Beating prompts suit against Chattanooga, police officers

Beating prompts suit against Chattanooga, police officers

January 16th, 2013 by Beth Burger in Local Regional News

Adam Tatum

Photo by Contributed Photo/Times Free Press.

Document: Lawsuit filed against city and former Chattanooga officers

A lawsuit filed against city and former Chattanooga officers

The lobby floor of the Salvation Army - where former federal inmates are housed - was mostly covered in blood.

"That floor was covered," said Robin Flores, who filed a $50 million lawsuit on behalf of a 37-year-old Chattanooga man beaten by police. "It was like someone took a ketchup bottle and shook it around and sprayed it."

The lawsuit filed in Hamilton County Circuit Court names two former Chattanooga police officers, three current police officers, 11 unidentified police officers, the city and Erlanger Health Systems.

Adam Tatum suffered six fractures to his right leg and two fractures to his left leg -- including a compound fracture -- while he was being arrested on June 14 at the Salvation Army office on McCallie Avenue.

Officers had responded to a disorder at the facility where Tatum was reportedly kicking a door of the office and had a knife.

Flores said former Officers Adam Cooley and Sean Emmer along with other officers on the scene and hospital staff did nothing to help Tatum once he was injured and in custody.

As a result of the incident, Cooley and Emmer were fired. James Smith, one of the first responding officers, was not disciplined. Federal authorities have opened an investigation into Emmer and Cooley's actions.

Tatum remains incarcerated at Silverdale Correctional Facility. He uses a cane to walk, Flores said.

Flores said he studied the incident caught on video for three hours before drafting the complaint.

"I don't know if we'll get anywhere close to [$50 million], but when you look at that video and the injuries he sustained, I don't think that's too farfetched," Flores said.

"Within seconds of the beating, Emmer inflicted a compound open fracture of the plaintiff's left leg thereby causing plaintiff to spurt blood from the open fracture all about the lobby," the complaint states.

Flores said Smith and Emmer delivered more than 100 blows each to Tatum. Cooley struck Tatum more than 15 times on the face and head, the complaint states.

"And it continued. That beating went on for at least 10 minutes. What I thought was worse was they made this guy walk with an obvious fracture and bone sticking out of his leg. They made him walk 100 feet out to the street and plop him down. And Emmer kicks him," Flores said.

Flores said he offered the city a $350,000 settlement before he filed the lawsuit.

"We didn't receive a response," he said.

Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd declined to comment because an investigation is pending at the federal level and a lawsuit has been filed.