Hamilton County deputy beaten on his own lawn

Aaron Shelton suing co-workers in bizarre case of mistaken identity

After his co-workers realized they had beaten him in a bizarre case of mistaken identity, Aaron Shelton says they tried to shut him up. They told him "they were all brothers, man."

The Hamilton County Sheriff's Office deputies in question thought Shelton was a fleeing suspect. In fact, the man they were looking for had just crashed his car in Shelton's yard. In a complaint filed in Hamilton County Circuit Court, Shelton's attorney argues the deputies took things too far by shoving his face into the concrete and beating him with a baton.

"The question's going to be, why pound on a guy when you've got him in full control?" Shelton's attorney, Robin Flores, said. "It makes absolutely no sense."

photo Aaron Shelton

In the complaint, Flores writes that on Nov. 11, 2014, Shelton and his wife, Heather, heard a loud noise and stepped outside their home at 1516 Ely Road. Shelton saw a man run into his carport.

Then Shelton saw deputies pointing their guns at him.

They told Shelton to get on the ground, and he followed all their commands, he said. According to the complaint, he told them he was an off-duty deputy and his wife shouted the same thing. But as he lay prone on the ground, his fellow deputies got on top of him, beating him with their hands and shoving his face into the concrete, the complaint states.

Shelton said that one deputy, Curtis Killingsworth, struck him with a baton.

At some point, Shelton's neighbor yelled to deputies that they were beating the wrong man. They stopped, realized they'd made an error and discovered that the man they were actually hunting had already been apprehended. At that point, "some or all of them told Aaron that 'they were all brothers, man,'" the complaint states.

Flores said that comment is particularly troubling because it indicates the deputies who beat him wanted him to keep quiet. Shelton didn't follow that advice.

On Nov. 16, he filed an internal complaint against the other deputies, which county attorney Dee Hobbs said is under review. The county has refused to pay for Shelton's medical treatment, the complaint states. The complaint also references a department-wide email listing people with claims against the county which included Shelton's name. At the time, Shelton hadn't even filed a lawsuit.

"The impact of the email stigmatized Aaron within his department as a person who was not a 'brother' as stated by the individual defendants and has subjected Aaron to humiliation and mental anguish," Flores wrote in the complaint.

Flores said Shelton believes he was passed over for a new position within the department because of his internal complaint. Though Flores said he was healed from injuries caused by the incident and has been cleared for duty, the county said he was just left off a register of possible candidates because of his ongoing health issues.

The complaint seeks $200,000 in damages from the county and $500,000 from individual defendants, some of whom Flores said will probably be identified during discovery.

Hobbs said the department's internal affairs investigation will be handled fairly.

"Obviously, if he was a sheriff's deputy or a person who works at Bi-Lo, he shouldn't be somebody that should be subjected to being mistreated," Hobbs said.

Contact staff writer Claire Wiseman at cwiseman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6347. Follow her on Twitter @clairelwiseman.