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Dustin Hensley has had a busy law enforcement career in Tennessee.

He's worked at three departments in six years, shot two people dead and been subject to two federal lawsuits alleging wrongful deaths in those shootings.

The first case, a 2009 fatal shooting when he was a Roane County deputy, was dismissed when the family of a man shot dead decided not to continue an appeal after a federal judge ruled that the shooting was justified.

The second was filed May 23 in federal court in Nashville after Hensley, who in 2013 was a Cumberland County deputy, fatally shot Angela Darlene Smith 10 times in the back, according to the lawsuit and autopsy records. The facts of the shooting, which occurred at the end of a police chase, are in dispute.

Previous: TBI: Woman fatally shot after firing at officers

Not long after that shooting, Hensley moved on again, to the Crossville Police Department, where he works now.

Michael Galligan, a McMinnville attorney representing Smith's surviving family in the lawsuit, said Hensley went too far.

"The autopsy report shows all those shots to the back, Taser to the back. Why in the world?" Galligan said. "That is hard to justify with everything being shot in the back. Number two, why shoot so many times?"

Smith's family is seeking $20 million in damages.

Hensley couldn't be reached for comment. Nor could his new boss, Crossville Police Chief Randy Evans.

Mark Nolan, the attorney representing Cumberland County and Hensley, said investigators with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation deemed the shooting of Smith justified. Prosecutors confirmed that finding but the report has not been made public.

"We obviously plan to vigorously defend this lawsuit and don't believe there was any wrongdoing on the part of the officers at any of the departments," Nolan said.

10 shots to the back

On May 28, 2013, Crossville police had been on the lookout for burglars and got a report of a prowler running away from a carport. Police ended up chasing Smith as she drove down Highway 70 until she crashed near Browntown Road.

There, according to the lawsuit, Smith got out of the car where she was stunned with a Taser and then shot 10 times.

"This family needs at least some discovery to see why in the world all the shots are in the back," Galligan said. "Just how dangerous is somebody with their back to you?"

An autopsy conducted by the Cumberland County Medical Examiner confirmed that all 10 gunshot wounds entered Smith's back. It also noted puncture wounds and burn marks under her head where the Taser struck and a "markedly high level of methamphetamine and amphetamine" in her blood.

Nolan disputed the lawsuit's version of what happened. Police have said that Smith pulled a gun and pointed it at responding officers, prompting Hensley to begin shooting.

"I believe from the video that she was never out of the car and she had a gun in her hand," he said. "I believe that there will probably be six or seven patrol cars that will have video."

Police later said that Smith had broken into a house and stolen a car at gunpoint, leading to the chase. Galligan said he hasn't been given enough information to dispute that account but can't confirm it, either.

Prior controversial killing

This isn't the first time Hensley has been involved in a controversial shooting. On June 6, 2009, Hensley went to David Dickey's Roane County home after complaints from a neighbor — who also was a police detective — that Dickey was firing gunshots on his property.

Police said Dickey pulled a .22-caliber revolver on Hensley. Conflicting reports at the time said Dickey actually had the revolver in his back pocket and that he instead had a cellphone in his hand.

Hensley fired seven shots, hitting him three times.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and a Roane County grand jury cleared Hensley of any wrongdoing in the case, but Dickey's family sued in federal court the next year. A judge dismissed the case in 2012, saying the family's attorney had made unreasonable requests for more time to gather evidence.

"The Court finds that the use of force by Deputy Hensley was justified," U.S. District Court Judge Tena Campbell wrote.

The family filed an appeal, but eventually gave up on suing. Their attorney, Michael Ritter out of Oak Ridge, declined to comment.

Fatal shootings by police rare in Tennessee

From 2004-2013, there have been at least 93 police-involved fatal shootings in Tennessee.

  • 2004: 9
  • 2005: 5
  • 2006: 11
  • 2007: 10
  • 2008: 3
  • 2009: 5
  • 2010: 11
  • 2011: 12
  • 2012: 19
  • 2013: 8
  • Total: 93

Source: Tennessee Bureau of Investigation

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