An African-American father from Louisiana was shot dead by police in Tennessee on Thursday in an incident that was livestreamed on Facebook.
Rodney James Hess, 36, decided to start livestreaming an interaction with the police as they pulled him over for a traffic stop.
WARNING – THE VIDEO MAY BE UPSETTING TO SOME:
In the video, Hess can be heard asking the officers to let him speak to “the higher commands” before leaving his vehicle. As he stepped out of the car, he was shot numerous times through the windshield.
Hess tried to flee the scene after getting shot, but crashed his car due to his injuries.
The phone falls to the floor after the crash, and not long after that, shards of glass can be seen on the car’s floor mat.
Hess was later airlifted to a nearby hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Johnisha Provost, Hess’s fiancee, said his request to speak to “the higher command” was a cry for help.
“He was not on a suicide mission,” she told the Commercial Appeal on Friday.
“He was not trying to harm anybody. He was asking them for help and they shot him down,” she added. “He couldn’t get his mind together. That’s why he asked for a higher command.”
“I always told him, ‘Babe, if you are ever in a situation where you need help, ask the person in charge for the higher command to help you,’ and that’s what he kept saying.”
Provost, who wasn’t with Hess as he visited his mother in Tennessee, watched the entire incident unfold through the livestream.
“I found out as it was happening,” Provost said. “I was at work and my aunt called me and was like, ‘Rodney is in trouble.’ He was on Facebook and I logged on and I watched it.”
According to Hess’s cousin, Donald Hess III, Rodney was “a father, a son, and a hard worker.”
“Rodney suffered from mental illness but was a functioning member of society. He often traveled for work – mostly construction work – and he did everything for his children,” he said.
Before the fatal shooting, Hess livestreamed another video of cars passing by. As that one ended, the officers who shot him can be seen pulling up to investigate why he was blocking the road.
Provost admitted that her fiancee suffered from mental illness and was misunderstood.
“He just suffered from mental illness and people need to be aware of how to deal with mental illness,” Provost said. “They could have just shot his tires out or they could have handled it differently. They didn’t have to kill him.”