CORRECTION: This story was updated at 5:53 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 1, 2019, to correct Wolfe's quote to read "the facts are straightforward and present nothing complicated."
A 53-year-old man says Hamilton County deputies nearly killed him when they shot him without cause during an arrest last January, and he's demanding the county pay his tens of thousands of dollars in medical bills.
Since Kenneth Charles Rogers was shot in the back of the leg on Jan. 19, 2018, the sheriff's office has withheld the use-of-force report and the name of the firing deputy to make it harder for Rogers to file a complaint in time, his attorney, John Wolfe, contended in a Jan. 22 lawsuit in Chattanooga's U.S. District Court. But Wolfe said he was able to learn the identities through his own investigation, and he named them, a fourth "John Doe," Sheriff Jim Hammond and the county government in the complaint.
"[Rogers] avers that no plausible explanation for such a delay exists," Wolfe wrote. "There were just a few witnesses to interview, only one gun upon which to perform ballistic tests, no toxicology reports to await from overburdened state laboratories and only one bullet trajectory to examine. The facts are straightforward and present nothing complicated."
Hamilton County Attorney Rheubin Taylor said Thursday he could not comment on pending litigation but said the county had recently been served. From here, Taylor or another county attorney will file a response, conduct any depositions or evidence exchanges and work toward a dismissal, settlement or trial.
In a criminal affidavit, Hamilton County deputies said they went to 1927 Wilkes Ave. on a protection order violation call and found Rogers. While trying to handcuff him, deputies said, Rogers took off, leading deputies on a foot chase until he was "shot by law enforcement and subsequently taken into custody." He was charged with resisting arrest, violating the order of protection and evading arrest. The charges were later dismissed, except for the evading arrest, a Class B misdemeanor for which Rogers received six months' probation.
Wolfe could not be reached for comment Thursday. In the lawsuit, he acknowledges Rogers ran but said he never harmed or threatened the officers or engaged in felony behavior that might have justified a shooting. The bullet shattered Rogers' left femur, nearly severed his femoral artery and required many surgeries, Wolfe wrote. The leg now is held together by metal plates and screws.
As is common with officer-involved shootings, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation probed the incident. Spokeswoman Susan Niland said the investigation was completed and closed on Sept. 9, 2018, at the request of Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston. His spokeswoman, Melydia Clewell, said the TBI investigation showed the deputies did not break the law, and Pinkston determined the shooting to be justified.
It's unclear what all the evidence is. The sheriff's office does not have body cameras en masse on its patrol officers or detectives. Hammond recently said he's seeking about $240,000 in funding to outfit about 200 of his employees with them.