Media Finally Reports Key Details of Mark Capps Killing

Eight months after Saving Country Music initially reported that a Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) Officer was in the house when Grammy-winning engineer Mark Capps allegedly kidnapped his family and threatened to kill them, the Associated Press has finally reported on the matter among a rash of other reports that have surfaced in Nashville news outlets.

Unfortunately for the friends and family of Mark Capps who were hoping for the media to step up and correct the mischaracterizations of the Metro Nashville Police and the initial media reports, it may be too little too late. Not only has Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk already decided to not bring charges in the matter against the members of law enforcement involved, it appears Metro Nashville has washed their hands of the matter as well with an Office of Professional Accountability report recommending no disciplinary action against any of the officers involved.

Mark Capps was killed by a Nashville SWAT Officer while serving warrants for his arrest on January 5th, 2023. Three SWAT Officers were ordered to the front porch of the Mark Capps house to place an explosive device on the front door. When Capps came to the door—allegedly with a revolver in his hand—SWAT officer Ashley Kendall Coon fired four times at Capps.

After the first shot was fired, the front door of the house closed. Despite not being able to see Capps in order to determine if he remained a threat, Coon kept firing, shooting Capps three times through the closed door, ultimately killing Capps. Along with the bullets, fragments of the door were found in Mark during the autopsy. Body camera footage from the officers leave it inconclusive if Mark had a gun, or if he pointed it toward officers. Whether Capps had a gun or not, he was clearly retreating when he was shot.

In a press conference held on the day of the shooting, Metro Nashville Public Affairs Director Don Aaron stated that Mark Capps had kidnapped his wife and stepdaughter at gunpoint and held them against their will. The media ran with this story and have been reporting it verbatim every since, including when the autopsy report for Capps was released, and when District Attorney Glenn Funk closed the investigation with no charges on May 23rd.

But the whole time there was a third person in the house with Mark Capps. Zachary Noah Silva is an officer for the TBI, and was staying in the house that night. He was the boyfriend of Mark’s stepdaughter. Not only was Silva in the house, he was there with his sidearm, badge, and uniform. Despite police characterizing the incident as an active kidnapping, Noah Silva was able to leave during the incident, and when he did so, felt no need to report the incident to either Nashville Metro Police, or to the TBI when he arrived at work.

In a new report published by the AP and subsequently rebroadcast in scores of other AP media outlets titledInvestigation shows armed officer was hostage at home of Grammy winner who was killed by police,” it states:

Newly released investigative files in the police shooting death of a Grammy-winning sound engineer reveal there was an armed Tennessee Bureau of Investigation officer in the home when Mark Capps began threatening his family with guns Jan. 5.

The officer, Zachery Silva, was the boyfriend of Mark Capps’ stepdaughter, McKenzie Acuff, according to the records. Silva told investigators he attempted to de-escalate the situation, eventually leaving the house around 5:30 a.m. after Mark Capps put down the weapons and returned to his bedroom. When Mark Capps, 54, fell asleep several hours later, and Acuff and her mother Tara Capps, Mark Capps’ wife, were able to leave the house and file a police report. Police later shot and killed Mark Capps when he pointed a gun at an officer after they tried to arrest him at his home.

But despite the AP story characterizing that it was the release of TBI files that revealed Noah Silva’s presence in the home during the alleged hostage situation, Saving Country Music was able to verify this information and published it all the way back on January 18th—13 days after Mark Capps was killed.

Despite Metro Nashville not mentioning Noah Silva in both a press conference and a critical incident report published the same day as the Capps killing, Noah Silva’s presence was revealed in the original arrest warrants issued by Metro Nashville Police, and available to the public as soon as Mark Capps was declared deceased. Saving Country Music then verified Noah Silva’s employment for the TBI with both the Public Affairs Office of the Metro Nashville Police Department, as well as the TBI itself.

Furthermore, the TBI’s 176-page investigation report into the killing of Mark Capps was not “newly released.” The report was published on the Davidson County District Attorney’s website by July 28th—over six weeks ago. After spending additional time to obtain the full body camera footage from the officers involved in the killing via the TBI, Saving Country Music posted its own extensive report on the Mark Capps killing and investigation on August 22nd, or three weeks ago.

Additionally, the title of the AP report characterizes TBI Officer Noah Silva as a “hostage” in the incident that led up to the SWAT raid. But reading Noah Silva’s account from the TBI report, along with the audio transcript taken from a video that Mark’s stepdaughter took during the altercation, it reveals that Silva was never held at gunpoint by Capps.

Instead, Noah Silva refused to come downstairs until Capps unloaded one of his guns. Silva was then able to de-escalate the situation by talking to Capps. That is how Silva was able to leave for work at the TBI at 5 am. The stepdaughter then returned to bed, and Mark and his wife Tara also returned to bed.

The reason Noah Silva did not call police when he left the house to alert them to an active hostage situation was because there wasn’t one. Silva also says in the report that after he left, he kept in constant contact with the stepdaughter to make sure the incident didn’t not get out of control again and he would need to call the police. If the hostage situation had been ongoing, Silva would have a duty a sworn as an officer to report it.

This all undercuts the characterizations of the Metro Nashville Police, who said the hostage situation was active the entire time. They did not even mention that Noah Silva was in the house, perhaps because it refutes Metro Nashville’s entire characterization of the incident that led to one of their officers killing Mark Capps in the entry way of his own home. Capps never fired a shot, nor physically harmed anyone, and had no prior criminal record.

