The wife of Grammy-winning sound engineer Mark Capps, who was killed by police in January, filed a federal lawsuit against the city of Nashville and police officer Ashley Coon on Monday, the Associated Press reports. Three police officers, including Coon, said Capps was killed after pointing a handgun at them. Capps’ family says body camera footage suggests he didn’t aim a weapon. The suit alleges Coon used “excessive, unreasonable force by shooting and killing Capps when he was not posing an active threat of imminent harm.” It argues the city is to blame for Capps’ death because it allowed the Metro Nashville Police Department to operate with a “culture of fear, violence, and impunity.” Metro Nashville Associate Director of Law-Litigation Allison Bussell said, “We have not been served with the Capps lawsuit and have not reviewed or investigated the allegations.”
Capps, who won four Grammys for his work on polka albums more than a decade ago, was depressed and suicidal in the weeks leading up to his death. At around 2 a.m. on Jan. 5, after a night of drinking and taking pills, Capps pulled a pair of pistols out and began berating his wife. He then held his wife, her adult daughter, and the daughter’s boyfriend captive at gunpoint, threatening to kill them and family dogs. After Capps finally agreed to put the guns away and sleep, Tara Capps and her daughter, McKenzie Acuff, went to their local police precinct for help, and a 13-person SWAT team was sent. Although the Nashville Police had a program called Partners in Care that teams counselors from the city’s Mental Health Cooperative with officers to respond to mental health emergencies with a gun or other danger present, counselors were not called to the scene. After a SWAT member shot and killed Capps, investigators were told that Capps was pointing a gun at them, with Coon saying Capps’ finger was on the trigger. The investigation found the shooting was justified, and no one was charged.