2 federal lawsuits against Chattanooga police dismissed

2 federal lawsuits against Chattanooga police dismissed

August 25th, 2012 by Todd South in Local Regional News

Chattanooga Police Department Officer Gary Williams

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

Two separate federal lawsuits against Chattanooga police seeking more than $1 million each have been dismissed by a federal judge.

On Monday, Chief U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier dismissed a $1.9 million lawsuit filed last year by Larry Ballanger. In court filings, Ballanger, 61, claimed he "tooted" his car horn at Chattanooga police Officer Cristina Henderson while at a Brainerd Road red light on April 23, 2010.

Henderson pulled behind Ballanger, got out of her car and told him he shouldn't be honking at her, the lawsuit said. The officer then cited Ballanger for noise violation and blocking traffic and, when he refused to sign the citation, Henderson arrested him.

Charges were dismissed in January 2011, and Ballanger filed the lawsuit in April 2011, claiming his rights were violated with the false arrest.

Local attorney Curtis Bowe represented Ballanger. A late message to his office Friday was not returned.

On July 20, Collier also dismissed a $3.4 million lawsuit against three Chattanooga officers, the city, the police department and Hamilton County Ambulance Service.

Antonio T. Smith represented himself in the suit, claiming that, while walking his dog after midnight on July 1, 2009, he encountered a group of people smoking marijuana, according to court documents. When a police car pulled up, the group scattered and he was left standing near the dumped marijuana.

He said Officer Gary Williams approached him and, while questioning him, slammed him to the ground and punched him repeatedly, the suit said. He also claimed in court documents that Officers Brian Angel and Bobby Adams arrived and "stomped" him.

Smith wrote that, once he was handcuffed, he asked for an ambulance and was initially refused.

He filed the lawsuit Aug. 2, 2010, claiming police brutality and other charges, including civil rights violations related to the arrest and his treatment by police.

Court files indicate his last address as Silverdale Correctional Facility. He was unavailable for comment.

Chattanooga city spokesman Richard Beeland deferred comments about the case dismissals to the city attorney's office and police Chief Bobby Dodd.

City Attorney Phil Noblett said that, in Ballanger's case, "state law requires that any person who refuses to sign citations be arrested."

In Smith's lawsuit, "the city was not found to have any improper training or supervision of its officers in this case and the officers were found to have qualified immunity based on their actions which were largely captured on video," Noblett said.

Dodd did not respond Friday.