- Full body camera footage obtained by Saving Country Music from the killing of Mark Capps confirms he was shot through the closed front door of his home by Metro Nashville Police.
- A detailed report from the TBI (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation) confirms that a TBI officer was in the Mark Capps home and was able to freely leave during the period when an alleged kidnapping was supposedly ongoing.
- Testimony and audio transcripts from the TBI investigation confirm a de-escalation occurred during the incident that led up to SWAT being ordered to the Mark Capps home, unreported by Metro Nashville Police or the media.
- Mark Capps’ widow Tara is pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit in the killing of her husband by Metro Nashville Police.
It came as quite a shock in the country music community and beyond on January 5th when the news broke that 4-time Grammy-winning engineer Mark Capps was killed by Nashville SWAT Officers while they were serving warrants for his arrest. 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, was known as a affable guy, 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. Known as “The Man In Back” by his peers and “The Sheriff” on the popular country music RFD-TV show Larry’s Country Diner, Mark Capps’ father was one of the most important and revered side men in modern country music. Jimmy Capps passed away in 2020.
As news began to trickle out about an officer-involved shooting in Nashville, who the deceased was, and how he’d been killed in the front room of his own house during what the police characterized as a “covert operation,” questions immediately began to swirl about the circumstances surrounding the killing, the characterizations by the Metro Nashville Police Department about what happened, and ultimately if Mark Capps truly needed to die.
In a press conference shortly after the shooting, Metro Nashville’s Public Affairs Director Don Aaron said,
The subject’s wife and stepdaughter were awakened by him this morning at gunpoint. They were brought into a family room. He threatened them, said that if they called anyone he would kill them. He was also throwing things about the residence, and just generally threatening them with the gun all the while, not letting them leave. Some time this morning after sunup, he ultimately fell asleep. The two victims were able to flee the residence, and went directly to the Hermitage precinct. Officers there talked to the two victims, took their statements in detail, and wound up swearing out arrest warrants against Mark Capps.
On the day of the shooting, police also issued a “critical incident report” that included a portion of the body cam video where SWAT officer Ashley Kendall Coon can be seen brandishing an Colt M4 rifle and pointing it at the front door of the residence while a second SWAT Officer is placing an explosive device on the front door of Capps’ residence on Summit Run Place in the Hermitage neighborhood of Nashville.
During this operation, Mark Capps can be seen coming to the door in his bare feet and pajamas, and Officer Coon shouting through a storm door “Show me your hands!” before firing four shots less than a second after giving the command. Officer Coon claims Mark Capps had a pistol in his hand and pointed it at officers.
SWAT officers then enter the residence and continue to shout “Show me your hands!” as Capps lays in the entryway of the house. The critical incident report also showed a picture of the pistol Capps was allegedly carrying tucked partially under a rug and what appears to be a parcel package under a table. As police have confirmed, the gun of Mark Capps was never fired. Body camera footage from Officer Coon and the other two officers involved in the operation leave it inconclusive whether Mark Capps had a gun or pointed it at the officers.
The full, unedited body camera footage from the shooting officer, Ashley Kendall Coon, can be seen by CLICKING HERE. The shooting occurs right after the 4-minute mark. Graphic details involving Mark Capps have been pixelated out, and the video cannot be embedded due to age restrictions due to the graphic nature of the video.
The full body camera footage from SWAT officers Timothy Brewer (CLICK HERE) and Jason Rader (CLICK HERE) are also available.
In the Critical Incident Report released on January 5th , Public Affairs Director Don Aaron also states,
The victims said that Capps awakened them at 3:00 a.m., gathered them in the living room at gunpoint, and refused to allow them to leave. They said Capps repeatedly pointed his pistol at each of them, and told them multiple times that if they attempted to call anyone, he would kill them, and kill any police that showed up at the house. The victims said Capps ultimately fell asleep, giving them the opportunity to flee the home with their pets. They drove to the Hermitage precinct, and told officers what Capps had done, and that they were in fear of him. The arrest warrants were issued just before 2:00 p.m.
As is customary with all police-involved shootings in Nashville, the investigation into the killing of Mark Capps was handed over to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations, or TBI. After months of delay and Davidson County District Attorney Glenn Funk deciding to not bring criminal charges against Officer Coon in the killing, the TBI has finally issued their report on the incident. Saving Country Music also obtained the full body camera footage from the three primary SWAT officers involved in the shooting from the TBI.
