The relationship between James Cayce residents and Nashville police is a tenuous one. In this story, we explore two defining moments in Cayce: A viral cell phone video of a police officer being assaulted, and the most controversial police shooting in the city’s recent history.
Both were caught on camera. And both reveal the strain between the people who live in Cayce and the people who patrol it.
The story begins with Nashville Police Officer Matthew Cammarn, who responds to a call in the East Nashville public housing complex and ends up in a physical altercation that’s caught on cell phone video. Grainy and crude, the video quickly went viral.
It was a defining moment in Cayce, causing police to bear down on the complex in a way they hadn’t before. Politicians swore they'd catch the alleged attackers and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law. Meanwhile the housing authority installed more than 150 new surveillance cameras and the police sent in officers in droves — by cruiser, by foot, by horseback and by helicopter.
But more broadly, the incident with Officer Cammern laid bare the fractured relationship between the community and the police.
Then, 10 months after Cammarn's fight in Cayce, a man named Jocques Clemmons ran a stop sign. An officer named Joshua Lippert pulled up behind him. What began as a basic traffic stop ended in a fatal shooting. Lippert shot Clemmons three times in the back, killing him. And it was all caught on camera — on some of the same cameras installed after Officer Cammarn was assulted.
For years, similar stories had been playing out around the country — black men shot by white police officers. Suddenly, Nashville was in the middle of its own.
This radio story is derived from our special longform podcast series called The Promise. To hear the complete series, you can listen via Apple Podcasts, Google Play or wherever you get your podcasts — or just start with part one here: