published Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Former Mayor Ron Littlefield, Paul Page added to police-beating lawsuit

Ron Littlefield
Ron Littlefield
Photo by John Rawlston /Chattanooga Times Free Press.
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    Paul Page, Chattanooga's director of general services

A civil lawsuit filed in the police beating of federal halfway house resident Adam Tatum now alleges former Mayor Ron Littlefield and former city general services Director Paul Page fostered lax management that contributed to Tatum's ordeal.

On Tuesday Tatum's attorney, Robin Flores, filed a new case in Hamilton County Circuit Court connected to a lawsuit now in federal court that attempts:

• To double the requested $50 million in damages to $100 million.

• To add Littlefield and Page to the lawsuit, alleging that sexual harassment claims against Page and Littlefield's handling of those claims permitted a lax management culture that later permitted the beating.

• To include new details of a previous violent episode involving Sean Emmer, one of the two former Chattanooga police officers involved in the Tatum beating.

• To remove some of the individuals recently added to the lawsuit, which at one point included 28 Chattanooga police officers and now lists 15.

Flores said Tuesday the case in state court parallels the federal case in its claims but is being dealt with separately for now.

He referred to an ongoing federal civil lawsuit by former city employee Lana Sutton against Page alleging sexual harassment as his reasoning for adding Page and Littlefield in his filing.

Chattanooga police and city spokeswoman Lacie Stone have declined to comment on pending litigation.

The lawsuit stems from an incident on June 14, 2012, in which Emmer and Adam Cooley responded to a call at the Salvation Army halfway house on McCallie Avenue. Video shows Tatum harassing a fellow resident before police arrive.

During the arrest, the three men fight. The officers first use a stun gun, then begin striking Tatum to subdue him. Officers retrieve a knife from Tatum, who was on cocaine at the time.

The 37-year-old man suffered six fractures to his right leg and two fractures to his left leg, which were captured on halfway house video.

But Emmer's attorney, Bryan Hoss, said the video doesn't show the entire scene of what officers were dealing with at the site.

The running fight takes place in two rooms. In the first room, the knife hits the floor, six other halfway house residents have the knife and try to burst through the door to the second room, Hoss said.

Officer Chip Smith, also named in the lawsuit, holds the door, preventing the men from getting into the room as Emmer and Cooley try to subdue Tatum.

"There was a very real threat from these guys," Hoss said of inmates in the adjoining room.

A Hamilton County grand jury declined to indict Emmer and Cooley on criminal charges.

A six-month federal investigation also yielded no charges. Hoss said investigators had access to the video, training procedures used by Chattanooga police and other information.

Chattanooga police Chief Bobby Dodd called the actions excessive and fired Emmer and Cooley.

Hoss said he and his co-counsel, Stevie Phillips, will call experts at a June 26 administrative law hearing who will testify that the officers followed training guidelines and deserve their jobs back.

Tatum's three assault charges linked to his arrest were overturned in March.

Flores said further review of materials turned over by police as part of the court proceedings helped him filter down the number of officers named in the lawsuit. When he added the lengthy list of officers earlier this month, he was working with simply the names of those officers who worked the case.

Contact staff writer Todd South at or 423-757-6347 or tsouth@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @tsouthCTFP.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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