The 175-page TBI report gives the public the most clear picture of what led up to the Mark Capps killing, as well as corroborating multiple details that directly refute the initial characterizations Metro Nashville’s Public Affairs Director Don Aaron made of the incident on January 5th, and the ongoing claims by the department. It also confirms that what has been reported about the killing in local and national media outlets omits key details that significantly change the story of how the killing of Mark Capps came about, and call into question the characterizations of Mark Capps both by Metro Nashville Police and in the press.
A TBI Officer Was In The Home During The Alleged Kidnapping
The most critical detail completely absent from any previous reporting and the statements from Nashville Police spokesman Don Aaron is that there was a third person in the house the night before the Mark Capps killing. Not only was that person a police officer, he worked for the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, which handled the investigation into the Capps killing, creating a direct conflict of interest. The TBI officer was also able to leave the house when the alleged kidnapping and threats were said to be ongoing, and when he did, he did not report the incident to his superiors at TBI headquarters, nor to Metro Nashville police or anyone else.
As first reported by Saving Country Music on January 18th, TBI Officer Zachery Noah Silva was at the Mark Capps home on January 5th. He was the boyfriend of Mark’s stepdaughter McKenzie Acuff and was staying over the night at the house. Though Noah Silva is mentioned in the initial arrest warrants as one of the occupants in the home that was allegedly kidnapped and held against his will, no charges were filed on his behalf as they were for McKenzie Acuff and Mark’s wife Tara Capps since Silva did not give sworn testimony.
After the revelations of Noah Silva’s presence in the home and that he was allowed to leave during the alleged kidnapping, the characterization that Silva, McKenzie Acuff, and Mark’s wife Tara Capps were held against their will at gunpoint seemed incompatible with the facts. The TBI report helps clarify this inconsistency via testimony from the three alleged victims and audio recorded during the altercation.
Though the report corroborates clearly that Mark Capps was very much in a mental health crisis and did threaten the alleged victims while also threatening to kill police if they were called, there had been a point of de-escalation and reconciliation afterwards that allowed Noah Silva to leave for work, and for the altercation to be diffused.
While police spokesperson Don Aaron made no mention of Noah Silva and characterized that the only way McKenzie Acuff and Tara Capps were able to leave was after Mark Capps had fallen asleep, the TBI report explains how Noah Silva had convinced Mark Capps to unload one of his guns at one point, to eventually put his guns away entirely, and that Mark Capps and his wife Tara had returned to bed, McKenzie had returned to bed, and Noah Silva left for work.
Noah Silva’s testimony in the TBI investigation conducted by Detective James H Scarbro states:
Near 5:00 AM, Capps began asking Silva what he would do if he put a gun to McKenzie’s head. Silva stated that he wouldn’t do anything. Capps asked if Silva had his gun and taser which Silva replied were upstairs. Capps asked what Silva would do if he allowed him to retrieve his gun and taser, to which he replied he wouldn’t do anything because he believes Capps is a good man. Silva told Capps he was a good man and wasn’t like the criminals on the street. He further stated that he knew Capps wouldn’t do anything to harm someone he loves. Silva continued to try and boost Capps’ self-esteem.
Capps indicated he was going to put the guns away in the bedroom and asked Silva if he wanted to accompany him. Silva declined and said he trusted Capps. When [Capps] returned, he asked Silva to pat him down to which Silva checked his waistband and found no weapon. When Capps went to the bedroom, Silva asked Tara and McKenzie if they wanted him to call the police. They both said no. Silva figured that if police responded Capps would shoot them.
Just before Capps went to bed, he asked Silva not to report the incident at work. Silva told him he wouldn’t do that and made Capps believe he didn’t have any power outside of work. Silva tried to reassure Capps he hadn’t done anything wrong. As Capps went to bed, he stated that he was either going to wake up in a jail cell, he would wake up and everything would be the exact same, or he wouldn’t wake up at all. Silva told Capps he was going to work, and Capps said okay. McKenzie and Silva hugged Capps and Capps and Tara went to bed.
Silva left for work around 5:30-5:40 AM and continued communication with McKenzie. Silva left the house in uniform in attempt to convince Capps nothing was wrong and that simply was his routine. Silva and McKenzie texted and they spoke on the phone every 15 minutes or so. Capps fell asleep around 8:30 AM. McKenzie and Tara told Silva just before he fell asleep, he was slurring his words. Once Capps fell asleep, they grabbed a few things and went to the Metropolitan-Nashville Police Department Hermitage Precinct.
