MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — A Tennessee woman says her fiance was shot in the back by an officer as he was surrendering a rifle to her during a confrontation with police — and then again in the chest as he lay dying — contradicting the assertion by investigators that he was killed as the two struggled over the weapon.
Debra Nesbit described the March 23 encounter to The Associated Press, providing a detailed account of the events leading up to the shooting of Alexio Allen, 30.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation held a news conference the day after the shooting describing what investigators say happened when a Memphis police officer opened fire on Allen. But Nesbit's account contradicts their version of events.
Investigators have not named the officer, who was black, as was Allen. A report on the shooting is not being released because the investigation is ongoing, Memphis police spokesman Louis Brownlee said Wednesday.
TBI spokeswoman Susan Niland said during that news conference that Allen had been struggling with a woman over the rifle, but she did not say where on his body Allen was shot. An autopsy is being performed, and the investigation's findings will be turned over to the district attorney once it is finished.
Police had initially said Allen pointed a shotgun at an officer before he was shot. But investigators have backed away from that claim, which Brownlee said was based only on preliminary information from dispatchers.
Allen had called police the night of the shooting saying someone was in his backyard, Niland said. Nesbit said Allen told her he heard noises in the yard, but police left after responding to the call and finding no one.
Nesbit, 49, said Allen was a Christian who liked to read his Bible and work with children. He has no prior record in Shelby County, according to court records. Nesbit, who has two children from a prior marriage, said Allen had religious visions and told her he was hearing noises the day before the shooting.
"My heart is broken in a million pieces," Nesbit said. "I feel the system has failed us."
Police returned a second time after an unidentified woman called an ambulance and said Allen was hallucinating. Nesbit said that call came from Allen's mother.
That is where Nesbit's account and that from police begin to diverge. Nesbit says three officers entered the house and asked if there were any guns in the house. They told Allen to put his hands on the wall. He then put his hands on a door jamb.
Nesbit said there was a rifle in the house, and she went to retrieve it from a closet. She found the rifle and slid it down a hallway toward the officers, with the muzzle facing her, Nesbit said.
"I said, 'Y'all, come and get the gun ... I slid the gun so it would not be facing no officer.'"
Allen then walked toward the rifle and picked it up by the butt, Nesbit said.
Nesbit said she walked toward Allen and begged him to give her the gun, "because if you don't they're going to shoot you,'" she said.
With his back to the officers as he faced Nesbit, Allen handed her the rifle as one officer fired two shots toward his back from just a few feet away, Nesbit said. She said the muzzle of the rifle was pointed at her when the officer fired.
"When he shot him, the gun was in my hand," Nesbit. "He already released it ... there wasn't no struggle."
Allen fell to the floor, face up, Nesbit said.
"He stepped up and he shot him in the chest, pow," she said.
Nesbit said she did not hear the officer give any orders to put the rifle down before he fired.
"I said, 'Why did you do that? You shot him from the back, you shot him from the back," Nesbit said she told the officer. "He was telling me to be quiet. Then I said, 'No, I'm not going to be quiet. Then you shot him again, after he already dead?' That's when he said, 'He could have snatched the gun from you and hurt you.' I said, 'No he wasn't, he wasn't going to hurt me.'"
Nesbit said she was then held in a police car for two to three hours before giving her account of the shooting to bureau investigators.
The TBI spokeswoman said last week that Allen was having a mental health episode. Niland said he became agitated when officers arrived and reached for a rifle. She said early information showed there was a struggle for the rifle between Allen and a woman, and the situation escalated before the officer fired his gun.
Niland declined to comment on Nesbit's story Thursday, citing the active investigation.