KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — A Knoxville police officer has been found not at fault in the 2019 shooting death of Channara “Philly” Pheap by a federal jury.
The Pheap family filed a federal civil lawsuit contending that the 33-year-old’s death after an altercation outside an apartment complex on Merchant Drive was the result of excessive force by Knoxville police officer Dylan Williams.
The U.S. District Court jury in Greeneville, Tennessee on Thursday determined that Williams was not liable for Pheap’s death.
The Knox County District Attorney’s Office determined that the shooting was “justifiable” in 2019. Previous lawsuits against the department have been dismissed.
“We are grateful for the jury’s time and attention. We’re obviously disappointed in the result, and we are evaluating our next steps.”Pheap family counsel Lance Baker & Josh Hedrick
Pheap’s death spurred local demonstrations and renewed the discussion over having KPD officers wear body cameras. KPD officers began wearing body cameras in 2020.
Knoxville Police Chief Paul Noel, who took command of the department last year, released a statement following the jury’s decision.
The circumstances that led to Channara Pheap’s death in August 2019 are tragic, and I extend my deepest sympathies to everyone who was impacted or continues to be impacted by his death, especially Channara’s family.
This incident has also weighed heavily on our department for the past four years, most significantly on Officer Williams. As I sat through two days of the civil trial this week in Greenville, I saw firsthand the emotional toll this case has taken on Officer Williams. Despite that, Officer Williams has remained committed to the selfless service of his community.
In addition to the incident being thoroughly vetted by our Internal Affairs Unit for any policy violations and District Attorney General Allen for criminal wrongdoing, it has now been reviewed by a jury in civil federal court. The conclusion reached by that jury supported what we believed in 2019 and believe now – the use of force was reasonable given the exceptional position that Officer Williams was put in.
Our department and Dylan are glad to have this behind us. I am proud of how Dylan has carried himself and the support the members of our department has shown him since this incident occurred. Since it happened, despite the immense weight he has carried, Dylan has made himself an indispensable member of the Investigations Bureau. I have no doubt that he will continue to be a valuable member of our team and a dedicated community servant.KPD Chief Paul Noel