How The Altercations Started
The killing of Mark Capps was the culmination of a stressful period for the 54-year-old. Mark’s brother Jeffery Allen Capps had just passed away two days prior. 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.
According to Mark Capps and witnesses interviewed by the TBI, Mark’s brother Jeff had been involved in illegal drugs. Mark was worried that his brother’s drug dealers would come to the house to collect on his brother’s debts. Capps was also currently in an estate dispute with his stepmother over a collection of guitars from his father Jimmy Capps. The TBI report also reflects that Mark Capps was suspicious that his wife Tara was having an affair with Noah Silva.
All of this led to January 5th. Still distraught over the death of his brother, Mark Capps was heavily medicated and drinking alcohol. When Tara came home and saw Capps drinking, she took the beer from him, which helped initiate the altercation. Mark Capps was also angry that Tara was not arming the house’s security system since he was worried about his brother’s drug dealers. This concern for the security of the house would come into play later when the SWAT officers arrived.
During the altercation that led to the SWAT action, stepdaughter McKenzie Acuff recorded a video on her phone starting at 3:34 AM that lasted 23 minutes and 59 seconds, and another that started at 3:58 AM, and lasted 1 hour and five minutes. A transcript of the audio from the videos included in the TBI report confirms that the altercation between Mark Capps and his wife Tara began over not arming the alarm system, and Tara confronting Mark about drinking while on prescription medication.
- 00:20 – A man who is identified as Mark is arguing with Tara about turning the alarm system on and the possibilities of drug dealers trying to get into the house.
- 1:52 – Mark states that if he put a gun to his head, nobody would give a “shit.”
- 2:50 – Tara tells Mark he can’t take Zanax, Ambien, and beer. Mark then replies that Tara knocked Ambien out of his hands. (Note: No Ambien was found in Mark’s toxicology report).
Audio from the McKenzie Acuff videos also confirm that Mark Capps did threaten to kill McKenzie, Tara, Noah Silva, as well as the family’s dogs at one point.
- 36:05 – Mark asks, “Where’s your boyfriend?” McKenzie responds that he is in the bed. Mark says, “Get him up.”
- 36:21 – Mark says, “I’m in a mood, someone is gonna die.”
- 38:45 – Mark states, “I told you in order of importance. Noah goes down first, then you, then McKenzie, then the fucking dogs, then myself. That is where I’ve been at.”
- 41:51 – Mark states that he has two live guns
- 42:33 – Mark tells McKenzie to go wake him (Noah) up. Mark says he doesn’t care about his life anymore. He tells McKenzie to go wake Noah up, tell him to put everything on, and they will talk. He then said, “We’ll make it a hostage situation.”
But similar to the testimony Noah Silva gave to TBI Detective Scarbro, the audio corroborates that Silva attempted to de-escalate the situation before going downstairs, getting Mark to unload one of the two guns he had with him and eventually putting the guns away entirely, and eventually resolving the dispute in a reconciliation.
- 45:33 – Mark says, “If Noah puts a radio call to anybody, everybody is dead.”
- 46:30 – Tara says, “you love me so much you want to shoot me?” Mark Responds, “No, I’m going to shoot Noah.”
- 47:55 – Mark calls out Noah’s name, and he responds. “Yea.” Mark asked him if he was packing, if he had his radio on, or if he had called anybody.
- 48:17 – Noah asks Mark why he had guns out.
- 48:38 – Mark says, “Uncocked, please come down.”
- 49:16 – Mark tells Noah to please come down. Noah says put the guns down. Mark says no.
- 50:48 – Mark begins counting. McKenzie says ok we are down here.
- 52:06 – Mark says, “Noah.” There are some metallic sounds and then Mark says, “Empty.” McKenzie asked about the other one, and Mark stated that as soon as he emptied that one, Noah would call the police.
- 53:08 – Mark then explains again that he had been going through depression the last six months. He talks about dealing with Michelle (sic) (stepmother) over his dad’s possessions.
At this point in the transcript of the audio of the recording, the altercation continues to de-escalate.
- 56:47 – Mark tells them that he was making sure they were protected.
