Jury finds officer not liable in civil trial over shooting death

GREENEVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee police officer who fatally shot a man in 2019 is not at fault or liable for the death, a federal jury found in a civil trial.

A U.S. District Court jury in Greeneville reached the verdict Thursday in a lawsuit filed by the family of 33-year-old Channara Tom Pheap, who was fatally shot in 2019 by Knoxville police Officer Dylan Williams.

Attorneys for Pheap’s family told the jury he was running away from the officer after a scuffle when he was shot in the back. Williams testified during the trial and said he feared for his life after Pheap wrestled away his Taser and shocked him with it.

Claims against the city and former police chief alleging failure to train and supervise, wrongful death and negligence were dismissed shortly before the trial began.

Knox County District Attorney Charme Allen ruled Williams’ use of deadly force was appropriate and legal in the months after the shooting. At the time, police said Pheap, who was of Cambodian descent, was killed after a physical struggle.

The lawsuit said Williams, who is white, was looking for a female driver suspected of fleeing a traffic accident and stopped Pheap and began to search him. The lawsuit said Pheap tried to get away and the two struggled.

Attorneys representing the Pheap family in the $10 million wrongful death suit said they were “disappointed in the result” and were evaluating their next steps.

The Knoxville Police Department said in a statement that the jury's decision supported that the “use of force was reasonable given the exceptional position that Officer Williams was put in.”