Lawsuit Seeks $50 Million In Beating Of Inmate At Salvation Army Halfway House

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

A lawsuit is seeking $50 million in damages for the beating of an inmate at a Salvation Army halfway house.

City Police Officers Adam Cooley and Sean Emmer were fired for using excessive force against Adam Tatum, a federal inmate.

The Circuit Court complaint was brought against the city, Erlanger Health System, Cooley, Emmer, officer James Smith, officer Joseph Neighbors, officer Mike Wenger and "approximately 11 unidentified city police officers."

The suit claims that officers Emmer and Smith struck the victim over 100 times each.

 

It says Erlanger officials allowed the same officers who beat the victim to guard him at the hospital. 

The suit, filed by attorney Robin Flores, asks $20 million in compensatory damages and $30 million in punitive damages.

The suit says in part:

l. This is an action for money damages brought pursuant to 42 USC.  1983 and

l988 to redress the deprivation of rights secured to the plaintiff by the First, Fourth, Fifth, Sixth,

Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, and for violations ofthe

Tennessee Governmental Tort Liability Act and other statutory and common law ofthe State of

Tennessee by the defendants4

2, Plaintiff avers that the individually named officers of the City of Chattanooga

(“City”) made an unreasonable seizure of the plaintiff, subjected plaintiff to cruel and unusual

punishment, deprived plaintiff of his right to counsel during questioning, and unlawfully

interrogated plaintiff without the Due Process of law. The officers attempted to prevent plaintiff

from seeking to petition the federal and state government through civil litigation by falsely

claiming plaintiff attacked and assaulted the ofïlcers,

3. ln addition, plaintiff avers that the individually named officers assaulted, battered,

humiliated, and toitured the plaintiff, and these same oñicers assisted one another in hiding the

facts of the claims stated herein,

4 Plaintiff also maintains that the individually named officers committed these

violations and torts as a result of policies, customs7 and/or procedures of the City.

5. In addition, plaintiff avers that the individually named officers subjected plaintiff

to mental anguish and emotional distress, and maliciously prosecuted plaintiff by virtue of

submitting false documents to the Court of General Sessions for Hamilton County, Tennessee,

and by failing to disclose the entirety ofthe facts as reflected herein to the representative ofthe

Gffice ofthe District Attorney General for Hamilton County and to attorney Mike Acuff The

individually named officers committed such acts and omissions to obtain a conviction against the

plaintiff, which would prevent plaintiff from exercising his right to seek redress of the harm

stated herein via the state and federal courts within the State of Tennessee

Jurisdiction and Venue:

6. This is an action to redress the deprivation of rights secured to the plaintiff by the

First, Fourth, Fiñh, Sixth7 Eighth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution

(enforceable through 42 U.S.C. § 1983) and for violations of Tennessee statutes and common

lawÑ Thus, as to the  1983 claims7 this Court is vested with original jurisdiction pursuant to the

authority stated in Haywood v_ Drown, 556  729 (2009). This Court is vested with original

jurisdiction over the state claims pursuant to TENN. CODE ANNÄ  16-l0-lOl, Mq,

7. Venue is proper in this Court pursuant to TENN. CODE ANN.  20-4-102A All acts

complained ofoccurred within Hamilton County.

a. Plaintiffis a resident Hamilton County, Tennessee,

b. To the best of plaintiffs knowledge and belief the individually named officers of

the City, at the time ofthe events stated in this Complaint, are residents of

Hamilton County, Tennessee.

c. To the best of plaintiffs knowledge and belief, the unidentified and unknowns

ofïlcers ofthe City are residents of Hamilton County, Tennessee

d. City is a political sub-division of the State of Tennessee.

e. Chattanooga - Hamilton County Hospital Authority (“Erlanger”) is a non-profit

governmental corporation registered with the Tennessee Secretary of State

(“Secretary”)„ created by a Private Act ofthe legislature ofthe State of Tennessee,

operating a site commonly known as "Erlanger Hospital]7 and doing business

as Erlanger Health Systems, in Hamilton County, Tennessee

The Parties:

8. At all times relevant to this cause of action, plaintiff was a citizen of the United

States in the custody ofthe federal government serving a prison sentence for a conviction

pursuant to a guilty plea before the Hon. Alan Edgar in the US District Court for the Eastern

District of Tennessee. ln addition, plaintiff was a patient ofthe medical staff of Erlanger and in

the care ofthe medical staff of Erlanger

9. At all times relevant to this cause of action7 the City is a political sub-division of

the State of Tennessee organized and existing under the laws ofthe State of Tennessee.

