A Bradley County Sheriff's Office deputy has been suspended with pay amid allegations he "strangled" a 14-year-old boy at a local alternative academy overseen by the Bradley County Juvenile Court, authorities said.
The Tennessee Bureau of Investigation confirmed Thursday a probe was underway at the Law Enforcement Academic and Fitness Academy, according to agency spokesperson Susan Niland. The academy operated by juvenile court is housed at Cleveland Middle School in Cleveland, Tennessee.
"At the request of 10th District Attorney General Steve Crump, TBI agents are investigating the actions of a Bradley County deputy during an interaction with a student attending the LEAF Academy," Niland said in an emailed response. "The investigation remains active and ongoing at this time."
The academy was formed in 1997 as a summer program for at-risk children involved in the court system, according to the academy website. The staff of the academy is made up of officers from the Cleveland Police Department, Bradley County Sheriff's Office and juvenile court. The Bradley County Schools system supplies two certified teachers and the Cleveland City Schools system supplies the transportation and location for the academy. The academy takes about 60 students per summer in a six-week program, the website states. The academy enrolls children ages 12-17 who have been court-ordered to attend.
Chattanooga attorney Robin Flores, the teen's lawyer, talked briefly about the June 10 incident just after his client was interviewed by TBI agents Thursday afternoon.
The 14-year-old was in the program stemming from the disposition of a juvenile delinquency case unrelated to the incident that happened June 10 at the academy, Flores said. The teen chose the academy over performing community service, he said, noting the physical education requirements of attending the program.
"The short of it was he was unable to finish a set of pushups with [deputy] Ryan Beasley," said Flores, who along with retired former Hamilton County Circuit Court Judge Neil Thomas, is representing the teen and his guardian, Tammy Puckett. Flores said he and Thomas are also working with the teen related to any future civil litigation.
"The allegations are that Deputy Beasley strangled this 14-year-old boy then charged him with disorderly conduct," Flores said. "And then he was held by himself in a cell for four or five days before he was released, and that was Monday."
Flores said the teen left Thursday's TBI interview for the first of his medical treatments "which is diagnostics on the injuries he received on his throat."
The teen allegedly had swelling in his neck and was having difficulty swallowing, Flores said. He said Cleveland attorney Tim Hewitt is representing the teen on the disorderly conduct charge.
Attempts Thursday to find contact information for Beasley were unsuccessful.
A Bradley County Sheriff's Office spokesperson could provide no details on the incident but said Beasley had been suspended with pay.
"The accusations of Deputy Beasley's alleged actions will be treated as such," Bradley County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Taylor Woodruff said Thursday via email. "Until then, he has been suspended."
Beasley has served five years with the department, Woodruff said. Woodruff said the incident report from June 10 cannot be released.
Bradley County Juvenile Court director Vickie Towne declined to comment on the matter, referring media questions to Crump.
On Thursday, Crump said he couldn't discuss details of pending investigations or operations at the academy.
"Until I get a report from TBI I don't need to say anything," Crump said.
Contact Ben Benton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.