Knoxville Police Officer: I Was Shocked With a Taser and Choked Before I Shot a Man

A Knoxville Police Department officer who fatally shot a Cambodian man claimed that he was Tased and choked before shooting the man in the side. A preliminary report by Knox County Regional Forensic Center listed Channara Tom “Philly” Pheap’s cause of death as a “gunshot wound of back.”

Officer Dylan Williams’ account of the August 26 shooting was released by his attorney from the Bosch Law Firm on September 2. Contradicting the forensic center’s report, the officer’s statement claims he shot Pheap once on the side of his body, not in the back.

Williams’ statement also contradicted the accounts of several witnesses to the shooting, according to the Knoxville News Sentinel. One witness, identified as 33-year-old Takenya Hyatt, told the newspaper that she saw Pheap’s body after the shooting and saw two bullet holes in the back of his shirt, below his shoulders.

Hyatt, who allegedly spoke to an emotional Williams, said she did not see a Taser by Pheap’s body. The Knoxville Police Department’s statement a day after the shooting said the officer responded to a hit-and-run in the 1700 block of Merchant Drive. Williams reportedly got into a fight with Pheap, who authorities said matched the description of the suspect of the hit-and-run. Williams then shot Pheap.

The police department declined to provide further comment to The North Star. A police spokesperson directed requests to the Knox County Sheriff’s Office, which is leading the investigation into the shooting under an agreement with the police department.

The Knox County Sheriff’s Office did not immediately respond to The North Star’s request for additional comment.

Williams’ statement said that he was investigating the hit-and-run when he found a car that matched the make, model, and license plate number of a vehicle that had fled the scene. A woman reportedly told Williams that the car’s driver lived in a third-floor apartment at the address where the car was registered, Knoxville News Sentinel reported.

The statement said the officer first encountered Pheap on a staircase at Clear Springs Apartments. Williams claimed that he asked Pheap if the car was his and that Pheap was “looking around and acting very nervous.” Pheap allegedly refused to follow requests to remove his hands from his pockets.

Williams then told Pheap that he was going to pat him down for weapons, allegedly prompting Pheap to begin fighting him. “The physical fight took what seemed like a very long time to Williams, who could not fully gain control of [Pheap], nor radio for back-up,” the statement said.

The statement alleged that Pheap got on top of Williams “and began to violently and forcefully attempt to choke Williams. Suddenly, [Pheap] got off of Williams and began to run away.” The officer then chased Pheap into the parking lot, ordering him to stop and taking out his Taser. Pheap stopped as Williams moved towards him, the statement said.

“As Williams approached (Pheap), (Pheap) jumped forward and was able to gain control of the Taser after a short struggle,” the statement claimed. “Once in his possession, (Pheap) then leveled the Taser directly at Williams and fired it. The Taser ‘tags’ struck Officer Williams in his waistband, and the wires of the Taser wrapped around his arms. He immediately felt electricity coursing through his body.”

The officer claimed he feared Pheap would “successfully incapacitate” him. He ultimately fired his gun twice at Pheap. The statement said that Williams was too far from his patrol car to call his police dog, Knoxville News Sentinel reported.

Knoxville attorney John Valliant told 10News on August 30 that Pheap’s family received the preliminary report on his death from the county medical examiner. Valliant said that it appeared Pheap was running away when he was shot.

“The shots were fired by an officer who was some distance away from this man,” the attorney said. Valliant noted that while he has helped the family have access to Pheap’s body and analyze all the video and statements from witnesses, he has not been hired by the family to sue the police department or the city.

According to Williams’ account, Pheap ran away after the officer fired the shots but “ultimately collapsed.” The statement maintained that Pheap was shot once on the side of his body “contrary to initial reports.”

Williams, who joined the Knoxville Police Department in 2014, was placed on paid administrative leave. His statement said he was cooperating with investigators and looked forward to the resolution of the investigation.

Pheap leaves behind a 5-year-old daughter with his longtime girlfriend. The 33-year-old, whose family is from Cambodia, grew up in Philadelphia.

About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various publications, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.