- 57:35 – Mark states that he refuses to spend the rest of his career working on bad shit. He said he would rather work at Starbucks or be in the ground.
- 59:45 – Tara apologizes and said she misunderstood what he was doing. McKenzie also apologizes.
- 59:59 – Mark says, “Off the record, night before, it was going to be me.”
- 1:00:40 – Mark says he didn’t mean to scare any of them, but she (Tara) took a beer away from him.
- 1:01:43 – Mark said two nights ago he was done, but then Jeff (brother) did what he did and now he has to deal with his stuff.
- 1:02:59 – Mark says, “I don’t know what you are required to report.” Noah says, “I’m not required to report anything.” McKenzie then tells him that she will make sure he doesn’t report anything if he doesn’t want him to.
- 1:03:47 – Mark blamed Tara for not getting money to give him for the house and not helping to pay the mortgage.
- 1:05:31 – Mark is continuing complaining when the video recording ends.
TBI Officer Noah Silva was allowed to leave the house after the de-escalation, refuting the characterization by Metro Nashville that it was a continuing hostage situation. Silva also did not feel the need to report the incident either to his superiors at the TBI offices when he arrived for work, or the Metro Nashville Police Department. Noah was also in contact every 15 minutes with his girlfriend McKenzie Acuff after he left, but at no point deemed the situation so dire that he needed to contact authorities.
At 8:30 AM, Tara Capps and McKenzie Acuff left the house and went to the Hermitage precinct of the Metro Nashville Police Department. Instead of dealing with the situation as a mental health crisis or attempting to open a line of communication with Capps to get him to surrender, Metro Nashville Police Department handled it similar to an ongoing hostage situation.
Nashville SWAT and the Fatal “Covert Operation”
The Metro Nashville Police Department chose to handle the situation with SWAT officers as opposed to using de-escalation tactics similar to the ones Noah Silva had used to diffuse the alleged kidnapping earlier in the morning. Police chose to not bring in crisis negotiators, mental health experts, friends or other family members to talk to Mark, and made no attempt to open a line of communication with Mark or allow him the opportunity to surrender. This proved to be fatal for Capps. It also put the responding SWAT officers unnecessarily in harms way, and made them susceptible to legal consequences.
The very first action the SWAT team took when arriving on the scene was to attempt to perform what Don Aaron of Metro Nashville characterized as a “covert operation” to place an explosive device on the front door of the Mark Capps house to blow the door open.
Even though body camera footage confirms that officers were milling about on the street in tactical gear, police sirens can be heard at times in the distance, Metro Nashville had been alerted that Capps potentially had the capability of monitoring the front porch via surveillance cameras, and that he was paranoid about drug dealers coming to the house to rob him, they still ordered officers Ashley Kendall Coon, Timothy Brewer, and Jason Rader to the front porch of the Capps home in the covert operation. It was Officer Coon’s job to guard the door just in case Mark Capps opened it while the explosive device was being placed.
Ultimately, Capps did come to the front door. When he opened the door, Officer Coon first shouted, “Show me your hands!” Less than one second later, Coon shot four rounds from his Colt M4 rife. The first round shattered the glass storm door over the main front door to the house. As this was happening, the front metal door closed as Mark Capps was either retreating or falling back into the house. The next three rounds passed through the front door and struck Mark Capps in his left shoulder and upper chest.
Though Saving Country Music has not been able to confirm if all three of the shots that struck Mark Capps were fired through the closed door, three bullet holes are clearly visible in the front door corresponding with the three bullet wounds according to the Mark Capps autopsy. At least two of the impacting bullets must have been fired through the closed door. Fragments of the metal door were also found in Mark’s body.
All three officers, including the firing officer Ashley Kendall Coon claim in their testimony to TBI investigator James H. Scarbro that Mark Capps had a gun, and raised it at them when he opened the door. Unfortunately, none of the three body camera angles from either of the three officers can confirm this due to the glare in the storm door, how quickly the main door to the house shuts, and body camera angles being obscured by the officers’ rifles.
What is known is that Mark Capps did not fire his weapon, and that at least two if not all three of the fatal bullets that killed Mark Capps were fired after the front door had closed, and Capps had either fallen back or retreated back into the house. Since the door was closed, Officer Coon would not be in a position to determine if Capps was pointing a gun at him and that his life was in imminent danger.
