published Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Officer put on leave after chase arrest

by Monica Mercer
Audio clip

Kim Noorbergen

A medical emergency does not give people the right to put other people in danger by ignoring traffic laws, law enforcement officials say.

Chattanooga Police spokeswoman Lt. Kim Noorbergen discussed the issue with the Chattanooga Times Free Press Monday after the police department put an officer on paid administrative leave because of his decision to arrest a man who ran two red lights last week while trying to get his wife to the hospital.

Officer James Daves will remain on leave until an internal affairs investigation is completed, Lt. Noorbergen stated in an e-mail.

By phone, Lt. Noorbergen later defended the police department, saying there is not one overarching policy when it comes to making arrests. Every police officer has wide discretion in evaluating individual circumstances when a person is deemed to have broken the law, she said.

But drivers still have a legal obligation, even when a life is on the line, to pull over when a police officer turns on the blue lights, Lt. Noorbergen reiterated. She said that police are trained to “serve and protect” and that Chattanooga police officers are more than able to correctly assess an emergency situation.

“All of this could have been avoided if (Eric Jesse Wright) had just stopped and said, ‘We have a medical emergency,’” Lt. Noorbergen said. “Ninety percent of the time, (a police officer) will get in front of you and escort you.”

  • photo
    Staff photo by Tim Barber/Chattanooga Times Free Press - Aline Bacelar Wright, 22, talks about her husband, Jesse, being arrested by a Hamilton County deputy while enroute to Erlanger with stroke symptoms.

But that’s not what happened in the case of Mr. Wright, who now is accused of seven crimes, including felony evading arrest, after trying to get his wife to Erlanger hospital on June 16.

Mr. Wright must appear in Hamilton County General Sessions Court July 9 to answer to additional charges of assault on police, disorderly conduct, reckless endangerment, registration expired and two counts of traffic signals violation.

Mr. Wright was afraid his wife, Aline, a nurse at Erlanger, was having a stroke, she told the Times Free Press on Friday after being discharged from the hospital.

Mr. Wright also is a nurse technician at Erlanger, Mrs. Wright said, and they made the decision to drive to the emergency room from their home on Missionary Ridge instead of calling an ambulance because they knew it would be faster and were familiar with the importance of treating strokes quickly.

Mrs. Wright told the Times Free Press that they initially thought Officer Daves was helping them when he started to follow them westbound on McCallie Avenue. She also said her husband honked the horn and flashed the headlights to warn others.

But according to the arrest affidavit the Times Free Press obtained Monday, the first light Mr. Wright ran at Holtzclaw and McCallie avenues caused Officer Daves and another vehicle to “slam on brakes to avoid collision.”

When Officer Daves turned on his blue lights, the affidavit states Mr. Wright continued at a “high rate of speed,” running the red light at Central Avenue and McCallie, then recklessly driving around a parking lot at Erlanger before stopping at the ER entrance.

“The defendant endangered several lives with his reckless and careless driving,” Officer Daves wrote in the affidavit.

Mr. Wright then pushed Officer Daves away as he got out of the car, scraping the officer with his fingernails and telling him it was “an emergency and that he was an EMT and to leave him alone,” the affidavit states.

Mr. Wright carried his wife into a room of the ER with “no permission” of the staff and caused all doctors and nurses to come running because of the scene he was making, the affidavit states.

The Wrights could not be contacted Monday but said Friday they would be seeking an investigation into Officer Daves’ actions.

Family friend Thomas Goggans said he believed the Wrights had spent much of Monday consulting with lawyers, but that he did not know what the next step for them would be.

Mr. Goggans said the Wrights remain “deeply concerned” about how the police department treated them.

Continue reading by following this link to a related story:

Article: Newlyweds want answers for arrest

Click here to vote in our daily poll: Should drivers be cited when they’re caught speeding to hospitals?

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podiebell said...

This is just another example of the CPD being overly aggressive and abusing their power. The victims of this are medically trained professionals; not common street thugs. I will be completely unsurprised when the CPD clears the officer of any wrong-doing.

June 22, 2010 at 2 a.m.
Tax_Payer said...

It's hot out there now. Shootings in the city has increased and the police were stretched in every way but lose over the River Bend festivities. Tensions are high now!

Maybe, Officer Daves and the newlyweds should have lunch someplace and forgive each other and everyone go on with their lives.

June 22, 2010 at 3:40 a.m.
I77Medic said...

According to Dr. Frances Fesmire of the Erlanger Emergency Department, calling an ambulance when you think someone is having a stroke wastes time.

So, like "nurse technician" Eric Wright did, just throw your loved one in the car, turn on your roadside flashers, beep the horn, and run red lights on the way to the hospital...while talking on your cell phone.

If police try to stop you, just continue running red lights and ignore their orders. It's okay, Dr. Fesmire will write you a supportive letter.

Of course, Frances Fesmire doesn't really want YOU to act this way...just people he works with.

June 22, 2010 at 4:25 a.m.
rolando said...

Great reporting, Ms Mercer. We are finally getting the details. Please keep us posted with updates.

This issue has gone national and the uninformed are coming out of the woodwork.

Maybe a few of the more hysterical anti-cop folks here will tone it down a bit now.

June 22, 2010 at 4:48 a.m.
I77Medic said...

If Mr. Wright was truly knowledgeable about stroke he would know that his actions created more risk to himself, his wife and the public than her self-resolved condition posed.

The therapies for stroke that Dr. Fesmire mentions in his letter are rarely used. They have great risk and little success. Time is important, but so is public safety.

Dr. Fesmire doesn't mention that these therapies aren't available at all hospitals, so families who self-diagnose and rush to a hospital in a private car for the sake of speed may learn that their mistake has prevented their loved one from receiving the time sensitive treatment.

There is no indication in Dr. Fesmire's letter or in anything published, including statements by the couple themselves, that any medical treatment at all was given.

If a couple who weren't hospital employees behaved this way, calling ahead with the horn sounding, running into the ED screaming about strokes with a policeman in foot pursuit behind them, I guarantee there would be no letter of support from an ED physcian, just rolled eyes and knowing smiles...and somebody would have asked "why didn't you call an ambulance."

Our choices in a medical emergency are to call 911, or to drive the patient to the hospital within the law.

June 22, 2010 at 6 a.m.
medic204 said...

If this woman had suffered a real stroke, the husband could have driven her straight to a skilled nursing home and bypassed Dr. Fesmire and Erlanger altogether.

That's how much these "acute stroke therapies" are usually worth.

Paramedics can rule out or treat many conditions that appear to be stroke. We can support life and prevent further disability with aggressive airway management. We can choose an appropriate hospital based on the patient's symptoms.

And we can provide a safe, controlled transport to the hospital, protecting the patient AND the public.

But let's not try to fool the public into thinking speed solves stroke...Dr. Fesmire knows better.

June 22, 2010 at 6:57 a.m.
abcd said...

I would like to address I77Medic 's post of "The therapies for stroke that Dr. Fesmire mentions in his letter are rarely used. They have great risk and little success. " --

I seriously doubt you are a neurologist. As a neurologist myself, I have treated countless strokes and can attest to the success of this treatment. All medical treatments undergo rigorous testing before approval by the FDA and certainly would not be approved unless they were significantly clinically effective, and if the benefit outweighs the risks. I have observed stroke symptoms literally dissolve in front of your eyes as treatment is given.

I am not going to comment on whether or not what these people did was appropriate. Rather, I would appreciate you not making false medical claims as you are likely to cause harm to others by giving them a false impression of stroke treatment should they need treatment.

June 22, 2010 at 8:20 a.m.
dlapham said...

This is one sided and irresponsible reporting. It is great that you publish the police affidavit, and their side of the story. What you leave out however is the fact the the Officer Daves, was dead wrong in stating "Mr. Wright carried his wife into a room of the ER with “no permission” of the staff and caused all doctors and nurses to come running because of the scene he was making,". Sure this is his opinion, but the fact is that Mr. Wright had called ahead and the ER staff was waiting to meet him at the door. They also took them immediately back to a room. We also have two sides, where Officer Daves claims that Mr. Wright blew through traffic lights and forced other drivers to avoid hitting him. You did not however write that Mrs. Wright claims that Mr. Wright stopped, checked for traffic, then proceeded through the red lights. If you truly care about responsible reporting, rather than covering for a rogue police department, you will put in an FoA request for the dash cam and audio from Officer Davies car that evening.