a. The City ñnances its law enforcement department and provides rules and

regulations for the operation ofthe department

b. The City provides oversight of the hiring, training, discipline` and retention of all

personnel in its law enforcement depanment.

lO. Specitically, and at all times relevant to this cause of action, the City is

responsible for the creation and maintenance ofits police department, which is a law

enforcement agency created under Tennessee state law and regulated by the laws ofthe State of

Tennessee as to.'

a. The training and certiñcation of its law enforcement employees;

b. The safe conñnement and treatment of prisoners placed within the custody

of its individual ofñcers and agents;

c. To create rules and regulations to properly identify officers who have a

recurring pattern of misconduct or conduct that would place its supervisory

personnel on notice and the City on notice of officers who are a threat to citizens

within its jurisdiction;

d. To create rules and regulations to properly investigate officers who have a

recurring pattern of misconduct or conduct that would place its supervisory

personnel on notice and the City on notice of officers who are a threat to citizens

within its jurisdiction; and

e, To not hire, retain, re-hire, or promote police officers who have a recurring

pattern of misconduct or conduct that would place its supervisory personnel on

notice and the City on notice of otïicers who are a threat to citizens within its

jurisdiction,

l l. At all times relevant to this cause of action7 the individually named officers, and

the unidentiñed and unknown City ofñcers, were employed by the City and acted under the color

of law, statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage. In additioni

a. At all times relevant to this cause of action, the individually named

ofñcers, and the unidentiñed and unknown City ofñcers, acted in their ofñcial

capacities as agents, servants, and employees, as deñned under TENN. CODE ANN.  29-

20-102, for the City. Plaintiff sues these defendants in their individual and official

capacities.

12. At all times relevant to this cause of action, Chattanooga-Hamilton County

Hospital Authority (“Erlanger”) is a governmental entity created by the legislature ofthe State of

Tennessee through Private Acts that established Erlanger` The City and Hamilton County

mayors, along with a Chancellor ofthe Chancery Court for Hamilton County appoint a Board of

Trustees to oversee the governmental activities of Erlanger.

a. Erlanger provides policies and oversight ofthe implementation ofits policies to

ensure its employees protect the welfare of its patients and to follow state law created to

ensure the welfare of its patients.

Factual Basis of Complaint:

13. On June 14, 2012, plaintiffwas an inmate of the U,S. Bureau ofPrisons (“BOP”)

housed at the BOP Residential Re-Entry Facility commonly known as "the Salvation Army"

(“faeility”) located on McCallie Avenue in the City ofChattanooga corporate limits»

 Plaintiff was engaged in a conversation with his friend7 Adrian McGhee

(“l\/IcGhee”) in a front lobby area of the facility.

15> A stafï member of the facility became alarmed at the conduct Of`plaintiffÍ

a. However, several people walked by McGhee and plaintiff without a show

of fear or alarm or even paid McGhee and plaintiff any attention.

16. The statt` member contacted the City and asked for police to come to the facility.

17. Defendants Sean Emmer (“Emmer”) and James Smith (“Smith”) arrived,

18, Plaìntiffand McGhee walked away from Emmer and Smith.

19. Without Warning7 Emmer came up to and behind plaintiff and placed a violent

choke-hold on plaintiff, thereby causing plaintiff to begin to lose his ability to breathe and tO

pump blood to his brain.

20A Emmer is a very large man, while plaintiff was much smallerA

21. Emmer and Smith threw plaintiff to the floor and landed on top of plaintiff

forcing the wind from plaintiffs lungs and further impeding his ability to breathe`

22. Within seconds, Emmer and Smith stood up and opened their metal batons.

234 Plaintiff remained on the floor and on his back.

24. Emmer and Smith began to beat plaintiff with the opened metal batons on

plaintiffs legs, arms, and torso as plaintiff tried to block the blows with his arms and legs.

25, Within seconds of the beating, Emmer inflicted a compound or Open fracture of

plaintiffs left leg thereby Causing plaintiff to spurt blood from the open fracture all about the

lobby`

a. Emmer and Smith were directly and proximately responsible for the six

fractures of plaintiff`s right leg and the two fractures (one a Compound or Open

fracture) ofthe plaintiff's left leg and for the numerous bruises and soñ tissue

injuries on plaintiffs body.

26, Emmer and Smith Continued to rain blows on plaintiff as plaintiff remained on his

back while trying to fend off the blows with his arms and legs.