Questions still remain if Mark Capps had a gun in his hand at the time, raised the gun at officers, or was attempting to comply with officers when he was shot. We know both from the testimony of the alleged victims Tara Capps, McKenzie Acuff, and Noah Silva, and the toxicology report from the autopsy, Mark Capps was in an extremely inebriated state. Given less than a second to comply with the order “Show me your hands!” Mark very well could have been attempting to comply when he was shot.
The attitude in which the the Taurus revolver that Mark Capps allegedly pointed at the SWAT officers was discovered has also led to further questions. From the photo police shared, the gun looked tucked away under a rug and a parcel in a way that seemed difficult or impossible for a fatally wounded individual to do.
No gun was found in Mark’s hand or near it. In fact, in interviews with the TBI, both Officer Rader and Officer Brewer said they initially didn’t see the gun once Capps was shot and they entered the house.
On page 75 of the TBI report it states, “Rader said they made entry through the front door and the suspect was laying on the ground. He said he did not see the pistol at that point but glanced briefly then moved past him to clear the rest of the house.”
On Page 80 of the TBI report it states, “Brewer stated that he believed they needed to enter the house to ensure the suspect was not a threat. He said as soon as the house was clear, he placed flex cuffs on the suspect. He said he still didn’t see the weapon at that time, but he did notice that the house was a mess and stuff was everywhere.”
Even with Mark Capps shot three times by a Colt M4 rifle, Officer Brewer took the time to place flex cuffs on Mark as opposed to rendering first aid immediately. This is also confirmed through the body camera footage. Even when Brewer got close enough to Capps to put flex cuffs on him and had to physically move his arms, he still did not see the gun that Capps allegedly pointed at officers.
Body camera footage does confirm that the house was very messy and cluttered, making it a possibility the gun was pushed beneath items and partially concealed when the SWAT officers made their abrupt entry into the residence. All three SWAT Officers claim they saw the gun in Mark’s hand, and he was pointing it at them. At the 16:01 mark of the Ashley Coon body camera footage, you can see where the gun was recovered in the house.
According to both the TBI report and the autopsy, what was found on Mark Capps was a black iPhone in the pocket of the pajama bottoms he was wearing at the time.
The Militarized Response
In both the testimony of Officer Brewer and Officer Rader, the plan of the SWAT team was explained in detail. On page 75 of the TBI report it states, “Rader explained that the plan was to place a breaching charge on the front door at the same time a second team would place a charge on the back door. After the charges were placed, he said the plan was for the officers to then move about 50 ft. away to a position around the corner of the house. Once all the charges were placed, the SRT (SWAT) would then conduct announcements and call outs of the suspect.”
As was revealed later, members of the SWAT team also sawed apart portions of the home’s back fence to enter the backyard to place the explosive device on the back door.
As the body camera footage continues from Officers Coon, Rader, and Brewer, it gives a glimpse into just how militarized the response was to the concerns about Mark Capps despite Capps not having fired a shot, not physically assaulting anyone, and having no prior criminal or arrest record. Minutes after Mark Capps was shot dead in the front room of his home, the SWAT members continued to set off flash grenades inside the house to clear the rooms, activating the house’s smoke detectors.
Despite police being told that Capps was the only person in the house and the only one that was a threat, SWAT officers first insisted on clearing the house before rendering aid to Capps, going as far as to handcuff Capps while he laid dying or dead in the entryway of his home. As is confirmed by the body camera footage, the house was cluttered, and had likely been tossed by Capps during his mental breakdown. At one point, police even deployed a drone to check certain parts of the house.
The response by the Metro Nashville Police Department did not seem to be one of serving a warrant, but more the response to an active shooter or a hostage situation. Mark Capps very well may have cooperated with police officers, but he was never given that opportunity.
The entire altercation began when Mark Capps became angry with his wife Tara for not arming the home’s security system in fear that Mark’s recently-deceased brother’s drug dealers would come to the house looking for payment. Capps was already concerned about potential home invaders when police attempted to perform a covert operation on his front porch.
Previous Incidents Involving Officer Ashley Kendall Coon
As Saving Country Music first reported in March, Metro Nashville police officer Ashley Kendall Coon was suspended eight times in the first five years of his tenure on the police force for various infractions, including multiple incidents where he allegedly inappropriately touched women while in the line of duty, and another for a dangerous vehicle pursuit of a suspect. Coon has not been suspended since 2013.
