A Hamilton County detective will be suspended with pay until the U.S. Department of Justice finishes its probe into a viral video that shows him punching and kicking a handcuffed man, Sheriff Jim Hammond said Thursday.
Hammond said he suspended Blake Kilpatrick on Wednesday after Hamilton County commissioners Warren Mackey and Katherlyn Geter called for him to be fired for the Dec. 3 arrest of musician Charles Toney Jr. The sheriff maintained he will not fire Kilpatrick unless prosecutors criminally indict him, saying "due process is extremely important to me."
Kicking him while he down !!— PG CASTRO (@Castro_423) December 8, 2018
Hiding behind that badge!!
He was cuffed already !!
Police brutality is real problem !!
Justice for Chattanooga’s @interstatetax pic.twitter.com/3mxRhntDvg
"I think what the tape shows is certainly horrendous, but that's why the Justice Department is looking at it," Hammond said Thursday. "I don't like knee-jerk reactions to one piece of evidence. I believe you have to look at everything. That's why we have the justice system the way it is. The wheels of justice turn slowly but they do turn."
Hammond's comments follow a Times Free Press report that a former romantic partner accused Kilpatrick in 2006 of bursting into her home and hitting her. The Times Free Press also obtained two incident reports Thursday alleging that Kilpatrick kicked down his and his ex-wife's door in 2011 and vandalized their home. He was never arrested or charged in any of those incidents, records show.
"That stuff means he should have never been hired," said national civil rights attorney S. Lee Merritt, who is helping represent Toney Jr.
Since video of the Dec. 3 arrest emerged, Merritt and comunity members have called for Kilpatrick to be fired and criminally charged. Community members have demonstrated at the city council, outside the Hamilton County-Chattanooga Courts Building and at Wednesday's commission meeting. They plan to protest Friday to continue vocalizing their demands.
Some of Toney's supporters said Thursday Kilpatrick's suspension with pay is problematic.
"It's almost like committing an offense and being rewarded," Mackey said. "That's the way many of my constituents are going to read that."
Kilpatrick could not be reached for comment Thursday at a number listed in court documents. But two incident reports from the Meigs County Sheriff's Department show a second former romantic partner accused Kilpatrick of violent behavior amid a separation in 2011.
On March 3, 2011, a Meigs County deputy went to Kilpatrick and his ex-wife's home on Miller Road in Decatur, Tennessee, on a "possible vandalism," the reports say. Every piece of furniture had been overturned in the living and dining rooms, tax papers had been ripped up and trash had been dumped on the kitchen counter, the deputy wrote.
Kilpatrick's former wife, who isn't identified here because of the nature of the disputes, said he was responsible. The deputy told her how to get an order of protection, which court records show she never did. She filed for divorce on April 8, 2011, records show, and the couple separated until it was finalized.
On April 29, 2011, a different Meigs County deputy returned to the home for "a domestic [incident] in progress." This time, the ex-wife said Kilpatrick kicked down their door after she told him he couldn't come inside. Kilpatrick admitted to the deputy he had done that and said he'd been drinking, records show.
"Parties were separated and advised no contact for 12 hours," the report states.
Kilpatrick, who used to work as a deputy at the Meigs County Sheriff's Department, was not charged in either incident.
Chattanooga attorney Jerry Tidwell, who is representing Kilpatrick in a 2017 wrongful death civil lawsuit, declined to comment Thursday. Tidwell said he is investigating these incidents and working on a statement.
Hamilton County Sheriff's Office spokesman Matt Lea said the agency didn't have any information about the 2011 incidents. Kilpatrick joined the agency in 2009. Asked whether the agency knew about the 2006 incident before hiring Kilpatrick, Lea directed a Times Free Press reporter to Carole Miller, the sheriff's office human resources director.
Miller said Kilpatrick's personnel file will not be released or commented on, citing a section of the state's public records law that says information about informants or undercover law enforcement agents "shall remain confidential." Kilpatrick worked within a fugitive division, Miller said.
During the Dec. 3 arrest in question, Kilpatrick and other officers spotted Toney and a friend standing outside of a home in East Ridge during a warrant roundup. At the time, Toney had an outstanding warrant on a 2017 drug possession on which a grand jury had recently indicted him.
Kilpatrick said Toney flicked a marijuana cigar that officers never found, reached into his pockets while handcuffed, and spit and bit deputies. But Toney said Kilpatrick identified him by his rap name, Interstate Tax, said he didn't like Toney's music and began punching him.
According to Toney's medical records, he suffered a collapsed lung, a broken finger, a broken nose and a few broken ribs.
Contact Zack Peterson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6347.