If the officer is correct and the lights were blown through at high speed, then he acted mostly correctly. On the other hand if the lights are floated rather than blown through, then the CPD need a full shakedown. This is not a case of one cop, but of an entire system that completely backed Officer Daves, and issued a warrant until news coverage and public outrage forced them to reconsider.

June 22, 2010 at 8:24 a.m.
enufisenuf said...

I suppose Rolando you would belive the victims side of a shooting in ALton Park that he wasn't doing anything wrong. The cops are gonna cover their backsides and if it meaans carefully scripting their story, they will tell lies or whetever it takes to defend the actions of an idiot. Scraped with figernails? What would the sissy do if he got shot?

DOn't have any more trust in CPD than I do the Whitehouse, so RoRo you babble on with your self rightous dribble, you just been waiting for the cover story so you can feel like a hero to the image in you mirror, It is amazing that you don't believe the victim but you belive the cops concoctoed details, finally released after having time to cover their thug Daves

I suppose you thought the Catoosa band of boobs had a real case against tanya too.

Get a life, take a walk, do something other than being a keyboard cowboy from Brokeback mountain

June 22, 2010 at 8:31 a.m.
Livn4life said...

It is an unfortunate situation with a host of mismanagement. I dare say that many of us cool hands being so calmly objective might not be that cool if we believed a loved one of ours was having a stroke. I can see the policeman's concern as the lights were being run. I can see his concern to let Mr. Wright know(big surprise)he had broken the law at the ER. I do struggle with the intensity with which this unfolded while a person was obviously in need of medical attention. That insensitivity is tough for me to overcome when assessing what occurred there. Did Mr. Wright break the law? Yes, he did. Would I have if my wife had a similar need? I probably would. I hope I would have the emotional containment to let the officer know what was going on. Years ago in Perry, GA, I suffered an intense attack with my appendix going bad. My sister was driving. They saw a policeman and explained the situation. He politely escorted us to the hospital. We had no idea where it was. He also stayed around until he knew we were where we needed to be. That the officer was upset is understandable, that Mr. Wright must face the music for breaking the law is fine. It is the extremity with which this appears to have been dealt that seems to lack sensitivity to what the Wrights were facing at that time. What happens next? I will be interested to see that. I am most saddened at eroded respect for law enforcment officers in Chattanooga or anywhere else even though I know certain things at times cause one to question the department.

June 22, 2010 at 10:27 a.m.
finelass7 said...

It's unfortunate this happened. BUT. The officer did what he is trained for. The couple were in a panic and is this the best time to drive? The emergency services 911 are there to help, so are they saying when you have an emergency just drive yourself? They being RN's should know this.

June 22, 2010 at 11:05 a.m.
sw23 said...

The police officer was actually doing his job. "Every police department that lives and dies on statistics has a quota system. Be it the number of arrests, or cases cleared, or traffic tickets. If you don't have the numbers then your performance evaluation suffers" (Heaukulani, 2005, p. 88).

This is an unfortunate situation for everyone involved. The police officer is on administrative leave and the husband of the woman is facing a felony. There need to be a policy change, exception to the rule in an emergency situation.


Heaukulani, D. (2005). Behind the Badge. Trafford.

June 22, 2010 at 11:28 a.m.
watchman said...

have seen c-p-d in operation in several episodes of cops on fox tv. always thought the department left a lot to be desired in its public relations skills. this episode with the newlywed couple confirms what i suspected.

June 22, 2010 at 11:48 a.m.
Bobsafeside said...

My oh my - and I thought we here in Seattle had the only insensitive cops. So the Chattanooga PD has a "John Wayne" in their employ and one with an attitude. Give the family a break - put yourself in their place. I would have done the same thing if it was a family member of mine. Are all your police "trained" to treat scared and terrified civilians this way? Come on - use your head for once. And please, if you fire the cop - please don't send him up here - we have enough problems with them.

