A lawsuit filed Friday alleges Chattanooga Police Department officers held a man at gunpoint after entering his home without a warrant and subsequently misplaced his internal affairs complaint.
Dale Edmonds, 57, returned home from the hospital on Feb. 14, 2018, three days after a family member shot him in the right shoulder, and met with Department of Child Services alongside his housemate, Alinda, around 8 p.m., the suit says. While one DCS agent met with them inside, another waited outside in a car.
Around the same time, the suit says, officers Cody Thomas, Jason Clemons, James Elliott, Rick Van Ness and Stephen Bulkley went to the home after a neighbor called 911 and said "someone was seated in a black car" in Edmonds' driveway.
Though the DCS agent in that car told the officers why the agency was there, the suit says, three of the officers opened the back kitchen door without a warrant and drew their guns on Edmonds.
Edmonds said he lived in the home and couldn't raise both his hands because he'd recently been shot, the suit says. Officer Thomas, the suit says, "forced Dale to raise his severely injured arm and manhandled Dale into the living room." The officers then ordered him, Alinda Edmonds and the DCS agent outside at gunpoint and left several minutes later after realizing their mistake, the suit says.
Edmonds filed a complaint with the department's internal affairs division sometime in early March, the suit says. After hearing nothing for three months, Edmonds returned and was told his complaint was "lost," the suit says. He filled out a second complaint but was told during a later visit that that complaint was lost, too. An assistant ultimately found it "up under other cases" in the division captain's office.
More months passed and Edmonds said he still wasn't getting information on the officers.
In late January, Jerri Sutton, the captain of Internal Affairs, said she would tell Edmonds their names on Feb. 16. But there was a problem with that date, attorney Robin Flores wrote in the suit. It was just past the year anniversary of the Feb. 14, 2018, incident, meaning Edmonds wouldn't be able to bring a lawsuit because his statute of limitations would expire.
In the suit, Flores said internal affairs dragged its feet on purpose, citing a previous IA commander, Janet Crumley, who was reassigned in 2003 for delaying investigations into citizen complaints. Flores cited a number of officer misconduct cases from 2004 to the present and said it showed the city had "established additional patterns of overlooking or providing excuses and reasons to justify the misconduct of its officers in order to retain, promote, and/or re-hire officers."
City Attorney Phil Noblett said Friday he could not comment on the "factual accuracy" of a pending lawsuit.
Internal Affairs has to conduct hundreds of investigations with limited manpower: There's one captain, one lieutenant, four sergeants and one administrative assistant. Once investigators make their findings, there's several rounds of administrative review. The process can take longer if the officer hires a defense attorney.
In 2018, Internal Affairs handled 142 administrative investigations, police spokeswoman Elisa Myzal said Friday. The department recently assigned another sergeant to the division, Chief David Roddy told city council members this week while addressing a video that showed one of his officers punching and cursing at a motorist.
Flores wrote he was only able to name the officers because he obtained a separate incident report that named them.
One of them, Thomas, was suspended for 80 hours in November 2018 after Chief David Roddy sustained three allegations of use-of-force, mistreatment of prisoners and unsatisfactory conduct. The allegations stemmed from an April 2018 incident in which Thomas went to a disturbance call on Vance Street and used a Taser on the wrong person, Nate Carter, who told Thomas multiple times he wasn't involved.
According to investigative files that the Times Free Press obtained through an open records request, Thomas got angry when Carter told the officer that he couldn't arrest him on his property. After Thomas stunned Carter in the back, Carter ran inside. Thomas called for backup and officers surrounded the home and tackled Carter when he came back outside.
Contact staff writer Zack Peterson at email@example.com or 423-757-6347. Follow him on Twitter @zackpeterson918.