Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd: Officers' actions excessive (with videos)

Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd: Officers' actions excessive (with videos)

March 1st, 2013 by Beth Burger in Local - Breaking News

Surveillance video from the Salvation Army on McCallie Avenue shows former Chattanooga police officer Sean Emmer, left, and officer James Smith trying to subdue Adam Tatum.

Two officers who were fired by Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd after brutally beating federal inmate Adam Tatum until his legs were broken could get their jobs back when they go before an administrative law judge.

Dodd says he'll present a case in hopes of making sure that doesn't happen.

"I'll lay the facts out and hopefully that person will look at this and say, 'It's excessive. It's outside the policies. And these officers do not need to be on the streets.' I personally would not subject the citizens of Chattanooga to these two officers and the type of action they took," Dodd told reporters during a news conference Thursday morning.

But attorneys for the two fired police officers defended their clients, Sean Emmer and Adam Cooley.

"Chattanooga officers are trained to never assume that a suspect has only one weapon. This city has seen officers killed in the line of duty after de-escalating force only to learn that the criminal has a second weapon," according to a statement from attorneys Stevie Phillips and Bryan Hoss.

"Here, Tatum turned on these officers with a knife and attacked. He repeatedly ignored the lawful orders to 'stop resisting' and 'put your hands behind your back.'"

Dodd called the beating that left 37-year-old Tatum with six fractures to his right leg and two fractures to his left leg -- including a compound fracture -- one of the worst cases of excessive force he has seen in his 25-year career.

"We do not condone this activity," Dodd said. "Nor will it be tolerated."

POLL: Should the cops involved in the Salvation Army beating get their jobs back?

A video released Wednesday night by Tatum's attorney, Robin Flores, shows Emmer and Cooley beating Tatum.

At the time of the June 14, 2012, incident, Tatum was serving the final 55 days of a federal robbery sentence at a halfway house in the Salvation Army building on McCallie Avenue. Tatum was kicking the door of a room where staff members were gathered.

Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd speaks at a Thursday news conference at the Police Services Center about allegations of excessive force used by police officers in the June 2012 arrest of Adam Tatum. Standing with the chief are Deputy Chief Tommy Kennedy, left, and Assistant Chief Randy Dunn.

Chattanooga Police Chief Bobby Dodd speaks at a...

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

The building's surveillance cameras show that inmate Adrian McGhee tried to talk Tatum down. At the time staff members called authorities, Tatum was wielding a knife.

One officer took the knife and then both struck blow after blow to Tatum for about 10 minutes, telling him repeatedly to get on the ground and roll over.

Tatum's attorney has filed a $50 million lawsuit on his behalf.

Within a couple of hours of Dodd's news conference, the attorneys for the ex-officers characterized Tatum as "a convicted, violent felon."

"These Chattanooga police officers were only present because of Tatum's decision to get high on crack and assault innocent people," according to their statement.

Dodd said he initiated an internal investigation after an attorney told him to preserve surveillance footage at the Salvation Army. The officers were taken off the street. When the investigation wrapped up in November, Cooley and Emmer were terminated.

Dodd said he also presented the case to the Hamilton County grand jury, which viewed the footage and declined to indict. Federal authorities still are reviewing the case for possible charges.

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said the incident is upsetting.

"We are doing everything we can to see that that case is prosecuted. We have presented it to all authorities," said Littlefield. "The behavior there is nothing to condone. I was disturbed. Who wouldn't be?"

Staff writer Joan Garrett contributed to this article.