Of the five Hamilton County sheriff's deputies involved in the May 23 beating of a Black man in Ooltewah, four have separately been involved in prior cases of alleged brutality, including at least two beatings and a deadly shooting.
The deputies — Sgt. Mickey Rountree, Cpl. Brian Killingsworth and deputies Nick Dewey, Todd Cook and Lori Choate, formerly identified by the sheriff's office as Charlene Choate — were named on Tuesday after Hamilton County District Attorney General Neal Pinkston released dashboard camera footage showing the deputies beating 32-year-old Reginald Arrington Jr. with batons.
For five-and-a-quarter minutes, the deputies — all white — beat Arrington and held him to the ground, the video shows. A sixth officer helped hold Arrington down, though it's not clear who the officer was, or was employed by.
Officers were called to the scene by a neighbor who told deputies that a Black man in a blue jumpsuit was acting suspiciously, walking up to women and "asking them questions and asked her how to get out of the neighborhood," court records state.
Officers reported they saw the man walking south on Old Lee Highway "in violation of the pedestrian on roadway law," which is what precipitated the arrest. All charges against him have since been dropped.
A DEADLY SHOOTING
In September of last year, deputies Cook, Choate and Sgt. Rountree were all involved in the shooting death of 76-year-old James Hilton Glaze.
Glaze's son, Corey, got a frantic call from his mother saying his father, who had a history of strokes and wasn't communicating very well, had pulled out a gun. She was worried he'd hurt himself.
Hoping law enforcement would help de-escalate the situation and remove the gun from the household, Corey Glaze called for help.
When the deputies arrived, they found James Glaze seated in a recliner in the living room. Around that time, according to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, James Glaze "produced a weapon and pointed it at the deputies."
That's when deputies opened fire.
James Glaze was shot 14 times, according to the autopsy. He died at the scene.
The shooting was ultimately ruled as justified by Pinkston, and the case was closed without prosecution.
Two years before that, in March 2017, Cook was present when a vehicle pursuit took a violent turn, leading to a beating so severe one of the fleeing man's testicles was ruptured, the Times Free Press reported previously.
At the time, a deputy patrolling Standifer Gap Road tried to stop a white Camaro for a traffic violation — a headlight was out and the license plate was not displayed properly.
The driver didn't stop and a pursuit ensued, ultimately crossing the state line into Georgia before it eventually came to an end on Cloud Springs Road after the man's vehicle ran out of gas and a deputy's vehicle struck its passenger-side door so hard it disabled both vehicles.
Once the man was out of the vehicle, fist and baton strikes and a stun gun were used to subdue and handcuff him. He was then escorted to the the rear of a Hamilton County patrol car where a deputy — Sgt. Greggory Carson — delivered multiple elbow strikes. He searched the man for contraband in a manner so forceful the man was "slammed down onto the trunk" of the patrol unit, according to six law enforcement officers who described the events to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
After the arrest, the man was taken to a local hospital for treatment of a ruptured testicle.
A federal lawsuit was filed in 2018, and according to records filed in that case, Cook was about 20 feet from where the beating took place. He was close enough to hear conversation between other deputies and the beaten man, and was close enough to intervene but failed to do so, the injured man's attorney argues.
Cook's defense has denied that Cook would have been able to intervene because the events unraveled quickly and there was no warning that the man was about to be beaten.
A federal judge agreed and ultimately dismissed Cook from the lawsuit under qualified immunity, a legal doctrine that the courts have established to shield government officials from being held personally liable for constitutional violations except in cases in which "the official's conduct violated a clearly established constitutional right," according to a 2009 Supreme Court of the United States decision.
And in the highest court's own words, qualified immunity "provides ample protection to all but the plainly incompetent or those who knowingly violate the law," according to a 1986 decision.
The suit continues, though the only remaining named defendant is Carson.
And in November 2014, Killingsworth was accused of beating his own coworker, a corrections officer, with a baton in a bizarre case of mistaken identity, the Times Free Press reported previously. About 10 other deputies were also involved, though they were not identified.
Killingsworth and the other deputies thought the officer was a fleeing suspect. In fact, the man they were looking for had just crashed his car in the officer's yard and allegedly ran into his carport.
The deputies pointed their guns at the officer, who had stepped outside after hearing a loud noise.
The deputies then reportedly got on top of him, beating him and shoving his face into the concrete.
In a subsequent lawsuit, the beaten officer claimed the deputies tried to keep him from speaking out about the incident, telling him "they were all brothers, man." He claimed they humiliated him by circulating a departmentwide email that listed people — including the officer — who'd filed claims against the county. At the time, the officer hadn't even filed a lawsuit.
"The impact of the email stigmatized [the officer] within his department as a person who was not a 'brother' as stated by the individual defendants and has subjected [him] to humiliation and mental anguish," the lawsuit stated.
In its response to the complaint, Hamilton County admitted that deputies "were attempting to gain his compliance" and the officer "refused to 'get on the ground' as directed by various Sheriff's Office Deputies."
The county denied any wrongdoing and made no reference to a beating.
The suit was ultimately dismissed by the plaintiff in mid-2015.
The sheriff's department declined to comment on the previous incidents, and the deputies could not be reached.
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