Suit settled against CHA officer

Suit settled against CHA officer

July 2nd, 2011 by Todd South in News

A 2009 federal lawsuit filed by a public housing resident against a Chattanooga Housing Authority police officer was settled during a brief pretrial meeting Friday.

Crystal Ramsey filed a lawsuit seeking $200,000 against the Chattanooga Housing Authority, the city and police officers for both entities after CHA Officer James Avery "slapped her on the side of her face" to knock a phone out of her hand, according to court documents.

Ramsey's attorney, Michael Raulston, and CHA attorney Paul Krivacka attended a final pre-trial meeting in federal court Friday. They spoke together privately for less than 10 minutes, then confirmed the case had been settled.

Neither would discuss details of the case or the settlement, including whether financial compensation was included.

On Thursday, Chief U.S. District Judge Curtis Collier dismissed CHA officer Robert Zendejas, Chattanooga officer D. Rawson and the city from the lawsuit.

Collier ruled that the trial would take place July 11 and said only charges of excessive force and "intentional infliction of emotional distress" would be considered against Avery.

Ramsey filed the original complaint in Hamilton County Circuit Court in July 2009. Her attorney moved the case to federal court that September.

Her complaint alleged that on Aug. 2, 2008, she was in her CHA apartment when she heard a loud noise and looked outside to see that Avery had a juvenile bent over the hood of her car.

She got scared and called 911.

When Avery heard her asking for a Chattanooga police officer, the complaint states, he "threw the minor's money that he had in his hand on the ground and ran up on [Ramsey's] porch and slapped her on the side of her face where the phone was knocked to the ground."

Avery asked Ramsey why she called the police, and she told him "the situation had gotten out of hand," according to the complaint.

The officer responded that "he was the police and he could do whatever he wanted to do," the complaint stated.

Avery returned to the minor and Ramsey picked up the phone and called 911 again. Then Avery came back, slapped the phone away and said "there was no reason to call 911, that he, Avery, was the police 'out here.'"

Later Avery threatened to have Ramsey evicted, the complaint stated.

Ramsey went into her home and shut the screen door. Avery opened the door and grabbed her by the arm and back of her neck, forcing her outside onto the concrete porch with his knee in her back.

Zendejas assisted in detaining her and putting her in the back of a police car. Sgt. D. Rawson arrived after Ramsey was in custody, the complaint stated.

A call to CHA police Chief Felix Vess was not returned Friday.

Raulston and Krivacka still must file paperwork officially asking that Collier dismiss the case to close it in the federal system.