The employee file of Officer Ashley Kendall Coon also includes disciplinary action for an incident similar to the Mark Capps killing. On August 14th, 2012, Officer Coon was found to have acted inappropriately during the investigation of a robbery/carjacking. While Officer Coon conducted a “knock and talk” at a neighbor’s house as part of the investigation, a man came to the door with a gun, thinking the officers were potentially intruders.
The Complaint report of the incident states:
Complainant called police and stated that officers had conducted a home invasion on his residence. Complainant stated that officers handcuffed and physically assaulted him. He also claimed that officers broke the door to his residence and damaged his pistol.
Officer Coon advised that the complainant opened the door and pointed a pistol at him. Officer Coon stated that he drew his weapon and attempted to sidestep the complainant while giving commands to drop the pistol. Officer Coon stated that the complainant then took a step out of the residence towards him while continuing to point a pistol at him. Multiple officers were pointing their weapons at the complainant and giving him commands to drop the gun. The complainant lowered his weapon, backed back into the residence and laid the gun on a table. Officer Coon grabbed the subject and pulled him out of the residence, where he was handcuffed.
Potentially similar to the situation with Mark Capps, the homeowner thought it was a home invasion, and grabbed a pistol in self-defense. But unlike the Mark Capps case where mere seconds transpired before he was shot and killed, in the 2012 incident, the homeowner not only drew his weapon, he took a step out of the residence toward the police officers, and they still did not fire.
The Complaint report goes on to state:
The protective sweep occurred immediately after the complainant was handcuffed. Officer Coon called me (Sgt. Pierpoint) and informed me what had occurred once the protective sweep was completed. Once the situation had calmed, officers spoke with the complainant and explained their actions. Officers had initially detained the complainant for arrest due to the aggravated assault on Officer Coon. However, they decided not to follow through on the arrest once they began speaking with the complainant and realized his mental state.
Officer Coon was found guilty of “Deficient or Inefficient Performance of Duties,” that he “Demonstrated inefficiency, negligence, or incompetence in the performance of duties” and “Faulty decision making or poor judgement” according to the investigation. He was suspended for four days due to the incident.
Though Mark Capps was considered to be potentially armed and dangerous, and the “knock and talk” incident did not involve a known suspect, Officer Coon did not extend the same courtesy to Mark Capps as he did to the homeowner, which was to give him the time to obey commands before opening fire. Even then, Coon was still reprimanded and suspended in the incident due to poor judgement. Meanwhile, no corrective action has been taken out against Officer Coon in the Mark Capps killing.
The Breaking of Metro Nashville Policy
On March 15th while being interviewed by The Tennessean, Metro Nashville Police Chief John Drake that police acted within department policy when it came to executing the warrants against Mark Capps. But this appears to be in direct conflict with what department policy states itself.
The Metro Nashville Police Department Manual clearly states:
1. In accordance with current MNPD training on use of force, and where feasible, authorized employees shall use de-escalation techniques and tactics to stabilize the situation and reduce the immediacy of the threat so that more time, options, and resources are available to resolve the situation.
2. In accordance with current MNPD training on use of force, officers shall continually assess the situation and seek to utilize de- escalation techniques in all use of force incidents, where possible.
3. De-escalation techniques may include, but are not limited to:
a. Vocal/Voice Control: Ensuring only one member addresses an individual at a time, regulating vocal tone, explaining the officer’s actions and responding to questions, avoiding repetitive command loops, using calming gestures, verbal persuasion, verbal advisements and verbal warnings.
b. Decreasing exposure: Moving to a safer distance, seeking cover, tactical repositioning, and utilizing barriers between uncooperative subjects.
c. Slowing down the pace of the incident: Slowing speech, taking deep breaths, waiting the subject out, avoiding physical contact/confrontation, calling for additional personnel, requesting specially trained officers (bilingual, negotiators, CIT, etc.).
d. Decreasing visual triggers: Avoid angry expressions or tones, avoiding unnecessary display of weapons.
e. Disengagement: While the ultimate objective of every subject encounter is to avoid or minimize injury, nothing in this policy requires an officer to retreat or be exposed to a potential physical injury before applying reasonable force. However, in some situations, disengagement may be a viable option for individuals who pose no additional threats to themselves or others and who may later be apprehended under safer conditions.
4. Employees shall reduce the degree of force used as the threat diminishes and cease the use of force as soon as reasonable.
