published Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

Records show no excessive force use from Chattanooga police officer

A Chattanooga police officer accused of using excessive force while arresting a man at College Hill Courts last month has no record of excessive force with the department, according to internal affairs records.

Officer Robert Simmons, 37, who has been with the department since 2003, has been the subject of five complaints in that time, but investigations by the department found no credible evidence to support them, records show.

The latest complaint -- whose internal investigation has not been completed -- came after Simmons arrested 20-year-old Aaron Mitchell on Oct. 4 on charges of criminal trespassing, disorderly conduct, assault and resisting arrest.

The Rev. Leroy Griffith of Renaissance Presbyterian Church said he and others watched as Mitchell was handcuffed and taken to the ground by Simmons. Griffith complained about Simmons to the police internal affairs department, which is investigating allegations of excessive force and rudeness.

Griffith said he was interviewed by investigators a week ago. Investigators are reviewing surveillance footage from housing cameras.

"I see no justification for his [Simmons'] behavior," Griffith said. "He was completely outside regulations when I asked him for his badge number and he refused to give it to me."

In the last couple of years, Simmons has been investigated for two excessive force complaints from Westside residents.

In 2011, Simmons arrested Joshua Timmons, a Gangster Disciples member, on charges of criminal trespassing on Poplar Street. Timmons gave his mother, Juanita Timmons-Ware, a roll of money and, when she began reaching into her son's pockets during the arrest, she also was arrested, according to the report. The department found the arrests were justified.

On Feb. 19, Simmons stopped a vehicle leaving West 12th Street and arrested 20-year-old Landon Atkinson, who was stunned twice with a Taser after not complying with officers' commands.

Simmons left his car and walked over to assist three other officers during their struggle with Atkinson. Both Atkinson and some of the officers sustained minor injuries. The complaint of excessive force was ruled unfounded by the department based on audio, video and medical records.

Mitchell, who police said is a Bounty Hunter Blood gang member, has 10 convictions for criminal trespassing as well as a drug and assault conviction. He is featured in an online video on YouTube titled, "226 in Chattanooga, TN Whit the Blood Gang."

"We got them blow. We got them weed. You buying? We selling," Mitchell says in the video with other gang members. The gang members in the video say they frequent public housing like its home. The video was posted in September and as of Monday had 434 views.

Mitchell reportedly has family members living in College Hill Courts. He could not be reached for comment.

His next court date is set for Nov. 8 before Hamilton County Sessions Court Judge Clarence Shattuck.

Contact staff writer Beth Burger at bburger@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6406. Follow her on Twitter at twitter.com/abburger.

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