“Substantial Settlements” Aren’t A Substitute For Justice
August 26, 2016 (Fault Lines) — Usually when Friday rolls around and a post with the name “Chris Seaton” runs, it’s a few good jokes designed to either rile up the overtly sensitive or give people a much-needed dose of laughter. This is not one of those posts, because I’m not laughing, and the situation in question is one that deserves nothing less than anger. Tyrel Lorenz, the “Tennessee imbecile,” is a free man and Lenoir City is left paying out a “substantial” civil settlement in the wake of Lorenz’s super cop antics that caused Joshua Grubb’s death.
In case the name doesn’t ring a bell, Fault Lines discussed Tyrel Lorenz’s decision to jump into the back of Grubb’s moving pickup truck and shoot Grubb through the truck’s cab window back in March. The would-be stuntman emptied a total of nine rounds into Grubb’s head, back, shoulders, and arms while Grubb attempted to maneuver his pickup on Highway 321. The vehicle crossed the median and crashed into a utility pole. At the time the story ran, the following was the analysis of Lorenz’s actions under Tennessee law.
Jumping into the back of a moving pickup truck in the mind of any sane, rational human being constitutes “reckless” or “negligent” behavior. Firing bullets into the cab as the truck swerves into oncoming traffic after leaving two “suspects” at the scene would normally constitute a “substantial and unjustifiable risk” for most people. But Tyler Lorenz is a cop, and that means sane, rational thought goes out the window. Especially since Lorenz has an “unblemished record” as an officer and Grubb had “priors.”
Any regular Fault Lines reader already knows how the rest of this story plays out. A grand jury convened in April to review Lorenz’s body cam footage, visit the scene of the shooting, and listen to thirty minutes of Tyrel Lorenz’s attempts to justify murdering Joshua Grubb. All thirteen members of the grand jury voted to not indict Lorenz, who resumed his duties as a cop on April 14.*
Grubb’s family then decided to pursue a civil suit against Lenoir City, which opened up the checkbook and settled the matter for a sum constituting “six figures.” The money doesn’t bring back Joshua Grubb from the dead, it doesn’t hold Lorenz accountable for murdering a man and putting the lives of others in potential danger. There is no justification for Lorenz’s actions, no matter what District Attorney General Russel Johnson believed.
“It is unusual that an officer would put himself in that situation,” 9th Judicial District Attorney General Russell Johnson said during a news conference Thursday afternoon. “Were there other things he could have done? Yes. But I can definitely see how the grand jury arrived at their decisions.”
A saying about a prosecutor being able to indict a ham sandwich comes to mind at a quote like that. But let’s take a look at DA Johnson’s other pertinent statement. What other things could a stellar cop like Tyrel Lorenz have done in a situation where two DUI suspects were secure to stop a third? He could have called for backup, giving dispatch either the plates or a description of the vehicle. Lorenz could have taken steps to secure the two suspects at Bimbo’s, get them in his patrol vehicle, then gone after Grubb if he felt so inclined to pursue a high speed chase.
Sometimes, adrenaline can kick into gear and make a person forget what they’re doing. If there’s anything that makes logic and reason exit a brain, it’s fear. Was that the justification for Lorenz’s actions? If you read Fault Lines regularly, you already know the answer is an unqualified “yes.”
The grand jury, in an addendum to its report from the April 11-12 session, concluded that Lorenz, after ending up in the truck bed, fired the gunshots at Grubb in “an attempt to stop Grubb as Lorenz was in fear for his life and the safety of others on Highway 321.”
This is utter bullshit. Lorenz wasn’t in fear for his life, and he certainly didn’t give a damn about the safety of others on Highway 321. When Lorenz made the decision to jump into the bed of Grubb’s moving pickup truck and fire nine bullets into the driver, he created an unguided missile that could have potentially harmed other drivers on the highway. He certainly wasn’t in fear of his life when he decided to jump in the back of a moving pickup truck. If he gave a damn about anything other than playing Dirty Harry in a quiet country town, he would have taken a less reckless approach to public safety.
Of course there’s another explanation for why Lorenz feared for himself and others that night. Apparently, Joshua Grubb was on all the drugs that evening, and drug use justifies cop shootings almost as much as skin tone in America these days.
An autopsy showed Grubb was on a mix of alcohol and drugs, including methamphetamine, morphine and Valium.
Drug use aside, there’s no justification for Lorenz walking from any criminal charges for his conduct. And while it’s nice that Grubbs’ family will collect some money from Lenoir City for the Tennessee Imbecile’s actions, it won’t bring Joshua Grubb back from the dead. This case is a textbook example of why Fault Lines contributor Greg Prickett maintains best practices are for outside investigators to handle cop shootings, and one more example why cops in America seem to feel free to kill anyone or anything with impunity.
Tyrel Lorenz should be on trial for reckless homicide or criminally negligent homicide. Instead, he’s a free man, and Joshua Grubb’s family is left with some funds to pay for his final expenses. Hopefully, Lorenz won’t find himself at a job where he can shoot librarians next, and any police department to which he applies will view him as a six figure liability and reject his application.
*Lorenz resigned from the Lenoir City police force May 25th.