A police officer shot and killed the driver of a pickup truck in East Tennessee early Sunday morning while investigating a drunk driving incident.
Officer Tyrel Lorenz was responding to a 911 call reporting a possible DUI. Lorenz made contact with the truck’s three occupants and was in the process of handcuffing one of the passengers when the victim, Joshua Grubb, began to drive away.
Lorenz told the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations that he jumped into the bed of the Dodge Dakota to stop Grubb from fleeing. He ordered Grubb to stop, but the driver did not cooperate, prompting the officer to fire shots into the cab, consequently hitting and killing him.
The truck drove into oncoming traffic on Highway 321 and crashed into a utility pole around 1 a.m. The police officer did not sustain any injuries from the crash.
Questions remain regarding how Officer Lorenz wound up in the truck bed and why he felt the need to shoot inside a moving vehicle. Investigators are trying to determine whether Grubb drove into oncoming traffic as a result of intoxication or after being shot.
“Why would you jump into a moving vehicle?” said Geoffrey Alpert, professor of criminology at the University of South Carolina. “That’s what we call officer-created danger.”
Many police agencies forbid officers from getting into the back of a fleeing vehicle or firing a gun into moving vehicles because of the danger it poses to the public. Lenoir City Police chief Don White stated that the department does not have a policy regarding these incidents.
Officer Lorenz has been placed on paid administrative leave pending further investigation. Prosecutors plan to present the case to the Loudon County grand jury in April.
Grubb had been charged with DUI in 2013. Over 1.4 million people are arrested every year for a DUI first offense.
Meanwhile, the two passengers, Brandon Lawrence Taylor and Toni Ann Sutton, are now facing charges for evading arrest and possession of drug paraphernalia. Both individuals have criminal histories, including past DUI convictions and driving on a revoked license.