What the story from the Associated Press on the Mark Capps killing gets right is leading with how incredible and significant the revelation is that a TBI Officer was in the house during the alleged kidnapping. The shocking nature of that revelation is only possible because the Metro Nashville Police Department excluded that information from the public in both their pronouncements on the incident.

After a few Nashville-based media outlets reported on the 176-page TBI report earlier this week, many others outlets did as well, especially after the AP story was released on September 12th. This includes WKRN News Channel 2, whose Tori Gessner falsely reports the facts of the case. Along with the WKRN studio anchor saying that police tried to “save” a warrant on Capps, and that “skaters” said he held his wife and stepdaughter hostage—still not mentioning the presence of Noah Silva—Gessner says that the TBI obtained information for the report from video cameras inside the home.

This reporting from WKRN is completely incorrect. The TBI report clearly states that the video cameras in the home were not working at the time and did not record the incident. Instead, the information in the report was taken from the testimony of the witnesses, as well as audio from videos the stepdaughter took with her phone. The phone did not capture the scenes of the incident, but did capture audio at different times during the altercation.

The extended delay in reporting on what should have been a critical local story of the fatal killing of a member of the music community by police, as well as the continued misunderstandings of the circumstances presented in the TBI report has made the Mark Capps killing not just a policing story, but a media story in how and why so many outlets dropped the ball.

The Tennessean also issued a report (paywalled) earlier this week based the 176-page TBI report. But along with not saying much critical of the Metro Nashville Police in the report, The Tennessean refused to address the numerous concerns about the killing when they spoke to Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake about the incident on March 15th, including not bringing up Noah Silva’s presence in the Mark Capps home.

Most importantly though, now that the media in Nashville has finally been made aware that a TBI Officer was in the home and chose not to act during the alleged kidnapping—or to report on the incident when he left the home—the next thing that deserved to be scrutinized is why the TBI was put in charge of investigating the Mark Capps killing when it involved one of their own, presenting a clear conflict of interest. The reason the TBI is charged with investigating any police-involved shooting by Metro Nashville Police is to eliminate any conflicts of interest. But in this case, the TBI had a conflict of interest as well.

The 176-page TBI Report verifies that the TBI was not in a position to impartially investigate what happened that night. The United States Justice Department, or perhaps a special investigator assigned by the Governor would be the only impartial body to investigate the matter objectively. And since a good case can be made that the civil rights of Mark Capps were violated, a Justice Department inquiry similar to the ones we’ve seen in other police-involved killings seems necessary.

Saving Country Music has also learned that the widow of Mark Capps is seeking a civil lawsuit against Metro Nashville Police.

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The Backstory

With scores of credits to his name from working with artists such as Dolly Parton, The Oak Ridge Boys, Ronnie Milsap, The Isaacs, and many others, 54-year-old Mark Capps was well-known and beloved throughout the country music community, and had no previous criminal record or history of arrests. Mark Capps also came from a prominent country music family. He was the son of Grand Ole Opry legend and Musicians Hall of Fame member Jimmy Capps, also known as “The Man In Back.”

Mark’s brother Jeffery Allen Capps passed away two days prior to the incident. On December 15th, 2022, Becky Isaacs of the country Gospel band The Isaacs was hit head-on in a two car collision in Hendersonville, Tennessee, and hospitalized. Capps was close to Becky Isaacs, and she was severely injured in the accident. This also resulted in the Isaacs having to cancel numerous tour dates, which put Mark Capps out of work right around the Holidays and raised his concerns about money.

All of this led to January 5th. Still distraught over the death of his brother, Mark Capps was heavily medicated and drinking alcohol. When his wife Tara came home and saw Capps drinking, she took the beer from him, which helped initiate the altercation. The TBI report makes it clear that Mark Capps did at one point verbally threaten to kill his wife, stepdaughter, Noah Silva, the family dogs, and the police if they were called, and did point a gun at the family’s dogs at one point.

Tara Capps wanted her husband removed from the home since he was clearly experiencing a mental health crisis, but she claims she never wanted him killed. As the Associated Press report states, “Nashville has a project called Partners in Care that teams counselors from the city’s Mental Health Cooperative with officers to respond to mental health emergencies where there is a gun or other danger present. Instead, members of the Metro Nashville Police Special Response Tactical team returned to the Capps’ home around 2 p.m.”

This was the fatal mistake made by Metro Nashville Police, along with ordering SWAT officers to the front door to place the explosive device as opposed to opening a line of communication with Capps. This decision also put the SWAT officers at risk. The Partners In Care program was launched in 2021, with one of the pilot programs based in the Hermitage precinct where Mark’s wife and stepdaughter went after the incident.

Despite sources inside Metro Nashville telling Saving Country Music that the captain over the Special Operations Division (SOD), SWAT, the Special Response Team (SRT), and Aviation named Greg Davis was moved to the Parks Department because of the incident, the Metro Nashville Police Department has yet to publicly acknowledge any wrongdoing whatsoever in the Mark Capps matter, have handed out no disciplinary action, nor have they acknowledged any moves to make sure a similar situation doesn’t occur again in the future.

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The group “Friends of Mark Capps” launched a petition seeking justice for Capps.

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