June 22, 2010 at 12:05 p.m.
jcinga said...

Please, take Barney Fife's gun and bullet away! This guy isn't smart enough to be a cop, much less carry a weapon. I hope he was able to make his "quota" later that day. Obviously, he's a "big time crime buster"! If the ChattanoogaPpolice Department backs this insanity, then they all need to take another look at themselves. For God sakes folks, lets use a little common sense and not prove we're educated idiots here. If I were in Mr. Wright's shoes, I would have made the same decisions!

June 22, 2010 at 12:26 p.m.
SeaIsland said...

The average American commits three felonies every day.

Reverse positions, you're a 22-year-old newlywed medical who believes nurse wife is having a stroke, what would you do?

We were at Riverbend...Serve and Protect is not what Chatt police were doing. Many witnesses saw two key-stone cops, sirens roaring, nearly crash into each other. And...the nightmare of getting out of Chattanooga, too.

June 22, 2010 at 12:36 p.m.
MountainJoe said...

I would love to see the surveillance video of the emergency room entrance. (I'm sure they have security cameras in the area.)

If the officer blocked the door, delaying even for a few seconds the husband from getting medical attention for his wife, then he should be summarily fired. And prosecuted, himself, for reckless endangerment. (And horsewhipped, if I had any say in the matter.)

Anyone with a clue would see to getting medical attention for the lady in distress first. Only after you are sure she is receiving the care she obviously needs do you take up any traffic violation issues you may have with her husband.

June 22, 2010 at 12:38 p.m.
ionamic said...

Mr. Wright was wrong. The officer was out of control with his misguided authority. I no longer teach my kids to to respect the police but to avoid them and to be cautious of putting too much trust in them. The lesson is, never ever say "no" to a cop. It's like poking a pit bull with a sharp stick. Upon arrival at the hospital, Mr Wright was not escaping from the law down an alley after a bank robbery. He was running into an ER with his wife. Officer Daves could have calmly followed him into the ER and handled it all after it was determined what her condition was. Blocking Wright and his wife from the hospital served no purpose other than demonstrate his power and authority. Does anyone understand how panic-stricken you can get when you think a loved one might die? It's easy to judge if you have never been there. Sure you might say Wright is a nurse, but is a different matter when you are dealing with a family member. Common sense was thrown out the window on BOTH sides.

June 22, 2010 at 12:38 p.m.
MountainJoe said...

Hey rolando ... breaking news (of course I had to get it on instead of TFP, ha :)

All charges against Mr. Wright have been dropped.

"Officials said, 'We deeply regret this incident has occurred and hope to meet with Mr. and Mrs. Wright at their earliest convenience to discuss the events of June 16'."

Translation: "Our officer was in the wrong, and we know we are in deep doo-doo. We sure hope we can meet with the Wrights and talk them out of suing us before they actually do so."

Prediction: This will be settled out of court. The Wrights will be offered a sizable chunk of Chattanooga taxpayer money (this while the city is claiming to be broke and considering a 33% tax increase) to shut up and go away. Facing her medical issues and the need to move forward (personally and professionally) with their young lives, they will accept the settlement and not rock the boat. Officer Daves will be "reassigned" to another post within the department but not fired, and one day in the future we will hear of other misdeeds from him ... and people will wonder, at that time, why he was allowed to stay on the force after this ignominious episode.

June 22, 2010 at 1 p.m.
enufisenuf said...

OK Roro, here's egg on your face, don't care what you have to say, after enuf damage control, the financial and PR dept of CPD saw the light and acted as they should have. THe right decision morally, good luck to the Wrights.

June 22, 2010 at 1:26 p.m.
rdecredico said...

All cops are facist when left to their own desires.

June 22, 2010 at 1:37 p.m.
dave said...

