The Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security is investigating an incident involving Harvey Briggs, a Tennessee Highway Patrol officer, after he was accused of ripping the mask off a civilian’s face during a confrontation. A video showing the majority of the incident was posted online by the person involved, Andrew Golden.
The video has been posted on Twitter and is available below:
This is outrageous. This guy should be off the force and charged with assault. What's the matter with you, Tennessee Highway Patrol?
— GC (@greggc1000) August 11, 2020
Golden claims that Briggs, who was himself not wearing a mask, pulled off his mask during their dispute and threw it on the ground. That particular moment occurred off-camera, although Golden’s mask is visible on the ground immediately afterward. He has since filed a formal complaint against the trooper and told TMZ Briggs should lose his job and face prosecution.
Update: On August 14, Briggs was terminated following the internal investigation into the incident. Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security Commissioner Jeff Long and Tennessee Highway Patrol Colonel Dereck Stewart issued a joint statement confirming the news, as reported by News Channel 5. The statement reads in part, “Trooper Harvey Briggs, a 22-year veteran of the department was served a termination notice on Friday, August 14, 2020 for unprofessional conduct.”
The Incident Occurred When Golden & Briggs Were Arguing About Golden Filming a Traffic Stop
The video begins with Golden filming troopers conducting a traffic stop at the Nashville Capitol on Monday. In the video, a highway patrol officer, who is not part of the traffic stop, yells at Golden to not impede the traffic stop. Golden, who is on the sidewalk and at a distance from the troopers, responds that he’s only filming and not impeding the stop. He told the Tennessean later that he believes he was 10 to 15 feet away.
After Golden responds to Briggs, the officer walks toward him, saying, “Sir if you impede these gentlemen right here, we’re gonna have an arrest.” Golden once again tells him he’s not impeding them, just filming them. At one point, Golden asks Briggs why his hand is on his gun and pans the camera down to show the officer’s hand resting on his firearm. Briggs responds, “Because that’s the way it always is.”
The video then shows Briggs staring at Golden, inches away from his face as the two stand toe-to-toe. Golden asks, “You’re not wearing a mask, and you’re right up in my face?” Shortly after, Golden told the Tennessean that he turned to the other officers to talk to them, at which point he said Briggs ripped off his face mask.
The video doesn’t show that moment but viewers can see Golden’s mask on the ground and hear Golden questioning Briggs’ actions. Briggs can be heard in the video denying ripping off the face mask. Golden told the Tennessean that Briggs’ actions were “reckless” and the trooper’s behavior made him uncomfortable. He said he filed a complaint against him with the Tennessee Board of Professional Responsibility.
Nashville Is Under a Mask Mandate Since Early July, Which Requires Residents to Wear Masks in Indoor & Outdoor Public Spaces
Nashville, where the above incident occurred, has been under a mask mandate since July 3, which requires face masks to be worn in all indoor and outdoor public spaces. According to the order, those who violate it “shall be subject to civil and criminal penalties, including punishment as a Class C Misdemeanor.”
Nashville’s interim police chief John Drake, who took over after former chief Steve Anderson’s exit following concerns about the department’s response to COVID-19, said last week that they would be enforcing the mask mandate. “I think enforcement is the only way to save lives,” he said. Nashville police officers began issuing citations to convince people to wear masks, Drake said.