When the Chattanooga police officer arrived at Vance Street in April 2018, he was looking for a man named "Polo" who had threatened a neighbor with a gun. But his interaction with a different person who didn't commit the crime is now the subject of a lawsuit filed Monday charging unreasonable use of a stun gun and false arrest.
Nate Carter is asking for $3 million in damages in his suit, filed in Hamilton County Circuit Court by Chattanooga attorney Robin Flores. Carter says Chattanooga officer Cody Thomas, who was suspended for 80 hours as a result of the April 13, 2018, incident and is now back on active duty, violated his rights, assaulted and injured him, misrepresented what happened and caused him to spend money on legal fees and several criminal charges that were eventually dismissed.
Chattanooga city attorneys could not be reached for comment Wednesday, though they are expected to file a response soon in Hamilton County Circuit Court. From there, attorneys will exchange evidence and work toward a dismissal, settlement or trial. In the meantime, police body camera footage and the lawsuit give a clearer picture of what happened that day.
After getting to the scene and parking his car, officer Thomas saw Carter, 42, checking his mailbox nearby.
"You Polo?" Thomas asked him.
Carter said he wasn't Polo, wasn't involved and didn't want the officer on his property. He pointed down the street, toward Wayne Sullivan, the neighbor who had called 911 after being threatened with a gun. According to the lawsuit, Sullivan said he told Thomas that Carter wasn't the right guy.
But on scene, there was confusion.
"Who we calling about?" Thomas asked.
"Ain't calling about me, buddy," Carter said.
"Calling about you?" Thomas replied.
"Not calling about me," Carter emphasized.
He added Thomas needed to shut his mouth and open his ears. Thomas fired back that Carter needed to "watch [his] mouth before your a - - gets thrown in the back of my car." Carter shouted back that he wasn't involved. Thomas moved closer, saying Carter was now "part of this."
Stepping onto Carter's lawn, Thomas asked him to come here. Carter asked for what. At that moment, Carter's dog jumped forward and began barking.
"I'll shoot your f - - dog," Thomas said.
That further upset Carter, who turned to go inside. Thomas, still ordering Carter to come to him, raised his stun gun. With Carter's back turned to him, he fired a Taser's prongs into Carter's back, causing him to fall over onto his porch. Carter then ran inside, peeked out his door once or twice, and walked out for a couple of minutes with his two minor children. By this point, multiple police officers had arrived on the scene.
As Carter walked toward officers, Thomas tackled him. On the ground, Carter winced and said he wasn't resisting. He later mentioned that Thomas had his handcuffs on too tightly.
"Who cares?" Thomas replied. "Get in the car."
On scene, Thomas explained to another officer that he was concerned Carter had a gun, or was getting one, when he ran into his house. "Polo," meanwhile, had gotten away. After an internal investigation, the department ultimately sustained policy violations against Thomas for use of force, treatment of prisoners and unsatisfactory conduct.
Officer Thomas is also named in another alleged excessive force lawsuit also filed earlier this year by attorney Flores. In it, a couple, Dale and Alisha Edmonds, said Thomas and a few other officers entered their home without a warrant during a February 2018 visit with an agent from the Department of Child Services. Edmonds, who had just been shot days before, went into the kitchen to investigate and had officers draw their guns on him.
According to the suit, Thomas forced Dale Edmonds to raise his injured arm and manhandled him into the living room. In their response, city attorneys admitted that officers entered the home, knowing that someone had been shot their days earlier, but denied many of the specific excessive force or unlawful entry claims. The case is being litigated now in Chattanooga's U.S. District Court.
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at email@example.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.