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LPD brutality suit heads back to county courtroom
Mar 21, 2005 12:00 am
A $750,000 brutality lawsuit filed by a traffic accident witness against five Lebanon police officers and supervisors has been remanded by a federal judge back to Wilson County Circuit Court.
U.S. District Judge Thomas Wiseman recently sent the case filed on behalf of local resident Thomas Huttchson back to the local court, where it was originally filed in December.
"It was an agreed-upon move," said Lebanon Public Safety Commissioner Billy Weeks, a defendant in the suit. "They made some claims that we said just didn't rise to the federal level, and I think both parties eventually agreed to that."
Other defendants in the lawsuit are Officers Steve Gatlin and Erick Brockman, Police Chief Scott Bowen, Mayor Don Fox, the city itself and a "John Doe" defendant who the suit alleges served as the two officers' primary supervisor.
In the lawsuit Huttchson maintains he had just been told by a sheriff's department officer to move his car from the scene of an auto accident, where he had been offering "assistance," even helping clear debris from the roadway.
But, he alleges, as he attempted to move his car Gatlin approached him and "orally reprimanded him," then later "cursed" while explaining the accident site was a "crime scene" and the auto could not be moved.
"This profane language was used in the presence of plaintiff's three-year-old son," the lawsuit claims.
Huttchson says in the suit when he "politely" asked Gatlin not to curse in front of his child the officer "inappropriately cursed … once more in the presence of" his son, telling him "that he would not tell him what to do."
Huttchson's suit says he then "used a more direct manner" to tell Gatlin to watch his language with the officer calling him an "(expletive deleted) jerk" as he walked away.
The suit alleges Huttchson then asked Gatlin for his name and badge number only to be "attacked" by Gatlin and Brockman with the two "violently shoving him against his vehicle while twisting his right arm behind his back, causing … great pain and injury."
While twisting his arm, the suit claims, the two officers repeatedly yelled for their alleged brutality victim to "stop resisting" while "further manipulating" his "arm behind his back."
Huttchson said he was then taken into custody while his child was "crying hysterically" and forced to sit alone in the car until a relative arrived half an hour later to care for him.
The court document maintains Huttchson "at no time resisted arrest, attempted to flee, nor did he pose any threat to the safety" of the officers "or any other person."
In the suit, Huttchson says injuries from the alleged police brutality required surgery "to repair a fractured elbow, ligament and tendon damage."
Senior Staff Writer Brooks Franklin can be reached at 444-3952 ext. 14 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.