27. The number of blows was well in excess of one hundred for Emmer and well over

one hundred for Smith.

28. Defendant Adam Cooley (“Cooley”) entered the lobby while Emmer and Smith

Continued to beat plaintiff in the manner as stated~

29. Cooley straddled over plaintiff, bent Over, and with Closed fists, punched

plaintiffs face and headA

304 Cooley struck plaintiff” s face and head in excess of 15 times, which

constituted deadly force and upon which Cooley later admitted as such to City officials.

a. Cooley’s actions were the direct and proximate cause of further injuries to

plaintiff.

31, Emmer and Smith continued to rain blows upon plaintiff with their batons.

32. All during the beating, plaintiff continued to bleed from his open fractured legI

33. The unidentified and unknown defendant officers arrived.

34. At one point, the officers handcuffed plaintiff and forced plaintiff to walk on his

fractured legs for a distance of about one hundred feet, and forced plaintiff to the ground.

35. The officers on the scene stood in a semi-circle around plaintiff as he bled from

his wounds.

36. Throughout the time plaintiff sat outside, many more officers walked all about the

lobby, stepping, in blood and contaminating the scene of its evidentiary value.

37A One of the unidentiñed and unknown ofñcers wore sergeant’s chevrons on his

sleeve

38. This “sergeant” did nothing to preserve the scene in the lobby.

39. At no time did any  take steps and measures to preserve and protect the

scene in the lobby.

40. Two of the ofñcers picked up items from the floor of the lobby after they donned

rubber gloves.

4iA One ofñcer picked up a knife and folded it.

a. This knife was never placed into evidence storage or mentioned in any

offlcial City report.

b. Rather, the knife was mentioned in a BOP report, and the same report

indicated that a City officer picked up a knife and folded it.

C, The same officers, including a person believed to be Smith, began to clean

the blood.

42, Plaintiffs blood nearly covered the entire floor ofthe lobby.

43. While awaiting EMS to treat plaintiff, plaintiff continued to remain surrounded by

the Ofñcers, continued to bleed and continued to suffer.

44. Plaintiff struggled to sit up onto his buttocks and then sat with his feet fiat on the

ground and his knees bent.

45. Emmer kicked plaintiff in his legs and chest so hard as to cause plaintiffto roll

back onto his back, and Emmer then stood over plaintiff.

46. Plaintiff had been and remained handcuffed with his hands behind his back, and

plaintiff offered no threat to anyone while he was so handcuffed, seated, and crippled

47. At no time did any officer on the scene attempt to stop Emmer from kicking

plaintiff or to remove Emmer from plaintiff, or render first aid to plaintiff.

48. EMS arrived, and with one ofthe officers, took plaintiff to Erlanger.

49. Plaintiff remained guarded by Emmer, Smith, Cooley and defendant Joseph

50. Erlanger medical staff was aware that the officers inflicted severe injuries upon

plaintiff.

51. Erlanger staff failed to report the injuries and their understanding ofthe

mechanism of the injuries to TBI or to the Hamilton County SheriffI

aA Erlanger had a mandatory duty to report to law enforcement injuries that

resulted from criminal activity pursuant to TENN. CODE ANN.  38-1-101A

 Erlanger does not have immunity for its failure to reporî`

52. While plaintiff remained hospitalized at Erlanger, one of the defendant officers

whom plaintiff believes was Smith, entered his room and began to question plaintiff about the

incident at the facility.

53. At no time did the officer give plaintiff “Miranda” warnings or allow him the

Oppolîunity to obtain counsel`

54. Plaintiff was still in custody of the City, for they continued to have officers guard

plaintiff

55A At no time did Erlanger staff or anyone from the City take any steps to remove

Emmer, Smith, or Cooley from plaintiff while plaintiff was in any room or seek to have other

law enforcement officers other than the officers directly involved in this incident to guard

plaintiff while plaintiff was in the medical care ofErlanger,

a The actions of the officers placed plaintiff in reasonable fear of funher injury

(with impunity) in the hands ofthe persons left to guard the plaintiff.

b. As a patient oflîrlanger, plaintiff had an expectation that Erlanger would take

steps to ensure he did not Continue to endure mental anguish at the hands ofthe very

people who inñicted the severe injuries upon his body.

C. Erlanger has a duty of care to ensure plaintiff was not harmed by anyone while in

its care:

d. Erlanger breached that duty by its failure to protect plaintiff when it took no

action to by remove or replace the officers who inflicted the injuries from plaintiff . . . .


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