5. Successful resolution of an encounter ultimately relies on the cooperation of a subject to provide officers with the time and opportunity to employ de-escalation techniques. Cooperation is more likely obtained by conveying respect and professionalism to the subject throughout the contact.
All of these department policies were violated in the Mark Capps situation. Ordering the three SWAT Officers to the front porch had an escalatory effect on the incident, causing Mark Capps to open the front door—possibly in a startled state—and ultimately startling Officer Ashley Coon, who fatally shot Mark Capps very shortly after saying “Show me your hands!” to Mark Capps, but never announcing himself as law enforcement.
The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department Manual also states in regards to the Use of Force:
Title 11: Use of Force
The Metropolitan Nashville Police Department recognizes and respects the value and special integrity of each human life. When investing police employees with the lawful authority to use force to protect the public welfare, a careful balancing of all human interests is required.
The main responsibility of MNPD officers is to protect the life and property of citizens. In compliance with applicable law, officers shall use only the amount of force necessary and reasonable to accomplish lawful objectives and to control a situation, effect an arrest, overcome resistance to arrest, or defend themselves or others from harm.
When force is necessary, the degree of force employed should be in direct relationship to the amount of resistance exerted, or the immediate threat to the officers or others. There is a compelling public interest that officers authorized to exercise the use of force do so in an objectively reasonable manner and in a way that does not violate the civil rights guaranteed by our Constitution, the Tennessee Constitution, and applicable law. Officers should attempt to use non-confrontational verbal skills, empathy, and/or active listening to stabilize a person in crisis or when confronted with a situation where control is required to effect an arrest or protect the public’s safety. Officers who use excessive or unjustified force degrade the confidence of the community that they serve, undermine the legitimacy of a police officer’s authority, and hinder the Department’s ability to provide effective law enforcement services to the community.
Officers who use excessive or unauthorized force, fail to use authorized techniques, or fail to de-escalate, where reasonable and possible, shall be subject to discipline, up to and including termination, possible criminal prosecution, and/or civil liability. The use of force is only authorized when it is objectively reasonable and for a lawful purpose. Accordingly, the Department will thoroughly review and/or investigate all uses of force by officers to assure compliance with all legal requirements and this policy.
This policy is for Metropolitan Nashville Police Department use only and does not apply in any criminal or civil legal proceedings. This department policy should not be construed as the creation of a higher legal standard of care. Violation of this directive will only form the basis for departmental administrative sanction.
However, Officer Ashley Coon, neither the other two SWAT Officers involved have been disciplined or reprimanded in the incident. It also remains unclear who ordered the three men to place an explosive device on the front door as the preliminary action in attempting to serve the warrants on Mark Capps. As Saving Country Music has covered previously, the way the warrants were served was also against Tennessee Law, and Nashville’s Community Oversight Board has addressed further issues of how the matter was handled.
On May 10th, Saving Country Music also reported that the Captain who presided over the SWAT team on January 5th when Mark Capps was killed has been reassigned. Captain Greg Davis had previously been over the Special Operations Division (SOD), SWAT, the Special Response Team (SRT), and Aviation until April 1st when the department went through some internal restructuring. Greg Davis is now the Police Captain over the Parks Department.
Though Metro Nashville Police did not announce the transfer publicly at the time, they have since verified the move to Saving Country Music. And though no reason for the transfer of Capt. Davis has been given, sources inside Metro Nashville Police have said that it had to do with the handling of the Mark Capps incident, at least in part.
The move from the Special Operations Division (SOD) to the Parks Department was perceived by certain individuals within Metro Nashville Police as a de facto demotion. Sources inside Metro Nashville also say the move was part of a broader reshuffling of personnel and policy changes in the aftermath of the Mark Capps killing.
However, the Metro Nashville Police Department, Chief John Drake, and the TBI continue to claim publicly that nothing was done improperly in the Mark Capps case. After the conclusion of the TBI investigation into the matter, Metro Nashville’s Office of Professional Accountability conducted a further review, deciding not to hand down any disciplinary action to any of the officers or supervisors involved, or offer any corrective action to the department.
In the “Conclusions of Facts” in the Office of Professional Accountability report, it begins with the statement, “On the morning of January 5, 2023, Tara Capps (wife), Mollie Acuff (daughter), and Zachary (sic) Silva (boyfriend to Mollie) were able to escape from the residence at Summit Place Run after being held at gunpoint and threatened by Mark Capps overnight.”
