at him twice to “Get out of the car” while also yelling, “Drop the knife, drop the knife.” The passenger exits the patrol car and runs around erratically. Officer Royer then yells:

“Dude, what are you doing? Drop the knife… I don’t want to shoot you… I don’t want to shoot you.”

The passenger of the Mercedes had two large butcher knives, one in each hand, according to police. (Metro Nashville Police Department)

At this point, the driver can be heard desperately yelling “stop” to his passenger. Officer Royer again calls for backup, repeating the passenger has a knife. Officer Royer continues to back away from the passenger, who is running towards him, wielding a butcher knife in each hand. Officer Royer yells, “Drop it,” as the passenger charges towards him. Officer Royer then fires three shots at the passenger and immediately radios “Shots fired” and yelled to the driver, “Hey, stay over there, stay over there.” The driver replied saying, “I will.” Officer Royer then says to the passenger, who is lying on the ground, “Dude, what are you doing man, come on, I did not want to have to do that…” 

The man died shortly after arriving at Vanderbilt Medical Center.  

In a press conference following the shooting, MNPD Police Chief John Drake, a member of the city’s police force for 32 years, said of Officer Royer:

“When I got the call this morning, I had mixed emotions, especially with all that’s going on around the nation and in this city. No officer wants to deal with the type of situation as Officer Royer encountered tonight. He did everything he could, I felt. He retreated he asked the individual to drop the weapon several times. [The individual] continued charging at him, and he was left with no choice. What you don’t see on [the video] is that when he was down, there were five officers that rendered aid to this individual.”

John Drake, Chief of the Metro Nashville Police Department/Samantha MaxWPLN News (File) 2020

Per policy, Officer Royer, a four-year veteran of MNPD, is now on administrative assignment while the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations (TBI) and the Davidson County District Attorney’s Office analyze and investigate the incident. Chief Drake indicated the driver of the Mercedes is not currently in custody. He declined to discuss the details of whether the car was stolen but reiterated that the tag on the white Mercedes belonged to a green Chevrolet. When asked if Officer Royer had a taser, and if so, should he have used it, Drake replied:

“I’m sure he did have a Taser, our officers are issued Taser, but in those situations – that’s a lethal situation. He de-escalated by retreating, he moved backwards, again ordering the individual to drop the weapon… You can’t use a less lethal if someone is attacking you with a knife.”

The TBI has positively identified the man killed in this incident as Marvin Veiga (DOB: 2-15-89). According to WKRN, he is a Most Wanted Fugitive out of Massachusetts with a violent criminal history and is wanted for an Oct. 2020 murder in Brockton. A well-placed source told WKRN that he has numerous violent felonies, including carrying a loaded firearm in the commission of a felony. The man also has a history of assaulting police officers.