published Sunday, November 10th, 2013

Two former Chattanooga police officers sue city for damages

Two former Chattanooga police officers who were fired for using excessive force while taking a federal inmate into custody filed a lawsuit seeking $500,000 in damages last week.

Sean Emmer and Adam Cooley were both terminated in November 2012 after police said they used excessive force while taking Adam Tatum into custody.

Tatum brandished a knife and began kicking the door of an office at the Salvation Army, 800 McCallie Ave., on June 14, 2012. Employees at the Salvation Army, which serves as a halfway house for federal inmates, called police.

Emmer and Cooley were among more than a dozen officers who responded to the call. Tatum passively resisted through much of the incident, which was caught on video. He was beaten with sticks and Maced, ending with a broken nose, blackened eyes and numerous breaks to both legs including a compound fracture.

The 21-page complaint states the former officers are seeking compensatory damages, punitive damages and attorneys' fees. The Tennessee State Lodge of the Fraternal Order of Police is also named as a plaintiff because the organization has covered legal fees for the pair.

A Hamilton County grand jury declined to indict Emmer and Cooley and federal authorities found no prosecutable offense. An administrative law judge from Nashville listened to three days of testimony and ordered that the officers be reinstated with back pay, benefits and seniority. The city is appealing the decision.

The lawsuit, filed by attorneys Bryan Hoss and Jonathan Guthrie, states comments made by city officials have "imposed an untrue and unjust stigma upon Officers Emmer and Cooley professionally and personally and have effectively denied them the freedom to take advantage of other employment opportunities."

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