I am glad the charges are should have never happened in the first place. CPD needs to do some retraining...and re-evaluation of all of it's officers. It seems the whole bunch of them have forgotten they serve at the public's (taxpayers) bequest. Personally, I liked the system they have in Germany with NO local police but rather a National Police force with NO local politician's input into police matters. No matter where you go in the country the laws are always the same. They require the policemen to be college grads and they must speak a minimum of THREE languages. The standards are high and require a high class individual to fulfill the role. I NEVER met a rude or surly policeman there. The police there are respected because they are respectful. Perhaps we could learn a lesson from them.

June 22, 2010 at 1:56 p.m.
SGTWoodcockUSA said...

Email the police department and tell them how you feel. I did and it wasn't nice!


June 22, 2010 at 2:14 p.m.
trailmix7159 said...

Here are some questions that are begging to be answered: Why didn't Officer Daves wait at the ER to arrest Mr Wright after the emergency was abated? Why wasn't Mr. Wright taken into custody when he turned himself in after the incident? Why was there a delay? What was the real disposition of Officer Daves and Mr. Wright?

I bet the security cameras at the hospital will shed some light on what really happened. I am sure they will be beneficial to everyone involved; including the public.

June 22, 2010 at 2:14 p.m.
jcinga said...

Bingo MountainJoe! Perfectly stated! Too bad no one's feet will be held to the fire! Just another screw up by the government that'll get swept under the carpet.

June 22, 2010 at 2:20 p.m.
JayTen said...

A disabled woman, a Vet were involved, the woman is recovering. None of that was relevant when this happened. Wright believed his wife was having a stroke, he didn't use the 911 system because he believed that he could get her to hospital quicker. He called the hospital direct, drove to the ER fast, and through red lights. Not recklessly; he had his warning lights flashing. A police officer was alerted & followed Wright with his lights flashing. Wright ignored the officer's requests to stop & ignored the officer after he got out of his car and carried his wife into the ER. CPD website: "The mission of the Chattanooga Police Department is to enhance the quality of life in the City of Chattanooga by working cooperatively with the public and within the framework of the Constitutions of the United States and the State of Tennessee to enforce the laws, preserve the peace, maintain order, reduce crime and fear, and provide for a safe environment."

Wright is guilty of misdemeanour traffic violations. He didn't stop when a police officer requested he stop. The officer should have enforced the law by making Wright stop. From then on, Wright and the officer were not able to make a medical judgment except realize that delay may be fatal to Mrs Wright. After becoming aware of the emergency, the officer should have escorted the Wrights to the ER & ensure they arrived ASAP. But he was not aware until arriving at the ER. When he arrived, the officer should have realized the emergency and enabled Wright to get his wife into ER ASAP. Once she was there, the officer could have advised Mr Wright of his traffic violations. But he did not do this. Instead, he continued to act without care for the Wrights, he failed to act according to the obvious fact of a medical emergency. By behaving in that way, the officer failed to fulfill his role as a representative of the CPD. He did not fulfill what the CPD proclaims as its mission. He is guilty of obstruction of persons who were in progress of a medical emergency. He is responsible for any and all events that happened from that point on because he should have realized that Wright was making a highly emotional attempt to get his wife to the ER. He should have allowed Wright the benefit of doubt and known that it was unlikely that Mr Wright would attempt to flee. The issue of felony charges against Mr Wright suggest that the ones responsible for issuing them were similarly responsible for failure to do what was right by somebody they were bound to protect. All but the traffic violation charges MUST be dropped. If Wright loses his job because of those felony charges, he should be compensated by the CPD who acted in a manner that did not respect the urgency of the situation, and with an inability to recognize it when apprised of it. His employers should be expected to reinstate Wright.

June 22, 2010 at 3 p.m.
I77Medic said...

Dr. "ABCD":

I'm a paramedic, not a neurologist.

Please let me know the percentage of stroke patients who receive these treatments in the US, and the percentage of total patients discharged without disability.

Also, let me know if, as Stanford research suggests, time is much less important than finding the right patients for the treatments.

Dr. Fesmire, and you, are the ones providing misleading medical information, telling people that all they need to do when they have stroke symptoms is rush, panicked, to the the nearest emergency room or urgent care and the clot will dissolve before everyone's eyes.

Dr. Fesmire is backing up a coworker, at least. What's your excuse?

June 23, 2010 at 6 p.m.
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