Civil rights attorney's news conference for Charles Toney at Hamilton County courthouse delayed

Civil rights attorney's news conference for Charles Toney at Hamilton County courthouse delayed

December 12th, 2018 by Zack Peterson in Breaking News

Charles Toney (Contributed photo by Hamilton County Jail)

Charles Toney (Contributed photo by Hamilton County Jail)

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

UPDATE: The 2 p.m. news conference has been canceled due to flight delays. It has been rescheduled to 10 a.m. Thursday, still outside the Hamilton County courthouse at 600 Market St. 


ORIGINAL STORY: A news conference is scheduled today for Charles Toney, a Chattanooga rapper who was recently shown in a viral video being punched and kicked by a Hamilton County Sheriff's Office detective while in handcuffs. 

Civil rights attorney Lee Merritt says he plans to represent Toney in a future lawsuit and will address the public outside the Hamilton County Courthouse at 2 p.m. 

"This incident represents clear civil rights violations which demand the immediate termination of the officers involved and appropriate criminal investigation and accountability," Merritt said in a news release today. "This office is investigating and preparing a federal civil rights complaint on behalf of Toney against Hamilton County and offending officers." 

According to the Sheriff's Office, law enforcement officials were attempting to arrest 25-year-old Toney on felony warrants on Dec. 3. Court records show a grand jury indicted Toney on Oct. 3 for drug possession charges. 

When detective Blake Kilpatrick and other officers arrived at a home in East Ridge, they saw Toney toss a marijuana blunt, an arrest affidavit says. At that point, officers tried to arrest him, "gave fist strikes to his back area" and forcefully put his hands behind his back to cuff Toney. 

Kilpatrick said Toney, while handcuffed, kept trying to reach into his pockets, and took the 25-year-old to the ground. After Toney said he couldn't breathe, officers stood him up. 

Around that time is when a minute-long video on Facebook that's been viewed nearly 100,000 times picks up. It shows Kilpatrick taking Toney back to the ground, dragging him by his shirt and punching him at least six times before kicking him at least once. 

The video then cuts off, but the arrest report states Toney spit in Kilpatrick's face as they were trying to put him in a patrol car. In the arrest report, Kilpatrick wrote he then delivered a "fist strike to stop him from further assaulting me." 

Since the arrest, Sheriff Hammond announced during a joint news conference Monday with the NAACP that Kilpatrick had been placed on desk duty pending an internal affairs investigation. District Attorney General Neal Pinkston has also referred the matter to the U.S. Department of Justice. 

This is not the only police brutality allegation in recent months. 

In March 2017, a Hamilton County vehicle pursuit took a violent turn, leading to a beating so severe that one of the suspects testicles was ruptured. That incident resulted in a federal lawsuit against the sheriff's office. 

Last month, the Times Free Press also reported that East Ridge police officers choked and stunned a 27-year-old man in the testicles when he resisted arrest for misuse of 911. The man, Chris Penn, was also handcuffed and has since hired criminal defense attorney Robin Flores. 

In a Facebook post on Dec. 8, Toney wrote that he had a collapsed lung, two broken ribs, and other bruises and injuries from the incident. During the news conference, Hammond said he'd heard Toney was also in an accident the day he received those injuries. 

Though Hammond also said he did not think Kilpatrick had any previous use of force complaints, records show he has been involved in a two recent complaints. 

A federal lawsuit filed in July 2013 alleged that Kilpatrick used excessive force on a man, causing him to be sent to an area hospital for six staples in his head. An internal affairs investigation exonerated Kilpatrick, and the lawsuit was closed in February 2015 after a judge ruled in favor of the officer. 

Kilpatrick was also one of the deputies involved in the 2017 death of Christopher Sexton, who was fatally shot on Sequoyah Road after leading law enforcement on a hours-long pursuit across Hamilton and Sequatchie counties. Though the shooting was ultimately justified by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, a $40 million lawsuit filed by one of Sexton's family members said that, rather than pointing a gun at authorities, Sexton "exited his vehicle and began moving away from law enforcement."Sexton's wife also said her husband struggled with bipolar disorder. His lawsuit is at a standstill until new representatives of Sexton's estate file proper pleadings with a court. 

Since Kilpatrick's incident with Toney, activists and community supporters have taken up his cause, too. On Tuesday, they crowded a city council meeting, where representative Erskine Oglesby said he was "incensed" by the video but noted that it was a county issue since it involved the sheriff's office. 


Correction: A previous version of this story misstated Toney's age. He is 25, not 24. The Times Free Press regrets the error.