Man claims police brutality; sues City, County, law enforcement

By Abby Morris-Frye
star staff
amorris@starhq.com
  A lawsuit filed in Carter County Circuit Court last week charges three Elizabethton Police Department officers with the use of excessive force and the same officers along with four employees of the Carter County Jail with negligence after they reportedly failed to get medical attention for a man who claims he was assaulted by the three city officers.
  The lawsuit filed against Elizabethton Police Department officers Jerry Bradley and Richard Haney and Sgt. Matt Bailey and Carter County Jail correctional officers Donald White, Jesse Booher, Dennis Leonard and Terry Blevins as defendants also lists EPD Chief Roger Deal, the City of Elizabethton, Carter County and Carter County Sheriff John Henson as defendants.
  The lawsuit was filed on Nov. 24, the day before Thanksgiving, by Knoxville attorney G. Scott Green on behalf of John Wayne Walker.
  According to the lawsuit, Walker was arrested by Bradley, Haney and Bailey on Nov. 28, 2003, at Wal-Mart and charged with public intoxication. A police report on the incident states that officers were dispatched to Wal-Mart on a report of a white male subject who as intoxicated in the lobby of the store. "Mr. Walker had a strong odor of an alcoholic intoxicant about his person. He was bleeding from his lower lip, and according to Wal-Mart personnel he had attempted to light a cigarette with a knife, cutting himself," states a report on the arrest filed by Haney at the time of the incident. "Mr. Walker had also urinated on himself. For his safety as well as the safety of others, he was arrested for public intoxication."
  The lawsuit states that after Walker was arrested, he was assaulted in the parking lot by the officers as the three officers used "excessive force" to take him into custody.
  "Defendants Bradley, Haney and Bailey told the Plaintiff that he was 'going to jail.' The Plaintiff responded that he was not. The Defendants Bradley, Haney and Bailey then without provocation, began to systematically strike and violently beat the Plaintiff with a blunt object. This beating continued after the Plaintiff was no longer able to resist and was violent, egregious, and shocking in its scope, intensity and/or excessiveness of force. Defendants Bradley, Haney and Bailey struck the Plaintiff multiple times on his head, his throat, his torso, and his groin area. The Plaintiff was struck while standing and while lying prone on the ground. The Plaintiff was in need of medical treatment that was obvious to a reasonable police officer," states the lawsuit. "After the beating ended, the Defendant Haney told the other two officers who were present that he 'didn't care' what they did with the Plaintiff, they could take him to the hospital or take him to jail, thereby exhibiting deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious and obvious medical needs.
  "The Plaintiff was transported to the Carter County Jail where he was remanded to the custody of the Carter County Sheriff and his deputies. The Defendants Bradley, Haney and Bailey, acting with deliberate indifference to Plaintiff's serious and obvious medical needs, did not inform the third party custodial recipients of the Plaintiff, the Carter County Sheriff Department, of the physical condition of the Plaintiff nor of the injuries he had just received nor his need for medical treatment which was obvious to the Sheriff's personnel nonetheless. The Carter County Sheriff's Deputies accepted custody of the Plaintiff. Despite obvious redness, contusions, abrasions, and indicia of medical abnormalities, the Plaintiff was admitted into the jail by Defendant Donnie White who never sought medical treatment for the Plaintiff thereby exhibiting deliberate indifference to his serious and obvious medical needs and the health, safety and well being of the Plaintiff who was in custody."
  According to the lawsuit, Walker was confined in the Carter County Jail for approximately 24 hours, at which time, jailers found him in a "semi-comatose state." At that time, the lawsuit states, Walker was transported to the Johnson City Medical Center for treatment.
  Walker had suffered bruising and hemorrhaging to several areas of his brain as well as a skull fracture, according to the suit, and upon his admission to the hospital, had to have emergency surgery to relieve a subdural hematoma, which is a condition that occurs when blood pools or collects on the surface of the brain.
