Hamilton County Sheriff's Office deputy Blake Kilpatrick, who has been under investigation for the December 2018 filmed beating of Chattanooga rapper Charles Toney Jr., is now facing a $750,000 lawsuit.
A bystander filmed part of an arrest on Dec. 3, 2018, in which Kilpatrick punched and kicked Toney, who was handcuffed and on the ground. After the video went viral, Hamilton County Sheriff Jim Hammond placed Kilpatrick on desk duty and District Attorney Neal Pinkston asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate. Kilpatrick remains on administrative leave with pay, though community members, including the NAACP, and elected officials have called for his firing.
Toney's attorneys filed a lawsuit in federal court on Monday, alleging Kilpatrick violated Toney's constitutional right to be free from the use of excessive force. Kilpatrick is also accused of assault and battery, and the suit claims the county is liable because of "a custom" and "pattern" of training and disciplinary failures.
Citing the ongoing litigation, the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office referred all questions to county attorney Rheubin Taylor, who did not return a request for comment.
Toney, a rapper, known as "Interstate Tax," had been indicted on drugs and weapons-related charges two months before the 2018 arrest. But his attorney Lee Merritt has said the arrest shouldn't have happened because it had already been arranged for Toney to turn himself in. Those charges have since been dismissed.
Merritt called the beating a "violent assault" that left Toney with a collapsed lung, broken nose, several broken ribs and a broken finger, according to the lawsuit.
Much like other suits that have recently been filed against the sheriff's office and its deputies, Merritt paints a picture of a sheriff's office "in disarray, with misconduct, racial bias, and unchecked use of excessive force" by listing multiple alleged instances of brutality and misconduct by county deputies dating back to 2015 without substantial discipline.
"These incidents [show] a department wide disdain for the rule of law and a general culture lacking leadership and discipline," he argues. "Sheriff Jim Hammond has cultivated a culture within the Office of disdain for minorities, coupled with an office wide understanding that the use of excessive and unnecesarry force would be tolerated without question."
Merritt claims the county showed "wanton and deliberate indifference" to the constitutional rights of citizens by failing to supervise or discipline officers who are known, or who should have been known to engage in the use of excessive force. And by failing to properly screen applicants, including Kilpatrick, before their hire.
The Times Free Press previously reported Kilpatrick allegedly struck his ex-girlfriend in 2006, broke down his ex-wife's door in 2011 amid a divorce, was accused of striking an inmate in 2013 so hard the inmate needed six head staples and is being sued for his involvement in the fatal 2017 shooting of Christopher Dalton Sexton.
Kilpatrick remains on administrative leave with pay, and the internal affairs investigation remains open, the Hamilton County Sheriff's Office confirmed.
It's not clear where the Department of Justice investigation stands. A spokesperson for the department declined to comment Tuesday.