But this statement is empirically false. Zachery Noah Silva left at 5:30-5:40 in the morning after a de-escalation and the respective parties hugging each other and returning to bed according to testimony and audio recordings from the TBI report.
The Office of Professional Accountability report goes on to conclude, “After a review of all the facts and circumstances, it is concluded Officer Coon’s actions were reasonably necessary under all the facts and circumstances. Based on the facts present herein, the recommended finding is the use of force is within policy.”
But as presented above, the actions of the Metro Nashville SWAT Officers directly violated the department’s policies on De-Escalation and Use of Force.
The Suicide By Cop Claim
Another claim by some has been that Mark Capps wanted to die in a “suicide by cop” situation. But friends of Mark Capps refute this characterization, as does some of the testimony and facts presented in the TBI report. Though Capps was clearly in a mental health crisis and did mention his own death numerous times before and during the incident, there were also times where he stated expressly that he did not want to die.
The testimony from a friend of Mark Capps named Josh Swift is discussed on page 125 of the TBI report. Swift says that he conducted a Facetime video with Mark Capps on January 4th, the day before the shooting. Capps held a gun to his head and said, “Tell me not to do it” and “Tell me to put it away.” Swift told him to not do it and that people loved him. Then he heard Capps unloading the gun and the situation was diffused.
On page 119 of the TBI report, a friend of Mark Capps named Colleen Walters recalls speaking to Capps on the phone on January 5th. The report states,
Asked if Capps told her he wanted to commit suicide like some people have suggested and she said no. Walters then said Capps told her the night before when he heard about Jeff (brother) that he thought about suicide. Walters added how when they were on Facetime, Capps told her not to take a screenshot. She said he then went to his side drawer in his bedroom, and she saw many pill bottles. She said Capps then pulled out a few guns and laid them on the bed. Walters said Capps then came back into view of the camera and told her that he “almost did this last night when he heard about Jeff.”
She asked why he was showing her this, and he replied to protect himself. She asked from what, and he responded with burglars and stuff. Walter said Capps told her that he had sent a picture to his brother of him holding a gun against his head. (Walters claimed she had since seen that picture). She said Capps told her he did that because he had been going through so much lately and losing everything and he didn’t want to kill himself.
In the transcript of the audio from the video that stepdaughter McKenzie Acuff took the night of January 5th, Mark Capps says at the 21:26 mark “Here is what’s not going to happen. I have too much pride to put a bullet in my head tonight.”
Saving Country Music has also learned that Mark Capps’ wife Tara is pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit in the killing of her husband by the Metro Nashville Police.
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Despite the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation concluding their inquiry, Metro Nashville’s Office of Professional Accountability deciding no disciplinary action should be handed down, and the Davidson County District Attorney refusing to press charges in the case, friends and family of Mark Capps are far from satisfied with the answers they are receiving from these public institutions.
The fact that Metro Nashville has refused to publicly acknowledge that a TBI officer was in the home and was allowed to leave during the alleged kidnapping and failed to report the incident, along with the clear flaunting of the department’s de-escalation policies by the SWAT team without any public recourse feels tantamount to a cover up. Since the incident involved a TBI officer, the bureau clearly had a conflict of interest and the matter should have been referred to the Justice Department or another entity.
The Nashville and national press have also curiously ignored the critical details of what was a police-involved killing that in other circumstances would be a lead news story for many months. There was no reporting by the press after the release of the 175-page TBI report and the full body camera footage was made available, nor any effort to look further into the public claims initially made by Metro Nashville Public Affairs Director Don Aaron.
Mark Capps was a valued member of the music community who was going through a mental health crisis. He may have deserved to be arrested for the threats he made to his family, but he didn’t deserve to die due to the carelessness in handling the situation by the Metro Nashville Police Department. In the full body camera footage from Officer Kendall Coon, at numerous points when SWAT officers are clearing the house, you can see the four Grammy Awards of Mark Capps sitting on a mantle in his home studio/office with Gold and Platinum record plaques behind them.
Mark’s Grammy-winning legacy that was cut short, and what friends, family, fans, and the music community want to know is what is being done to make sure someone else in the midst of a mental health crisis gets the care they need as opposed to being gunned down through a closed door in the front room of their own home. Right now, the answer appears to be “nothing.”