  "The Plaintiff remained hospitalized and comatose for several weeks. The Plaintiff must live in an assisted care setting and will have to receive such care for the remainder of his life," states the lawsuit. "Due to and as a consequence of the individual acts, omissions and deliberate indifference of the Defendants, the Plaintiff has suffered permanent injuries including, but not limited to, permanent brain injury. The Defendant's individual and collective acts, omissions and deliberate indifference have deprived Plaintiff of his enjoyment of life, destroyed his earning capacity, and forced him to incur medical and assisted living expenses for the remainder of his life.
  The lawsuit claims that due to the fact that Bradley, Haney, Bailey, White, Booher, Leonard and Blevins are employees of the City of Elizabethton and Carter County and the fact that they were operating in their professional capacities, that the City of Elizabethton, Carter County, EPD Chief Roger Deal and Carter County Sheriff John Henson are also liable in the suit. The suit claims that the City of Elizabethton and Carter County are responsible for setting forth proper procedures such as the appropriate level of force to use when apprehending a subject and the proper procedures for seeking medical attention for an arrested subject. The suit further claims that the City of Elizabethton, Carter County, Deal and Henson are further responsible for making sure that the law enforcement officers acting under their authority are properly trained and aware of the procedures which have been set forth.
  "The Plaintiff sues Defendant, City of Elizabethton, under the 'GTLA' (Government Tort Litigation Act) for the negligence of each of the officers to prevent the other officers from assaulting or using excessive force against the Plaintiff. Defendant, City of Elizabethton, is liable to the Plaintiff under the 'GTLA' for the negligence of each officer for failing to seek immediate medial attention for the Plaintiff's serious medical needs while in their custody. Defendant, City of Elizabethton, is liable to the Plaintiff under the 'GTLA' for the negligence of each officer for failing to inform the third party custodial recipient of the Plaintiff, Carter County, of the nature, cause, and extent of Plaintiff's serious and obvious medical needs," states the lawsuit. "Defendant, Carter County, is liable to the Plaintiff under the GTLA for the negligence of each of the Deputy Sheriff's and jail employees for failing to seek medical attention for the Plaintiff's serious and obvious medical needs while in their custody, when booked into the Carter County Jail. Defendant, Carter County, is liable to Plaintiff under the GTLA for the negligence of each Deputy Sheriff and jail employee who failed to monitor the Plaintiff's condition while he was in their custody and in serious and obvious need of emergency medical treatment."
  While Elizabethton City Manager Charles Stahl and Carter County Mayor Dale Fair both stated that they had not yet seen the lawsuit or been served with any paperwork regarding it, the suit came as no surprise to Roger Day, attorney for the City of Elizabethton, and Henson.
  "I talked to the attorney (for Walker) last week and I knew this was coming. It wasn't a surprise to me," Henson said. "We spent about $250,000 on him to do brain surgery on him at the Med Center. That's why our medical bill was over $500,000 last year."
  Henson further stated that he had not seen the lawsuit yet and had not been served with any paperwork regarding it as of Monday afternoon.
  Day stated that he also had not seen a copy of the lawsuit or received any paperwork regarding it, but stated that he had been in touch with Green, the attorney for Walker. "He sent an investigator up and we helped him obtain some records relating to the arrest," Day said.
  When the allegations of excessive force were first brought up, Day stated that he spoke with all the officers involved who stated that the arrest was not out of the ordinary. "He (Walker) was taken into custody without incident. I talked to the officers and they said he never put up a struggle and in fact, he fell asleep on the way to the jail," Day said. "It's my understanding that he fell in the drunk tank and was injured. It was not anyone's fault, it was just due to his level of intoxication."
  Day said that when the allegations were first brought to the attention of the City of Elizabethton, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation conducted an investigation into the incident. "The TBI has investigated it because there were allegations of police brutality and everyone has been cleared in their investigation as far as I know," Day said. "I feel that the officers handled everything properly according to our policies and it was just a typical intoxication arrest."