Ellijay police officer sued in excessive force complaint (update: police respond)

Ellijay police officer sued in excessive force complaint (update: police respond)

June 15th, 2017 by Tyler Jett in Local Regional News

UPDATE:

Ellijay Police Chief Edward Lacey responded Thursday to the Times Free Press' request for comment. In an email, he wrote that Officer Trevor McClure and other members of the department receive "well documented training." He also said that officers administered aid to the alleged victim, Terry Cantrell, at the scene of his injury — rebutting claims by Cantrell's attorneys.

"We believe his level of intoxication exasperated this situation," Lacey wrote. "He was never struck, hit, kicked, or otherwise beaten before, during, or after his arrest. When the officer pursuing him on foot took him to the ground, Mr. Cantrell's head made unintentional contact with the paved roadway."

 

PREVIOUSLY:

At the end of a chase, after a police officer tackled him to the ground, a North Georgia man says he slipped into a coma for 12 days. And ever since, his memory has been weak.

The alleged victim, 45-year-old Terry Christopher Cantrell, filed a lawsuit against the city, Officer Trevor McClure and Police Chief Edward Lacey in Gilmer County Superior Court on Monday. His attorneys say he is the victim of excessive force, poor law enforcement training, battery and negligence. They say the city should pay his $350,000 medical bill — plus damages.

"The actions of Defendant McClure and Defendant Lacey have amounted to willful misconduct, malice, wantonness, oppression, and an entire want of care that would raise a presumption of conscious indifference to the consequences of their behavior," Cantrell's attorneys wrote in the court filing.

Mayor Al Hoyle did not return a call or email seeking comment Wednesday, and City Attorney Kayann Hayden West is on leave this week, according to an employee in her office. Ellijay Police Capt. Ray Grace said his department cannot comment on the particulars of a fresh lawsuit.

"We've had recent [similar] court cases in which the officer was vindicated," Grace added.

According to the complaint, an Ellijay officer tired to pull over Cantrell on June 16, 2015. One of his attorneys, Jesse Vaughn, said the officer suspected Campbell of driving under the influence. Instead of pulling over, Cantrell continued to drive at about 35 mph. Other officers joined the pursuit, and Campbell hopped out of his vehicle, trying to run away.

McClure chased him, according to the complaint, and Cantrell eventually stopped. He put his hands in the air, but McClure tackled him to the road.

Vaughn said he and the other lawyers representing Cantrell have copies of three dashcam recordings of the incident.

"It really is a shocking video to watch," Vaughn said. "And the aftereffect is kind of creepy, too. He's lying there and he's bleeding and he's unconscious. And they just rolled him over and handcuffed him and called the ambulance and stood around to wait."

According to the complaint, the officers on scene had training to administer first aid. But they did not try to help Cantrell. Eventually, paramedics airlifted him to Atlanta Medical Center. He suffered bleeding in his brain, and he was in a coma for 12 days.

He still suffers memory loss, according to the complaint.

Vaughn said Ellijay police charged Cantrell with DUI, reckless driving, failure to maintain lane, failure to yield at a stop sign, speeding, driving while license suspended, violation of duty upon striking an object and interference with government property.

In December 2015, attorney George Weaver wrote a letter to Hoyle, offering to settle the lawsuit for $1.1 million. Vaughn said the city did not respond.

Cantrell's window for filing the suit would have expired Friday, the two-year anniversary of the incident.

Contact staff writer Tyler Jett at 423-757-6476 or tjett@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @LetsJett.


Correction: This article was updated to correct the man's to Terry Christopher Cantrell from Terry Christopher Campbell.