Mom says woman killed in police shootout had troubled childhood, 'no opportunity for change' now (2024)

Natalie Allison|Nashville Tennessean

The mother of a 31-year-old woman who died Friday after an exchange of gunfire with a Nashville police officer says her daughter was wrong for pulling a gun.

But Lisa Holbert-Gooch, who took in her niece Nika Holbert at age 8 and adopted the girl and her younger siblings, said she is disturbed by the actions of theMetro Nashville Police officer who stopped Holbert.

Gooch questions whether Officer Josh Baker followed basic trafficstop safety protocols leading up to the deadly shooting, while police chief John Drake said Saturday he believes Baker handled the situation properly.

"She didn't have to die, and he didn't have to get shot," Gooch said in an interview Sunday.

As she watched video of the deadly incident recorded on Baker's body camera, Gooch said she was concerned for both the officer and her daughter as she saw Holbert exiting the vehicle at the start of the traffic stop.

"Why was she out of the car?" Gooch said, explaining she has always understood that police don't typically allowsomeone to exitthe car as an officer approaches.

Holbert fled a parking lot Friday morning at the intersection of Brick Church Pike and Ewing Drive after shooting Baker in the torso. Having sustained injuries from the gunfire, Holbert crashed roughly a block away before being pronounced dead atTriStar Skyline Medical Center.

Goochhas watched footage of the encounter over and over since the police department released it on Friday.

A state corrections officer in Mississippi, where she moved after her children were grown, Gooch said she generally respects law enforcement. The single mother of six has no one to call butpolice, she said, when something goes wrong.

But Goochsaid she was stunned to see Baker searching Holbert'sbelongings withoutappearing to take precautions to remain in control of the situation— and after he determined she was not the man Baker was seeking in the first place.

The video shows Baker's initial interaction with Holbert, whom he stopped in a Dollar General parking lot around 9:30 a.m. after realizing the vehicle she was driving belonged to a man with outstanding arrest warrants on felony drug charges.

Holbert repeatedly ignoredsome of Baker's commands as he attemptedto remain cordial with her. The officer declined to stop her whileshe went back into the car multiple times to retrieve variousitems.

"It's like he let her do what she wanted to do," Gooch said, questioning why Holbert wasn't detained if Baker believed he had probablecause searchher belongings.

The video ultimately shows the two exchanging fire after Holbert runs back into her car and Bakercallsfor her to drop a gun she had apparently retrieved. Baker falls to the ground, announcing over the radio he had been struck. Holbert drove away, crashing soon after.

"I'm not saying Nicole was right," Gooch said, referring to her adopted daughter by her middle name, which the girl preferred growing up. "Nicole was wrong. Totally. She had no businessin that situation. But this is the life she chose, and nobody could do anything about that until she decidedto change.

"Now when I look at this (video), there is no opportunity for change. It's over. I just wasn't prepared to watch her die on TV."

A difficult childhood came before fatal police shooting

A smiling Holbert and Gooch appeared on the front page of The Tennessean in May 2000, a photo that accompanied a story about a proposed law change to allow guardians like Gooch to receive financial assistance from the state for taking custody of a family member's children.

In the photo, Gooch's three biological children and the three she adopted from her brother and his girlfriend are gathered around a table, playing the boardgame "Bible Blurt."

Gooch said Holbert never fully adjusted to the trauma of needing to be removed from a troubled home, where the electricity and water had been turned off and drugs were being used.

Gooch raised the six children alone.

After Holbert had posed for her senior portrait in 2007 at John Overton High School, just months before she was set to graduate with the Class of 2008, she dropped out of school at 18, Gooch said. Holbert then sought out her biological mother, who sheappeared to call during the traffic stop, according to the body camera video.

"She didn't graduate," Gooch said. In Holbert's 20s, "everything went downhill."

Nika Holbert's younger brother, David Holbert, also struggled with behavioral problems in their adopted home. Gooch said the pair of siblings seemed "stuck" in a web of childhood trauma.

In 2017, David Holbert was charged with first-degree murder for the fatal shooting of his roommate. He is now serving 25 years in prison after being convictedof second-degree murder in 2019.

"That was all over the news," said Gooch, describing her shock over another tragic outcome for the children she raised. "And now this is all over the news."

MNPD chief pledges transparency in wake of deadly shooting

Drake said he has reviewed thebody camera footageand determined Baker followed de-escalation training and properly handled the situation. The chief said he does not think Baker's attempt to detain Holbertescalated the situation.

"I think he did everything to de-escalate," Drake said. "Even when she was pulling away from the scene, he was still on his knees. She could have directed the vehicle toward him if she wanted."

Baker, who works in the department's East Precinct, on Saturday was recovering an in"good spirits," Drake told reportersafter visiting with the officer and his family.

Drake vowed to be "an accountable police department," referring to MNPD's decision to release footage in the incident. The footage was not released as a raw videobut was narrated with additional context by department spokesman Don Aaron.

The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation and Davidson County District Attorney's Office are also investigating the incident while the police department conducts its own internal review.

The Metro Nashville Community Oversight board said Friday its director had been alerted about the shooting within an hour and was briefed at the scene with an investigator from the civilian-led group.

MNCO is conducting its own administrative investigation of the shooting, the group announced in a statement.

Reach Natalie Allison at nallison@tennessean.com. Follow her on Twitter at @natalie_allison.

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Mom says woman killed in police shootout had troubled childhood, 'no opportunity for change' now (2024)
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