Chattanooga police officers fight to get jobs back after firing
By Matt Barbour, Weekend Anchor/Reporter - bio | email
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -
Two fired Chattanooga Police officers, accused of using excessive force, want their jobs back. It all stems from an incident last June, in which officers Sean Emmer and Adam Cooley tased and beat Adam Tatum at a federal halfway house. A few months later they were fired. But a federal investigation determined there was no "prosecutable offense."
In Wednesday's hearing, Chief Bobby Dodd is standing by his decision to fire both officers.
He says even before his department received an official complaint from Adam Tatum about the beating, he was consulting with local and state officials, the FBI and civil rights experts about the case.
He says after watching the surveillance video taken from the Salvation Army halfway house last June, from the start, it shows Sean Emmer initiated a choke hold on Tatum. When officer Cooley arrived for back up, he tased Tatum without assessing the situation and repeatedly punched him, all against department policies.
"He (Cooley) writes up when he first walks in there, he thinks this is excited delirium. And we know that he's trained and the other officers are trained that with excited delirium, you try to detain the person and seek medical help. You don't tase them, you don't hit them with a baton 44 times and you definitely don't straddle across their chest and punch them in the face 13 to 15 times," Chief Dodd said in his testimony. He went on to say, "My opinion from looking at this, he says he never intended to hit him in the face. Well, that's a lie because you just told me you warned him before you did it, the video shows that. When a man, woman, human being's head is laying on a hard surface, and you're using the boney part of your fist to drive into that skull, you can kill that person in one shot. And he knows that. He knows that now. He admitted that in his hearing, 'I wish I hadn't done that. I know that going forward.'"
Dodd called this one of the most egregious cases he has seen in all his years of law enforcement and had no choice but to fire the officers for the safety of Chattanooga citizens.
Attorneys for Cooley and Emmer argue their clients felt they were in danger. Medical reports show that Adam Tatum was high on cocaine the night of the confrontation and probably did not feel what was happening.
Wednesday's testimony lasted about eight hours. The hearing continues Thursday morning at 8:30. Count on Channel 3 to bring you the latest.
Channel 3 Eyewitness News Reporter Matt Barbour was at the hearing and tweeting updates throughout the day. Follow him @MattBarbourWRCB
Tweets are in chronological order, with the newest at top.
She takes issue with the number of punches he threw at Tatum.
Cooley walked into pepper spray already deployed, tense situation. Capt. does not believe he intentionally violated policy.
Hearing focused on specific actions of Cooley, who responded to 412 call: " Officer involved fight."
Captain with CPD now testifying about report she filed on Tatum beating.
Judge Summers asking about timing of hearing. Only one witness called so far. City says it has 5 more. Breaking for lunch.
Mercado reiterating the IA report did not have his opinions, he was on a "fact finding mission."
City reiterates Tatum was not lying about his injuries, which included left broken shin.
Part of the argument focuses on if Emmer and Cooley's actions are within department's 'pain compliance' guidelines.
Both spray and taser used on Tatum. Defense says Tatum used 'passive resistance,' ignoring verbal commands.
Defense examining the use of force policy. Says more force can be used if pepper spray doesn't work on suspect. Then move on to taser.
Defense says Cooley never realized or was notified he was a part of an IA investigation, only knew he had a disciplinary hearing.
In report, Mercado stated "officers used the 'use of force continuum' as best as possible."
Defense points out Tatum felt little to no pain due to being high on cocaine, as backed up by medical personnel.
IA investigator Mercado testifying Adam Tatum was high on cocaine the night of the beating and had marijuana in his shoe.
Defense attorneys working to discredit Adam Tatum, saying he lied to IA investigators about having a knife, never mentioned neck injuries.
CPD IA Investigator Alexis Mercado now being questioned by defense for Emmer and Cooley.
City now reviewing 'use of force' reports filed by officers Emmer and Cooley. Beating incident happened last year, June 14th.
City focusing now number of hits, punches thrown during struggle.
Video of beating at Salvation Army introduced as evidence. CPD internal affairs testifies at least 44 baton strikes on Tatum.
Appeal hearing underway for CPD officers Sean Emmer and Adam Cooley, fired after beating incident of Adam Tatum.